Tennis’s top 10 rankings won’t have any Americans for the first time ever next week as an injured Serena Williams drops out of the women’s list.
Serena Williams is the lone U.S. player in a top 10, and she’ll lose out after missing tournaments because of two foot operations and treatment for a blood clot in her lung. Mardy Fish was the last man to feature in the list, reaching a career high of No. 10 last month, and dropped out after a week.
“Our best athletes aren’t playing tennis,” Max Eisenbud, the agent of former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova at IMG Tennis, said in an interview. “There are so many different opportunities. When you are an American kid, you can play sports, you can become a singer, you can become an actor, or dancer, or go to school and become a doctor. If you are a great athlete, you can be in the WNBA, women’s soccer.”
Williams hasn’t competed since winning her 13th major title at Wimbledon last July. She’ll drop from No. 10 to outside the top 15 when the WTA Tour rankings are published May 9, Kevin Fischer, a spokesman for the women’s tour, said in an e-mail. Williams lost her top spot to Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki at the end of last season. The last time there were no American women in the top group was May 20, 2007.
The first time there were no American men in the top 10 was in August last year. Mardy Fish and Andy Roddick, whose 2003 U.S. Open title makes him the last American man to win a major, are expected to be ranked between No. 11-13 on the men’s ATP World Tour next week, Greg Sharko, a statistics and information expert at the ATP World Tour, said in an e-mail.
Former No. 1 Roddick and Fish lost their opening rounds at the Madrid Masters clay-court tournament this week. Fish, Roddick and Williams’s exact rankings depend on how other players do in Madrid this week. The ATP listing started in 1973 and the WTA’s in 1975.
Last August, Roddick dropped out of the top ten. Roddick has since bounded in and out of the top ten. He dropped from No. 8 to No. 14 in the first week of April, after losing his opening round in the Miami Masters to a lower-ranked player. He’s currently No. 12.
Fish, the highest-ranked American man at No. 11, was in the top ten for one week last month.
The lack of women players in the leading group won’t make the sport any less popular in the U.S., the home of the season’s final Grand Slam event, according to the women’s tour.
“The WTA has a fantastic mix of established champions and rising stars in the game today, many of whom are very popular in the U.S. and transcend geographic boundaries,” Stacey Allaster, chairman and chief executive officer of the WTA Tour, said today in an e-mail. “Women’s tennis is truly global, this year we’ve had 10 nations represented in the top 10 and 30 in the top 60. On Monday, there will be nine countries represented in the top 10.”
Serena Williams’s elder sister and five-time Wimbledon champion Venus, who hasn’t played competitively since the Australian Open in January because of abdominal and hip problems, is projected to drop to No. 19 from No. 16 next week, Fischer said.
Venus Williams is scheduled to return at a Wimbledon warm- up tournament next month in Eastbourne, England, event organizers said today in a statement on their website. Although Serena said in March she was hoping to come back to the circuit in “early summer” she has yet to set a date.
The highest-ranked American woman behind the Williams sisters is Bethanie Mattek-Sands at No. 41. Sam Querrey will be the third-highest ranked American man at around No. 25 on May 9, according to the ATP World Tour.
Although U.S. men are enduring the longest drought in major singles titles since tennis turned professional in 1968, Americans last year won nine ATP World Tour singles titles, second only to Spain. For the first time since 1999, four American men finished the year in the top 20 on the tour.