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A fan holds up a sign cheering on Milos Raonic against Rafael Nadal during men's Rogers Cup tennis tournament final action at Montreal on Sunday. Raonic lost but moved into the top 10 in the world rankings.
A fan holds up a sign cheering on Milos Raonic against Rafael Nadal during men's Rogers Cup tennis tournament final action at Montreal on Sunday. Raonic lost but moved into the top 10 in the world rankings.

As Canada rises in men's tennis, the US is singing the red-white-and-blues

Tennis in Canada has never seen a better time. Sadly, there is no similar hope in tennis for the United States, writes Ahmed Rizvi.

Last week, Ernests Gulbis expressed his disapproval of the Canadian fans' enthusiasm for their own in typically abrasive terms following his loss to home favourite Milos Raonic at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

The outspoken Latvian was upset about fans clapping when he double-faulted in the quarter-finals and described their actions as "stupid".

The harsh criticism, however, did not deter the locals and they were firmly in Raonic's corner when he played Rafael Nadal in the final.

Raonic lost the title match 6-2, 6-2, but the Canadian fans will not be terribly disappointed about the result. Tennis in the country has never seen a better time.

The home fans watched two Canadians Raonic and Vasek Pospisil make the semi-finals at an ATP Tour event for the first time since Andrew Sznajder and Martin Wosterholme made the last four in 1990 at Rio de Janeiro.

Raonic, 22, became the first Canadian to reach the final of the Rogers Cup since Robert Bedard in 1958, and his performance at the tournament catapulted him into the top 10 of men's tennis for the first time.

No Canadian has ever climbed as high, and he is the youngest player on that list.

Much more is expected from the big-serving, 1.95-metre star in the coming years, with many former greats picking him as a potential grand slam winner.

Sadly, there is no similar hope in tennis for the United States.

In the latest ATP rankings, there are five Americans in the top 100 and only one of them the 20-year-old Jack Sock, at No 87 is under the age of 25. James Blake (No 97) and Michael Russell (No 93) are past their 30th birthday.

John Isner, 28, the top-ranked American at No 22, is getting there fast. Sam Querry, the world No 28, will be 26 in October.

For the first time since the ratings were introduced in 1973, there is not a single American in the top 20.

There has been no US men's grand slam winner since Andy Roddick won the US Open in 2003 he was their last world No 1 as well, back in 2003.

Monday was a new abyss for a nation that boasts six men's world No 1s since 1973 and eight Davis Cup titles, more than any other country. In the Open era, a US male has triumphed at 51 grand slam finals the next best is Sweden with 25.

Complacency, according to the great Pete Sampras, is the reason for this downwards spiral.

"I think a lot of these other countries, their best athletes are playing tennis," he said. "Our best athletes are playing other sports."

The powers that be in American tennis, then, need to wake up to this reality, or soon the country could be lamenting the absence of any men in the top 50.

arizvi@thenational.ae

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