Who Will Fill Pete Sampras' Superstar Tennis Shoes? - MensTennisForums.com
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post #1 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-01-2006, 09:27 PM Thread Starter
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Who Will Fill Pete Sampras' Superstar Tennis Shoes?

Who can fill Pete Sampras' superstar tennis shoes?

By Doug Browne 07/31/2003

Not long ago, tennis enthusiasts were griping about how could the United States replace superstars Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe. After Ivan Lendl had become the new number one player in the world, what American tennis player would rise to the top and challenge him?

It now seems like 40 years ago when I took Hideaway Beach members, Bill Herbst and Richard Mohring, to the U.S. Open to watch some great tennis. I told the guys that we needed to leave the stadium so I could watch a couple of fellas on the backcourts. Naturally, Bill and Rich were curious about Doug's new guys, but they also thought that I might be pushing it a little.

"OK, we are leaving our front row seats to see whom?" Bill kidded me.

"Yeah, Doug, we're leaving the best seats in the house to see a couple of nobodies?" quipped Richard.

"Hey, don't laugh. I'll bet both of you that one, if not both, will win this tournament some day," I commented.

"Now, there's a bet I'd like to get on," exclaimed Richard.

After a long walk, we hit court 21 and I found young Jim Courier ripping forehands all over the court, looking rather good for an 18-year-old kid.

Needless to say, Bill and Richard were not too impressed and were so impatient that we left after five minutes.

"Hold on, guys. I want to see Pete," I shouted.

We went to court 24 and found Pete Sampras banging serves and completely dominating his opponent.

"I met Pete just before he turned pro because his coach was a close friend since the early '70s. We used to travel the junior circuit together and I know he believes his prize student, youthful Pete Sampras, will become number one in the world," I went on to explain.

Unfortunately, my persuasive powers did not impress my buddies from Marco Island. It really wasn't a case of not believing me, it was more to do with predicting such an unlikely occurrence. In other words, they didn't think I was completely full of baloney, but needed a little more proof.

Two years later, Pete Sampras won the U.S. Open at the tender age of 19. He beat Lendl, McEnroe and Agassi to win the title.

A year or so later, Jim Courier won the U.S. Open and rose to number one in the world rankings.

Let's quickly examine the new talented American tennis players.

Most tennis fans are predicting that Andy Roddick will continue his climb and eventually win a grand slam title. His chances are good because he has at least two big weapons: a gigantic serve and a huge forehand. He moves pretty well for a big man, so basically, he has the physical tools to win a big one.

Then there is Taylor Dent, James Blake, Mardy Fish, Brian Vahally, Robbie Genepri, Bob and Mike Bryan, and Brian Baker.

Even though Taylor Dent's father, Phil, was a former top 50 in the world player from Australia, I do not believe that Taylor has the foot speed and diversity to break through and win a prestigious tournament. However, with his humongous serve, he can definitely knock on the door for a few more years.

At one time, I believed that James Blake of Fairfield High School (my wife, Leslie, graduated from the same school a few years earlier) could become a top 10 player in the world for a few solid reasons. One: He has excellent wheels which allow him to reach most balls. Two: His forehand smash can dominate a match. Three: He is a very intelligent young man who is very coachable. However, his recent slump has me concerned because he should never lose early in a major as he did at Wimbledon.

Tom Fish, a very successful tennis director from Vero Beach, taught his son well. Mardy Fish has been one of the USTA's finest young players for the last few years due to his powerful serve and very tough two-handed backhand. Again, he needs to be quicker around the court and in my opinion, must get in better shape, like Agassi, to realize his tennis dreams.

The Bryan Brothers of Stanford University are quickly becoming the best doubles team in the world and should be on the U.S. Davis Cup Team. Both Bob and Mike are terrific players but are not ready to climb up in the top 50 in the world in singles. However, they just won the French Open Doubles title and could be the favorites at the U.S. Open in August. Keep an eye on their doubles career as they will continue to win more grand slams.

Both Brian Vahally and Robbie Genepri have trained together in the Atlanta area for several years. These two Americans, in my opinion, are headed in opposite directions. Just two weeks ago, Robbie won the Newport grass court title and is showing great promise. He reminds me a little of a young and hungry Jim Courier. Genepri, solidly built, has one of the better returns of serve in the game, moves well, and can play on all surfaces. Look for Genepri to keep climbing in the rankings after his first ATP tournament victory.

Brian Vahally, the former number one player from the University of Virginia, has had some great moments on the court, but not too many wins to get us excited. He possesses one of the best backhands in the sport, but his overall game is not too menacing. Look for Vahally to occasionally knock off a good player, but I do not believe that he can climb in the top 50 in the world.

