x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Wimbledon: United States tennis in a state of distress

No American men into third round for first time in over a century.

Bobby Reynolds was the last American to exit Wimbledon when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.
Bobby Reynolds was the last American to exit Wimbledon when he was beaten by Novak Djokovic.

What a stark statistic for the nation of Bill Tilden and Don Budge, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi: It's been 101 years since no men from the United States reached Wimbledon's third round.

And the last time it happened, way back in 1912, no Americans even entered the oldest grand slam tournament.

By the end of Thursday, all 11 US men in the 2013 field at the All England Club were gone, with top-seeded Novak Djokovic accounting for the last one by beating 156th-ranked qualifier Bobby Reynolds 7-6, 6-3, 6-1. Earlier in the day, former top-five player James Blake lost to Bernard Tomic of Australia 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, while the qualifier Denis Kudla was beaten by Ivan Dodig of Croatia 6-1, 7-6, 7-5.

That trio joined the 18th-seeded John Isner, the 21st-seeded Sam Querrey, Ryan Harrison, Steve Johnson, Alex Kuznetsov, Wayne Odesnik, Rajeev Ram and Michael Russell on the way home.

"It's a tough stat to hear, but I still believe, right now, where US tennis is, not too many guys are in their prime. That's why the numbers are like that. But a lot of guys are, maybe, in the tail end of their careers and a lot of guys are coming up," said Kudla, 20, who is ranked 105th. "Maybe next year, or the year after that, things could change. You have to go through a little bit of a struggle to get some success."

Led by top-seeded and defending champion Serena Williams, the US women still are represented in singles at Wimbledon this year.

Williams extended her winning streak to 33 matches, the longest on tour since 2000, by eliminating Caroline Garcia of France 6-3, 6-2, while 18-year-old Madison Keys knocked off 30th-seeded Mona Barthel of Germany 6-4, 6-2.

Keys next plays the 2012 runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska of Poland, and Williams goes from a 19-year-old opponent, in Garcia, to a 42-year-old opponent in Kimiko Date-Krumm, the oldest woman to reach the third round at Wimbledon since the Open era began in 1968.

"I have so much respect for her. I think she's so inspiring to be playing such high-level tennis at her age," said Williams, who at 31 is the oldest No 1 in WTA rankings history. "And she's a real danger on the grass court, I know that. I definitely will have to be ready."

Already into the third round was No 17 Sloane Stephens, while yet another American, wild-card entry Alison Riske, beat Urszula Radwanska yesterday to join Stephens.

"I can't put my finger on why the women are doing better than the men," Reynolds said.

He wound up facing Djokovic with Centre Court's retractable roof closed because of the first drizzles of the tournament, which prevented five singles matches from starting and forced the suspensions of three others.

Reynolds was happy to be there, on his sport's most famous court, facing one of its best players. "You can't put a price tag on it," he said. "I'll keep so many memories from that match. I loved it. Once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."