July 1 (Bloomberg) -- Not even 52 aces could save John Isner from losing to Feliciano Lopez at Wimbledon, leaving no American players in the last 16 for the first time since 1911.
Isner was beaten by Spain’s Lopez, 6-7 (8-10), 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 yesterday at the All England Club in southwest London. The ace tally for Isner, who played the longest match in tennis history at Wimbledon four years ago, was the third-highest in tournament history and the most-ever in a four-set match.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” former world No. 4 and ESPN analyst Brad Gilbert, an American, said in an interview at Wimbledon.
In 1911, no U.S. women competed at Wimbledon, while only three American men took part.
Isner, 29, told reporters afterward he didn’t know U.S. tennis had hit such a low at the All England Club.
“Don’t really care, either,” he said.
Madison Keys, the last U.S. woman left in the third round after five-time champion Serena Williams was upset by France’s Alize Cornet three days ago, withdrew yesterday morning ahead of the resumption on her third-round match against Yaroslava Shvedova. The Kazakhstan player had been leading 7-6 (7-5), 6-6 when the match was stopped for darkness. The 19-year-old Keys had won a grass-court event in Eastbourne, England, shortly before Wimbledon.
This year, 13 U.S. men and 10 women entered the main singles draws at Wimbledon. Although there are 11 American men in the top 100 on the men’s ATP World Tour, the 11th-ranked Isner is the only player inside the top 65. The most recent U.S. man to win a major singles title was Andy Roddick at the 2003 U.S. Open. He retired in 2012. The last American man to clinch the Wimbledon singles title was Pete Sampras, who won his seventh championship in 2000.
American women have been outperforming the men. Ten are ranked in the top 100 -- including four in the top 35 -- on the WTA tour, with 17-time Grand Slam singles champion Williams at No. 1.
“The women are in a much better place,” ESPN broadcaster and former world No. 3 Pam Shriver, also from the U.S., said in an interview yesterday. “Are we getting the best athletes in our country to go to tennis? I think we are on the women’s side more than on the men’s side.”
She added: “Everybody is working hard, trying hard. But when you compare American men tennis players athletically to Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, they don’t add up as athletes. It’s really hard. In order to get to the top of men’s tennis, you need to be superior athletically in every category and also have a mind that is incredibly strong. If you don’t have that combination, then it’s going to be tough.”
Also yesterday, Murray was tested in the third set against Kevin Anderson, moving to the quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win against the South African. Murray plays Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria for a spot in the semifinals. Men’s top seed Djokovic of Serbia defeated France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to set up a quarterfinal against Croatia’s Marin Cilic.
Maria Sharapova’s fourth-round match against Germany’s Angelique Kerber, scheduled on Court No. 1, will be played today after rain twice stopped play yesterday. The Russian is trying to become the first woman since Williams in 2002 to complete the French Open-Wimbledon double.
Two-time champion Nadal of Spain faces Australian teenager Nick Kyrgios while seven-time champion Federer plays Spanish veteran Tommy Robredo. The fourth-round matches of Federer and Nadal had also been originally scheduled for yesterday.
U.S. tennis is no longer dominating because the sport “has become incredibly global,” said Gilbert, a Wimbledon quarterfinalist in 1990. “If you’d have told me 25 years ago that a guy like Roger Federer is coming from Switzerland, these things just didn’t happen. But they come from everywhere now. There is just no reason because we’re a big country, we have to produce great tennis players.”
There is a glimmer of hope.
Both Shriver and Gilbert pointed out 16-year-old Francis Tiafoe from College Park, Maryland, the son of immigrants from the West African nation of Sierra Leone who learned to play tennis at the club where his father worked as a maintenance man. A former top-ranked junior, Tiafoe is seeded seventh in the boys’ singles at Wimbledon, where his first-round match was halted because of rain yesterday.
“He’s very quick, he’s strong, he has a good work ethic and he’s hungry,” Shriver said. “It sounds like he has the elements to do well, but it’s still a couple of years away at the earliest.”
Americans have to be patient, she added.
“We had a lull before the (Andre) Agassi, Sampras, (Jim) Courier era, when Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe had finished their peak,” she said. “For a little bit it was difficult and then all of a sudden, the best era ever. So you can be hopeful that it can change. But it can’t change as quickly as it used to because the athletes are taking a while longer to develop.”
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