Just when it appeared the state of American tennis had hit rock bottom, this year's Wimbledon has revealed a new nadir.
Last year no American man advanced past the second round at the All England Club for the first time since 1912, and partially as a result of this poor play, the United States was left without a man in the ATP top 20 for the first time in four decades.
This year, the men performed nearly as poorly. But the American women joined their male counterparts in the early exit line. With 19-year-old Madison Keys retiring from her third-round match over the weekend, there is no American woman in the tournament's final 16 players for the first time since 1913.
All told, this is the worst Wimbledon performance by American men and women in the last century.
The final American man, ninth-seeded John Isner, bowed out in the third round to No. 19 seed Feliciano López. Isner, who was the only one of the 10 male American entrants ranked inside the ATP top 65, did not seemed concerned that this year's tournament was the worst for Americans since 1911.
“I didn’t know that,” Isner said. "Don’t really care, either."
The American women had better prospects entering the tournament, with Serena Williams entering as the top seed and Sloane Stephens returning after a quarterfinal run last year. But Stephens lost her first match and Williams was upset in the third round.
After a stellar 2013 season in which she won the French Open and the U.S. Open, Williams, the flag-bearer for American women, has struggled mightily in 2014. She retired in the fourth round of the Australian Open due to injury and lost in the second round of the French Open.
But at least American women can claim a Grand Slam champion who is still active. No American man has won one of tennis' four big tournaments since Andy Roddick's 2003 championship run at the U.S. Open. No American male has advanced to the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam since 2011.
“Some of this is cyclical. Some of it is we've done a poor job," John McEnroe, the seven-time major champion, said before the tournament. “We got, maybe, ‘spoiled’ is an accurate word. We expected there would be more (Jimmy) Connors, Pete Samprases, (Andre) Agassis.
"Because of the worldwide interest in sports, if you go back to the ‘88 Olympics, when tennis became part of the Olympics again, more countries put more money and resources into it to allow more kids to play tennis, so more countries have more of an interest and they see the upside of it. That same thing hasn’t happened for us in the U.S.”
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