NEW YORK -- James Blake's retirement isn't just about one player. It's the end of an era for American tennis.
If Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Michael Chang represented the "90s generation" of American tennis players, Blake was part of the "2000s."
Blake, Andy Roddick and Marty Fish were the core of the group. Others such as Taylor Dent and Robby Ginepri also made noise.
Roddick, 30, retired at last year's U.S. Open. Dent, 32, is also retired and Fish, 31, withdrew from this year's event due to health issues. Ginepri, 30, failed to qualify for this year's U.S. Open and has appeared in only two Grand Slams in the past three years.
In all likelihood, the outgoing generation of American tennis players will leave the sport with one Grand Slam title, Roddick's 2003 run at the U.S. Open. That is a far cry from the 27 won by Sampras, Agassi, Courier and Chang.
Life goes on. The 2000s generation may be leaving, but it will not be too long before their kryptonite does too. Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray, the men who have won every Grand Slam title but one since the 2005 French Open, are all north of 25.
Perhaps the American men with the best chances to win at this year's U.S. Open are John Isner and Sam Querrey. They are the only American men seeded in the draw Isner (13) and Querrey (26).
On Tuesday, both played their first-round matches. Despite their status as seeded Americans, both were bumped from Arthur Ashe Stadium on Day Two. Isner was supposed to take center court, but a rainout led to Federer taking his spot. Djokovic was also given the spotlight.
Although Blake is far past his prime, his departure officially moves eyes to the "2010s generation," a group which Isner and Querrey head now. It is impossible to deflect expectations from the American crowds at Flushing from reaching the sole Yanks with numbers next to their names.
At the grandstand, Isner handled his first-round opponent, Italian Filippo Volandri, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3. Isner is in his second year as the best American seed (he was ninth last year), although Roddick, as the number 20 seed, had the best performance for an American in 2012, reaching the fourth round.
With Roddick retired, Isner is the top American hope to reclaim a title that has been out of the host's hands for ten years. Isner learned from watching Roddick.
"I feel like Andy carried a bigger burden than a guy like myself. He was always, always in the spotlight," Isner said. "Any time he lost a match, he got a lot of bad press from it and what not. He carried the torch for so, so long. Really him and James did for quite a long time."
Isner's lack of popularity can be used to his advantage. Unlike Roddick, who brought baggage such as an outspoken personality, a swimsuit model wife and a trail of endorsements, Isner keeps a low profile.
Many American fans on the grounds may not even recognize the 6-10 ace machine.
"I'm playing well and I'm enjoying what I'm doing," he said. "I don't really feel any extra pressure to perform well because I am currently the number one American."
One concern with Isner is his age. Rather than jump to the pros as a teenager like Roddick, Isner spent four years at the University of Georgia. He is the university's all-time leader in singles and doubles victories, earned All-American honors all four years and the Bulldogs won a national championship in his senior season.
Since turning pro in 2007, Isner's peak world ranking came last April at No. 9. He's 28 now, and it is unclear if Isner is a late bloomer or if his late prime is the result of a full college career.
Either way, Isner needs the support of the American crowd to power through some of the top players in the sport.
On Tuesday, he did.
"Having the fans on your side and being in an atmosphere you're comfortable with is a huge advantage," he said. "I can't equate it to home court for a basketball team or something like that. I think it does give us a little bit of a built-in advantage."
The Grandstand is not about to become Sanford Stadium in Athens, but maybe Arthur Ashe Stadium can come close.
Over at Louis Armstrong Stadium, Querrey's effort was not as clean. It took the San Francisco native four sets to knock off Argentine Guido Pella 7-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.
Querrey, 25, has taken a different career path than Isner. His father, Mike, attended the University of Arizona rather than sign the contract offered to him by the Detroit Tigers, who drafted him. Fearing déjà vu with his son, Mike urged Sam to go pro if he had the opportunity.
Querrey turned down a scholarship from USC to turn pro in 2006.
Querrey's peak ranking came in January 2011 when he reached No. 17 in the world. He has been to the fourth round of a Grand Slam three times, including the 2008 and 2010 U.S. Opens.
Querrey, who brings a fiery personality to the court and to press conferences, recognizes the focus that has been shifted to John and him.
"You could definitely sense it, now that those two guys…and hopefully Mardy can come back," he said, talking about Roddick, Blake and Fish all being absent from this year's U.S. Open. "But at least for the time being, all three of them are kind of gone in a way. Yeah, you could sense the tide has already changed. You know, I think it's what happens. Guys get older."
To Querrey, the goal is still the same: Win. Taking a bunch of American flags out of the draw does not change that mindset.
"I feel no added pressure," he said. "Even if you had James and Andy and Mardy here all seeded, it would just be as exciting for me being a seeded American. I still feel like you could have the crowd support, you still get the good courts. It's a bummer that this is James' last event and Andy and Mardy aren't here, but I don't feel any extra pressure at all."
Maybe Isner and Querrey should not feel any added pressure. One could argue the shortcomings of the 2000s generation have left Isner and Querrey with low expectations. After nine consecutive foreign U.S. Open champions, American fans are not looking for them to spark any fireworks.
Jack Sock, a 20-year-old who reached the third round in 2012, is another American to look out for. Ranked 86th, Sock won his first-round match against Philipp Petzschner 7-6. 3-6, 5-2 (ret.), and meets Maximo Gonzalez of Argentina in the second round.
"I think a lot of us are obviously trying to push each other, starting to train together and push each other, work hard with each other to get back to the top," Sock said. "Hopefully we can do it sooner than later."
One concern may be their draw. Both Isner and Querrey are in the quarter that might as well be called the "Group of Death." Querrey could potentially meet Federer in the third round and Isner is slotted to take on Rafael Nadal in the fourth round.
A quarterfinal matchup between the American hopefuls is unlikely.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.