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Queens Chronicle

American tennis drought continues

Eliminations make it 16 years since US male player has won a major

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Posted: Thursday, September 5, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 1:11 pm, Thu Sep 12, 2019.

There’s no more U.S. in the US Open on the men’s side of the draw.

The last two American men — 14th-ranked John Isner and unranked Tennys Sandgren — were eliminated last Saturday.

Isner was the highest-seeded American male in the tournament and believed the Queens crowd was behind him.

“Two matches, two great crowds,” he said after last Thursday’s win over Jan-Lennard Struff in straight sets. “It helps when you don’t play another American. They’re not torn a little bit. But I do think the crowd has been on my side.”

The 1990s saw Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras rack up championships in their primes as well as Jim Courier becoming the youngest man to reach the finals of all four Grand Slam singles tournaments. But no American has won a major title since Andy Roddick won the US Open in 2003.

Isner has been the top-ranked American male, usually between 10 and 20 overall.

“In the ’90s, being ranked, let’s say 13 in the world, would be like the fifth-best American,” Isner said. “Times are different but it’s cyclical and I think maybe five or six years down the road it might be a little different.”

After winning the 2003 US Open, Roddick made it to four more finals, losing them all. The only other American to make it to the finals since 2003 was Agassi, who lost to Roger Federer at the 2005 US Open.

There were a few close calls in recent years as Sam Querrey made it to the semifinals at Wimbledon in 2017 and Isner made it to the semis there in 2018.

“I certainly think a grand slam champion from the states could renew the interest of the younger generation of kids coming up,” Isner said.

He added, “There’s so many great American champions that I grew up watching that certainly inspired me to play but it’s been tough sledding for us.”

The crowd was behind Isner and was disappointed when he lost to Marin Cilic in a tough four-set match.

The 34-year-old Isner, who stands 6 feet, 10 inches tall, liked the crowd just as much.

“I did want to play in events like this just to be in atmospheres like I was used to watching the Panthers play or watching the Carolina Hurricanes play,” he said.

A self-described “sports junkie,” Isner said he loved the atmosphere of arenas when he would watch on TV. And he happened to be growing up as a good tennis player.

“I think it was my calling to at least give it a shot to play professional sports because I didn’t really have much interest in anything else,” Isner said.

He said he wants to continue playing so that his daughter — Hunter Grace, who was born last September — can watch him and be old enough to remember it.

Isner and his wife, Madison, are expecting a boy soon and the tennis player acknowledged he would encourage his children to play a lot of sports and see what they gravitate toward.

Outside of his own family, a major for Isner or fellow American would look good.

“Somebody breaking through and winning a slam would do a lot for the young kids in our country,” Isner said.

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