Finally there is young Brian Baker of Nashville, Tenn. He is just 18-years-young but was recently in the finals of the Junior French Open. Standing six-foot-three inches tall and right handed, Baker just turned pro this year and may begin to show more progress. At this time, it is too early to know whether he has Roddick potential or Dent potential, but let's keep an eye on him.

When I run into Bill and Richard at the club, we always have a few laughs about our U.S. Open experiences. And, the good news for me is that they actually believe me now. I think.

Doug Browne can be reached below.
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post #2 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 08:00 AM
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Re: Who Will Fill Pete Sampras' Superstar Tennis Shoes?

may be donald young? i read somewhere that Mcenroe praised him a lot

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post #3 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-02-2006, 08:25 AM
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Re: Who Will Fill Pete Sampras' Superstar Tennis Shoes?

donald young?
no way
no to be judgmental
but the boy is still very young
not quiet developed
&needs time & space to grow & improve
he has been given a few ATP wildcards courtesy of his management
& is not quite there yet
I might be wrong & he could be a great player
but too early to predict

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post #4 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-03-2006, 09:14 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Who Will Fill Pete Sampras' Superstar Tennis Shoes?

Originally Posted by mimi
may be donald young? i read somewhere that Mcenroe praised him a lot

i dont think so at all Mimi, sorry.
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post #5 of 6 (permalink) Old 06-26-2006, 10:00 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Who Will Fill Pete Sampras' Superstar Tennis Shoes?

No American men making a racket
Agassi retiring soon, but all's quiet on the tennis front

02:29 AM CDT on Monday, June 26, 2006

First he shocked us with long hair. Then he stunned us with no hair.

He had an earring. Then he gave Brooke Shields a wedding ring.

He won as a No. 1. Then he won unseeded.

There are a lot of things for which tennis great Andre Agassi, who announced Saturday that this will be his last season, will be remembered. The last, however, is likely to be ending an era.

Indeed, it is difficult to ignore that when Wimbledon commences today, it will have been six summers since an American man, Pete Sampras, won at the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club. The longest Wimbledon drought by American men since the Open era began is an eight-year stretch between John McEnroe's last title in 1984 and Agassi's win in 1992.

And it will have been seven summers since two American men met in tennis's most-revered final. They were Sampras, whom Tennis magazine named the greatest men's player ever, and Agassi.

Sampras retired officially in 2003. That was also the last year an American man won one of tennis's four Grand Slam tournaments. Andy Roddick won that year's U.S. Open, and Agassi captured the Australian.

Since then, it's been Switzerland's Roger Federer with a little of Spain's Rafael Nadal mixed in on French clay this year and last, the Russian surprise Marat Safin in Australia in 2005 and the uprising of Argentine Gaston Gaudio at Roland Garros in 2004.

As a result, it appears as if Agassi may as well turn out the lights for American men's tennis when he departs the U.S. Open locker room for the last time in September.

This isn't the first time American men's tennis has looked as if it has been extinguished. Such was the case in the middle to late '80s when McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were winding down their careers.

But there were some up-and-coming youngsters on the scene then who promised to pick up shortly where McEnroe and Connors left off. Agassi and Sampras were among them, as was Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Todd Martin.

Chang was the first to break through, in France. Then Courier won at Australia and France before Agassi and Sampras began to imitate McEnroe and Connors with a world-tour rivalry of their own. American men just about dominated the world tennis stage during the '90s.

Where is the transfusion of American tennis testosterone today, though? Roddick will open play at Wimbledon ranked fifth in the world after finishing the last three seasons ranked in the top three. He's just 23. But so far he's garnered more magazine cover shots than Grand Slam titles.

James Blake is having a career year and is ranked seventh. But he's already 26.

Robby Ginepri, who was runner-up to Roddick at the U.S. Open juniors, is ranked 17.

The retiring Agassi is ranked 20th.

There are no more Americans in the top 50.

Agassi is the last of the bright American stars. Roddick has been but a flash on the horizon. He's been all style, which Agassi had plenty of, but little substance, save his big serve that a lot of his opponents seem to have caught up to.

It is unlikely that Roddick or Blake will brighten things over Wimbledon's fortnight. Wimbledon is Federer's to lose, and he hasn't lost a match on grass in four years. He's blown away Roddick in the last two Wimbledon finals. Blake may have a better shot given that he is coming off a finals' loss to Australian Lleyton Hewitt in the Wimbledon warm up at Queen's Club.

But if Federer is to be toppled, it is more likely to be by a player from somewhere up-and-coming youngsters abound. Nadal, who just beat Federer in the French final, just turned 20. The Croat Mario Ancic, who upset Federer in 2002 in Wimbledon's opening round, is 22. The Frenchman Richard Gasquet, who just turned 20 and has won one meeting with Federer, drew the defending champion to kick off Wimbledon today.

