I think American tennis is getting better. Result-wise, this is probably the best showing for the American youngsters at the US Open in quite some time.
I find it very interesting that many players who made a splash this summer were former top juniors who forgoed the pro route in favor of college. That may be one of the reasons why we lack promising young players on tour.
Several turned pro last year and several just graduated and begun their pro career this summer: Rhyne Williams, Tennys Sandgren, Daniel Kosakowski, Steve Johnson, Bradley Klahn, Chase Buchanan etc. Btw, I'm still waiting on Domijan to turn pro
The biggest head scratchers for me are Williams and Buchanan. I have always wondered why they decided to go to college. Both were former Top 10 Junior in the world ranking with impressive junior resume; they both won futures at the age of 16. My guess for Williams is maybe b/c he wanted to continue his family legacy at Tennessee. As for Buchanan, I have no clue (he was a former Les Petits Champion, Easter Bowl Champ, Jr. US Open finalist, Kalamazoo Champion). With his resume, one would think he’d go straight into the pro.
Anyway, as for who can save American tennis, IMO Jack Sock is probably the best bet. I think he is a future top 25er at least. He has the frame, the power, the serve, and the “it” factor that the American audience looks for. He enjoys playing in front of the crowd and is not afraid of the spotlight. If he wants to keep climbing the ranking, he will need to improve his backhand & movement, and learn how to manage his game better (needs to control his aggression, likes to bash the ball quite a bit
). But Jack has nice touch at the net, one of the reasons why he won the USO Mixed Doubles last year.
I still have hope for Ryan Harrison if he can somehow turn his game around (regresses a lot from last year). He pretty much went from a counter-puncher to a pusher
. He has more variety and is more of a student of the game than Jack, but he lacks natural power. Ryan needs to go back to what got him into the top 100, point construction. Right now, he is just hitting the ball with no sense of purpose and no aggression.
I think Kudla, Williams, Johnson, Klahn, and Kosakowski can be top 100 material.
Kudla is in the same age group as Harrison and Sock. He is a solid baseliner and has one of the better backhands among the youngsters (needs to work on his forehand though). However, he is mentally fragile. He chokes like Ginepri
. He has hard times closing out sets and matches (has a bad habit of rushing things during tight situations).
I’m fond of Rhyne Williams b/c his topspin game reminds me of Ginepri's. He likes to finish points with dropshot. Like most Americans, his backhand is a weakness and will need some work. Rhyne is a head case as well, a nutcase to be exact
Steve Johnson is probably the most successful collegiate player ever. He won 4 consecutive Team NCAA titles and is the two-time reigning NCAA Singles Champ (finishing his career on a 72 win-streak). Steve is like an older version of Jack Sock (plays similar brand of tennis). He has a big serve, big forehand, good defensive skill, and is very athletic. He likes to run around his backand and tends to slice quite a bit b/c his backhand sucks. I like his never-die attitude and fighting spirit.
Like Johnson, Bradley Klahn just graduated. They both are trying to get a place to together and will likely be traveling together on the tour. Brad is an aggressive baseliner with a big lefty serve (my successor to James Blake
I also like Daniel Kosakowski . Daniel has a beautiful one-handed backhand game. I watched several of his matches and he seemed to fade away as the match progressed (confidence issue maybe). He needs to find a way to maintain his level of play if he wants to progress up the ranking.
I’m also fond of Chase Buchanan, but don’t know if he will ever fulfill his potential (has a negative attitude). Like Johnson and Klahn, he is starting out and is doing well so far (but mostly on clay). I love how he strikes the ball and takes it early, but he can be very erratic especially on a fast surface where he doesn’t have time to set up his footwork.
Dennis Novikov, who got his first slam win, also seems promising. He is tall and has big serve and easy power. But he has a hard time getting wins at the lower level. I guess he needs more time (one more year of college should do him some good).
Tennys Sandgren, who turned pro last year (former teammate of Williams), seems to be doing well. Have not seen him play yet, so no comments. Smoke said that he is a talented baseliner with game for the hardcourt.
I just wrote an essay
. I think American tennis is looking up, or maybe I’m just being optimistic