Tennis: Glory days gone for American men's tennis

By Steve Deane

All you need to know about the state of American tennis is that the cream of it is coming to Auckland this year, or has been here recently.

That view may be a little churlish, and even thankless given the difficulties associated with luring top talent to the bottom of the world, however the fact is the glory days have passed for the men's game in America.

There's no real suggestion they're about to return, either. Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and even Andy Roddick have sailed off into the setting sun, leaving a legacy the likes of Sam Querrey, Mardy Fish and John Isner will never live up to.

The new brigade of American players are good all right. They're just not great.

There are still big hopes for 20-year-old Ryan Harrison - who briefly flashed his talent in Auckland last year and has been touted as a potential late wildcard for 2013 - however the die seems pretty much cast for the rest of them.

Isner, the 2010 Heineken Open champ, has perhaps made the most of his talent. When the giant with the booming serve and forehand first pitched up in Auckland in 2009 and made a thrilling run through qualifying and on to the quarter-finals in a hail of tiebreaks, he talked wistfully about pushing on into the top 50.

A year later, when he returned and claimed his first ATP title, he was targeting the top 20. Now at 14, he's probably dreaming of re-entering the top 10 (so far he's topped out at nine) and maybe even nicking a Grand Slam. Whatever the case, Auckland is no longer on his calendar.

America's second and third-ranked players, though, will be in town this January. Sam Querrey, a finalist here in 2009 - when he went down to Juan Martin Del Potro - returns with his ranking stable at 22 thanks to a solid 2012.

Tall and powerful at 1.98m and 91kg, Querrey has now banked seven ATP titles and well over $4 million in prize money. His trips to Auckland have been a mixed bag, with 2009's strong run splitting first-round exits in 2008 and 2012.

Despite his consistency on tour, Querrey has never really threatened in the Grand Slams, with a quarter-final appearance in the 2007 US Open his best effort.

Compatriot Mardy Fish is another steady pro. The 31-year-old veteran has reached the quarter-finals in four Grand Slams, but has never progressed beyond that point.

At his peak in 2011, Fish rose to seven in the world, however he was troubled by an irregular heartbeat in 2012 and hasn't played since the US Open. He ended 2012 having failed to win a title for the first time since 2008.

- NZ Herald

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