COMMENTARY | When people complain about the sorry state of American tennis, they must be talking about the men.
The No. 1-ranked woman in the world is American Serena Williams, the only female player on the WTA tour in the greatest-of-all-time conversation. The highest ranked teenager on the woman's tour is No. 17 Sloane Stephens, an American. Taylor Townsend, who was the No. 1-ranked junior in the world before she turned pro in December, is also American.
We have five American women in the top 50, including No. 20 Venus Williams, No. 26, Varavana Lepchenko and No. 48 Christina McHale.
A slew of talented female players, like McHale, Jamie Hampton and Madison Keys, all 23 or younger, have shown promise. Even No. 3 Maria Sharapova, who has lived in the U.S. since she was 7, is the product of "American tennis."
The only problem with American tennis seems to be the men playing singles.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics, the U.S. took home gold medals in women's singles, women's doubles and men's doubles. That's three out of the five categories. However, we didn't even reach the medal matches in men's singles.
So what's the problem with our men? Perhaps it's that while other countries have some of their best athletes playing tennis, our men are mostly "country club" types, those highly coached and trained since infancy to be great tennis players but who are otherwise mediocre athletes. Our best athletes are playing football and basketball.
Imagine a gifted athlete like Robert Griffin III, with smarts, speed, strength and agility, playing tennis. It's not too hard to imagine -- his name is Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic is from Serbia, a country with fewer people than New York City but with two men ranked in the top 10. There are no American men ranked in the top 10 in singles.
The top-ranked American male, No. 15 John Isner, has probably maxed out on his talent. Besides a booming serve, what weapon does Isner possess to upend the likes of Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Andy Murray?
Isner is followed by No. 23 Sam Querrey, aka "Samurai Sam." Samurai Sam is not a bad athlete, however, he hardly strikes fear into the likes of Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfred Tsonga or Juan Martin del Potro, big, athletic guys who could compete in a number of sports but play tennis.
If Tsonga grew up in the U.S., he'd probably be a free safety; del Potro and Berdych would probably play quarterback.
Andy Roddick, the last American male to win a grand slam title in singles, retired last year. Roddick was a superb athlete. He played high school basketball on the same team as Mardy Fish. Fish, also a good athlete, climbed as high as No. 8. before a heart condition limited his play. But even when he was healthy, nobody picked Fish to win a grand slam.
It's been nearly 10 years since Roddick won the U.S. Open in 2003. As it stands, we have no American male who is a real threat to take home a men's singles title. Unfortunately, until we attract better male athletes, the drought will continue.
A former reporter for Sports Illustrated, Merlisa competes in USTA leagues. She wrote the foreword for Arthur Ashe, Jr.'s "A Hard Road to Glory: Track & Field". Follow her on Twitter @merlisa.