European Domination of Grand Slam Tennis Nearing Historic Levels

Americans and Australians Endure a Stingy Decade in Men's Tennis

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COMMENTARY | Given that Roger Federer hails from Switzerland, it should come as no great surprise that the Europeans have been dominating the men's side of Grand Slam tennis over the last decade.

What might surprise is the extreme degree by which the Europeans have marginalized other traditional powerhouse regions in the sport during that period, especially as compared to past eras.

Although the "Big Four" may dominate most headlines in the realm of international tennis these days, there was a time when it was just the "big three." That would be the big three regions of the world that have historically produced the most champions in Grand Slam tennis.

Of the 470 distinct times that Grand Slam tournaments have been contested in the history of the game, 448 of those titles (over 95%) were claimed by players from Australia, Europe and the United States. Estimating that these combined regions account for only 15% of the world's population, there is little doubt the three have created a near impenetrable tennis triopoly.

Prior to the emergence of the Big Four, the big three was also somewhat balanced in its relative proportion of total Slam champions.

The last Grand Slam won by either an American or Australian player was the 2003 U.S. Open. At that time, European players had a slight edge over the other groups, having won 38% of all Slam titles played through the end of 2003. The Americans came in second with approximately 34%, and the Australians in third with roughly 23%.

However, with the Europeans winning 35 of the last 37 Slams, there has been a significant redistribution of wealth across the traditional hubs of world tennis. On the backs of the Big Four, the Europeans have leaped ahead and now hold 43% of the total Grand Slam hardware available in the history of the game.

In making such an impressive land grab, the Europeans have also pushed the Americans and Australians to the brink of history in terms of time elapsed between Slam victories. The latter two countries are now experiencing a couple of the worst regional Grand Slam droughts the game has ever seen.

For starters, the the United States is currently mired in its longest period of time between Grand Slam titles by a player of American nationality. Andy Roddick, having won the U.S. Open in 2003, represents the last Slam winner from the region.

As of today, that equates to 37 straight Grand Slam tournaments in which the Americans have failed to produce a title. The longest previous drought for the Americans occurred between 1963-1968 and spanned 20 tournaments. Nearly doubling their former low, one could argue this is by far the worst of times for American tennis, at least on the men's side of the game.

Across the Pacific and a bit south, the Australians have actually fared worse than the Americans. Their last Slam victory occurred in 2002 when Lleyton Hewitt won Wimbledon. Stretching from that tournament until present time equates to a deflating 42 Slams without a winner. As pathetic as this seems, the Australians have actually experienced an even weaker period in their history since the Australian Open was created in 1905.

The longest drought in the history of the game amongst the three regions is held by Australia, and that occurred between 1976-1987. This forgettable era for the Aussies spanned 44 tournaments. That means that if the Australians don't produce a Slam title by the end of the 2013 U.S. Open, they will have set the new all-time mark of futility with 45.

Looking back toward the States, the Americans have well surpassed their previous record drought, but the worst may be yet to come. If the Americans can't come up with a Slam trophy by the end of the 2013 U.S. Open, they will have passed the Europeans' worst mark of 39 Slams from 1948-1957. Yet another feather in the cap of the Europeans if it should come to pass.

One notable aspect of the aforementioned European Slam drought in the middle of the last century is that a peculiar change in nationality by one of the champions during this era seems to have artificially inflated the number.

Jaroslav Drobny was born in the country formerly known as Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic). He won a total of three Grand Slams in the years 1951, 1952 and 1954, but did so as a citizen of Egypt. Had Mr. Drobny played those Slams under his native flag, the Europeans' worst drought would be a much more palatable 15 tournaments.

Further data also supports the notion that the most recent decade has been amongst the stingiest in the history of the game in regards to sharing the spoils across regions.

During the 99 years that comprised 1905-2003, there were only five single years (1928, 1934, 1985, 1986, 1988) in which the Americans or Australians failed to bring home at least one Slam during any given calendar year. In the nine years since that period ended the two have yet to produce a single title, consequently adding nine more years to that previously impeccable figure in nine tries.

Given the continuing positive outlook for the Big Four and their vise-like grip on the game, this hyper-competitive era isn't likely to abate anytime soon. Consequently, a small group of extraordinary European players have created an environment such that two of the worst regional droughts in Grand Slam history are transpiring in lockstep.

If the Americans and Australians can't remedy their respective situations soon, they will both be marching straight into the history books behind some very unflattering records of tennis futility.

Andrew Prochnow is a derivatives trader by day and a tennis buff by night. He is a frequent contributor at the Bleacher Report.

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