The U.S. is still a force in tennis even though it doesn’t have any players in the men’s or women’s top 10 lists for the first time, American Andy Roddick said.
“We’re kind of a victim of our own success over the years in the sport,” Roddick told a news conference in Rome today after he lost 6-3, 6-3 to France’s Gilles Simon in the first round of the Rome Masters at the Foro Italico clay courts.
Roddick, 28, is ranked No. 12 on the ATP World Tour, while fellow American Mardy Fish is at No. 11. With 13-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams dropping out of the top 10 of the WTA Tour today there are no American players ranked in either elite group for the first time since the start of the men’s rankings in 1973 and the women’s in 1975. Williams dropped seven places to No. 17 because of a foot injury and treatment for a blood clot in her lung, which have kept her away from the women’s circuit since she won Wimbledon last July.
“If you still stack us up against most countries, we’re coming out ahead,” said Roddick, the last American man to win a Grand Slam singles title, at the 2003 U.S. Open. “At a certain point, the only part that confuses me is how I am answering questions and that it’s my responsibility. I feel like that I’ve handled my part for more than a decade. I’ve been doing my job for a long time.”
Roddick dropped out of the top 10 in August last year, leaving no U.S. men in the group for the first time. Until then he’d been ranked inside the highest group since August 2006, and has since bounced in and out of it.
Roddick posted his second straight first-round defeat on European clay courts, having been beaten in Madrid last week. Both Rome and Madrid are tune-ups for the French Open, which starts May 22 in Paris.
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.
Serena Williams’ 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, fell three places to No. 19. The sisters have won 20 Grand Slam singles titles between them.
The women’s top 10, headed by Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki, consists of nine different nations.
“The competition in general has got a lot tougher from all the other countries,” American qualifier Christina McHale said in an interview at the Foro Italico today, when asked why American players’ rankings have dropped.
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey-based McHale moved to the second round in Rome by beating China’s Peng Shuai 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (9-7) and will play Francesca Schiavone, the French Open champion from Italy, in the next round.
McHale learned to play tennis in Hong Kong when she was three years old and her father was working there. The 18-year- old said that although she’s part of the new generation of U.S. players, she doesn’t feel any extra pressure to do well because the Williams sisters aren’t competing.
“It’s more of an opportunity for the young Americans coming through,” said McHale, who entered the top 100 for the first time in March after she made the third round at Indian Wells. She is currently ranked at No. 92, which makes her the seventh-best American woman.