On August 30, when Andy Roddick announced his retirement from professional tennis, on symbolically, his 30th birthday, there was shockingly little talk about the next wave of American men's tennis players. As Mardy Fish, one of Roddick's best tennis friends, and American talent, had to withdraw due to medical reasons, on September 3, we have to wonder if he, too, will soon be retiring? As for James Blake, the other big name in American men's tennis, his own U.S. Open bid ended on September 1, with a quick defeat by Canadian, Milos Raonic. Blake has completely fallen off of the ATP top 100 ranking's charts and I am pretty sure he will soon retire, or just stick to doubles.
Scanning the ATP rankings, my tennis friends and I have been debating as to which players will become the face of U.S. Men's singles tennis? Although no one in particular stands out, I have a few ideas as to some of the possible candidates. Each and every one of these five players have the potential to be a top-ranked player. I will be curious to see if these-or any other American player steps up in the next year.
Here is my top five list:
John Isner: Many tennis fans are already familiar with John Isner. Currently number 10 in ATP rankings, Isner has not played past the third round of any Grand Slam tournament this year. On September 3, at 2:30am, local time, he was defeated by Philipp Kohlschreiber in five sets. At 6'9, Isner looks more like he should be playing on a basketball court than a tennis court. His idol is NBA star, Karl Malone, yet this 27 year-old is a power tennis player, with a wicked serve and an equally wicked forehand. In February, down one set, this Davis Cup player managed to overpower Roger Federer and later, Marco Chiudinelli to help the American team to soundly defeat Switzerland, 5-0. Isner has the talent and the ability to beat the best. Yet, he still has a ways to go before become the same sort of superstar as Roddick
Sam Querrey: Currently number 28 in ATP rankings, Sam Querrey lost to U.S. Open 6th seed, Tomas Berdych on September 1. Sadly, he has lost his last five matches against top-ten players. In addition, this 24 year-old has yet to progress past the 4th round of any Grand Slam tournament. In order for Sam Querrey to move into the elite status, I think he needs to improve his mental game and think beyond that powerful serve of his. Having the ability to serve consistent aces is certainly an admirable talent, yet I believe in order to get into the elite level, he needs to add more consistency to his game.
Ryan Harrison: Currently ranked number 61, this 22 year-old did not make it out of the 2nd round at the U.S. Open, as Juan Martin del Potro defeated him on August 31. Although evenly matched throughout the game, it was Harrison's 42 unforced errors that let him down. Sadly, most tennis fans remember him more for his lack of emotional control at the 2012 London Olympics games. He took a match that was not only winnable and hand delivered it to his opponent, Santiago Giraldo. He proved to American tennis fans that he needs to work on his mental discipline before he can even dream to achieve the sort of success that Andy Roddick has experienced.
Brian Baker: We should all know who this talented, 27 year old American is, yet, in 2005, as he was swiftly moving up the ATP rankings, he had a career changing hip injury. From 2005 to the present, Baker has had a total of five hip surgeries, stalling his career. Baker started out this year ranked 456 and is now ranked at number 70. On August 31, he lost in three sets to top ten seed, Janko Tipsarevic. Sadly, in the third set, Baker had a chance to beat Tipsarevic, as the Serbian had troubles locating his serve. Instead, Baker gave up 20 unforced errors and did not take advantage of this weakness. Baker has the talent and the support of the entire tennis world. His is the sort of story that all fans love. I personally think Baker has moved up in the rankings so fast, in such a short period of time, that his own mental game needs a little adjusting. If he can learn to do those little things better and sharpen his skills, he will be unstoppable.
Donald Young: We have all heard about Donald Young. If there ever was a player with such great unmet expectations, it would currently be Donald Young. As a junior player, Young was unbeatable. Yet, now, as a professional, he is struggling against the very players he dominated as a junior. At the same time, I cannot give up on this 23 year-old lefty. Currently ranked 81, in the very same year he experienced his highest ranking of 38, back in February, earlier this year, this talent needs to stop this downhill slide! He needs to fire his parents/tennis coaches and find someone who can help him with his footing and coach him up to the next level, before he loses all of his confidence. He needs to shake things up and this is the obvious solution to his problems. Donald Young has the potential to be the successor to Andy Roddick, but he first needs to get over this speed bump.
Georgia Makitalo is a lifelong tennis fan whose biggest thrill was attending to the U.S. Open in 2001.
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