There is one American in the top 25 junior rankings. He is Donald Young. He is ranked fourth. His 17th birthday is next month. Last year he became the youngest player to win the Australian Open Junior Championships.

But Young, whom McEnroe said not long ago was the future of American tennis, is still a few years, several inches and lots of muscle away from being ready to compete with the best men on the international level.

So Agassi's departure will probably be the dawn of a dark age for American men.

E-mail kblackistone@dallasnews.com
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post #6 of 6 (permalink) Old 08-04-2006, 05:45 PM Thread Starter
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Re: Who Will Fill Pete Sampras' Superstar Tennis Shoes?

American men rallying on world scene
By Steve Silver
August 4, 2006

Upon further review, American tennis is not dead. In fact, it has quite a strong pulse.
With more singles players in the top 25 than any other country and two top-10 players, America is doing just fine in men's tennis compared to the rest of the world. But the major problem with American tennis is not the rest of the world, but America's own successful tennis history.
With Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and retiring Andre Agassi, Americans claimed 20 Grand Slam titles and almost always maintained the world No.1 position in the 1990s.
"We Americans are spoiled when it comes to having tennis players in the top 10 in the world -- we need to start off with that fact," said Patrick McEnroe, captain of the U.S. Davis Cup team and ESPN tennis commentator. "We are used to having players compete for Grand Slams regularly. And the fact of the matter is that it isn't happening. We are not as strong as we were. But there are not as many countries that had a run like we did."
Even with a seemingly too rich tennis tradition to live up to, current top Americans such as No.5 James Blake and No.10 Andy Roddick have not produced even the slightest ripple in major events.
An American has not advanced past the round of 16 in any Grand Slam this year, yet four players remain ranked in the top 25, and the U.S. Davis Cup team is in the semifinals.
"The truth is, we are a factor," McEnroe said. "Tennis is a broad, international game and when you compare us to other countries, we are doing well. We have good young players in the pipeline and two in the top 10. Tennis is the only sport where the rankings never lie. You might be able to pad your numbers in baseball, but if you are ranked in the top 10 in tennis, you have earned those results. There is a reason."
But there also are three reasons why Americans like Blake and Roddick have suffered a Grand Slam drought: Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and injuries.
Federer and Nadal, the world's Nos.1 and 2 respectively, have combined for 10 Grand Slam titles in the past five years, eight by Federer.
"The way Federer is playing, it seems like he is unstoppable for a little while," said Blake, who has not advanced past the round of 32 in a Grand Slam this year. "But everyone is human, so there has to be a chink in that armor somewhere."
McEnroe is more realistic.
He said he thinks Americans will improve to where they are playing in Grand Slam finals but not necessarily win them anytime soon
"The fact is that Nadal and Federer are dominating the men's game and everyone else is playing for third," McEnroe said.
Blake has won 12 of his last 14 matches and appears to be on a hot streak heading into the U.S. Open. The same cannot be said about his fellow countrymen, nearly all of whom have been hampered by injuries.
After losing a final to Blake in Indianapolis in early July, Roddick has had to withdraw from two consecutive tournaments, including the Legg Mason, because of a muscle strain in his back. His ability to compete at his full potential in the upcoming Open is questionable. Yet Mardy Fish, Jan-Michael Gambill, and Robby Ginepri appear to be back to their winning ways after injuries forced them to take time off from the game.
Ginepri, who really just fell victim to a lack of confidence, dropped to No.104 in July of last year, but has climbed back to No.19. Fish, who underwent two wrist operations in 2005 has fought his way from No.341 in February to his current position at No.70.
Jan-Michael Gambill, a former top-20 player, took more than a year off after shredding tendons in his serving shoulder. As the Legg Mason's "lucky loser," he already has picked up his first ATP victory of the year.
Not only are injured players returning, but young phenoms like 18-year-old Sam Querrey are picking up professional victories. Querrey has gone 4-7 this year and lost a close three-set match against No. 86 Wesley Moodie 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-7 (6) in the opening round of the Legg Mason.
Former top-25 player Taylor Dent has been sidelined since February with a back injury. But the consensus among the players at the William H.G. FitzGerald Tennis Center is that if the top Americans can get healthy and stay healthy, then even more of them will be in the top 25.
"I've been asked about it more than anybody, and it looks like the state of American tennis is pretty good," Gambill said. "We are fine."
With the Open, America's Grand Slam event, approaching, there is no better time than now for Americans to step up. Perhaps Arthur Ashe Stadium can help transform American tennis from fine to great.
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