The article “After a steady decline, American men drop out of top 20” was written by Ben Rothenberg and published in The International Herald Tribune.
There will not be an American man in the top 20 of the A.T.P. rankings when they are released Monday, the first time that has happened since the rankings began in August 1973.
The disheartening milestone comes three years after the Americans found themselves unrepresented in the A.T.P. top 10 for the first time, in August 2010.
The American exodus from the top 20 was sealed by the loss Tuesday of No. 20 John Isner, who fell by 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) to the Canadian wild-card Vasek Pospisil in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Isner had led in the third set, 4-1, and also held 4-2 leads in both the second and third set tiebreaks. But Pospisil, ranked at a career-high of No.71, came up with several remarkably strong returns off Isner’s booming first serve, and eventually claimed victory in two and a half hours in front of a delighted home crowd.
Isner had turned in several strong results in recent weeks to remain in the top 20, winning a title in Atlanta two weeks ago and following that with an appearance in the final of the Citi Open in Washington. Isner reached the semifinals of the Rogers Cup last year, so the first-round defeat this year resulted in a loss of 360 points from his ranking.
Isner’s ranking next week is projected to be No. 22, but it could fall slightly if one of the players ranked behind him were to make a deep run in Montreal. Sam Querrey, the second-highest ranked American, is currently No. 26.
The Americans have flirted with a departure from the top 20 several times since March. Isner’s ranking slipped outside of the top 20 that month when he had a poor showing at Indian Wells. But Querrey kept the United States in the top 20 that week by its fingernails, reaching the fourth round of Indian Wells to put himself at No. 20.
Either Isner or Querrey has managed to stay inside the top 20 every week since, but with little margin: neither had climbed above No. 18, which Querrey reached for one week.
After Querrey, there is a sharp drop-off before the next American name in the rankings: Mardy Fish, who is No. 78. Fish is followed by No. 90 Jack Sock, No. 94 Michael Russell, No. 99 James Blake and No. 100 Steve Johnson. There are an additional eight Americans on the cusp of the top 100, ranked between No. 101 and No. 134. That includes the 21-year-old Ryan Harrison at No. 104, who was ranked inside the top 50 a year ago.
Andy Roddick, who retired last September after having carried American hopes on his shoulders for much of the last 10 years, reflected last month on the statistics that suggest the declining state of American men’s tennis.
”Throwing out statistics, like it’s the first time since such-and-such, is fair journalism,” Roddick said. ”That’s a fact. I think I’m more concerned with what’s going to happen to make it right and make it better. The other thing that seems painfully obvious when you say stuff like that is how spoiled we’ve been.”
Roddick then compared the American expectation of success with the drought British tennis went through – notably the 77-year run between men’s singles champions at Wimbledon – for generations before Andy Murray’s recent success.
”When you see that they’re talking 77 years before someone had won, I think for a while we’ve taken our champions in the United States maybe for granted a little bit,” he said.
While American men are not having the singles success many had grown accustomed to, the United States is hardly starved for overall tennis success.
The American women have two players ranked in the W.T.A. top 20: No. 1 Serena Williams and No. 17 Sloane Stephens. There are an additional four inside the top 40: No. 25 Jamie Hampton, No. 37 Varvara Lepchenko, No. 38 Venus Williams, and No. 40 Madison Keys. Keys, 18, is the youngest player inside the top 60.
And, the American team of Bob and Mike Bryan sit atop the A.T.P. doubles rankings, tied at No. 1 with a cushion of more than 9,000 ranking points between them and No. 3 Rohan Bopanna of India. The 35-year-old Bryan twins will be seeking to complete a Grand Slam at the United States Open.
Venus Williams made her return from a back injury at the Rogers Cup, but after a three-set defeat to the Belgian Kirsten Flipkens, she admitted she was still not at 100 percent, Dhiren Mahiban reported from Toronto.
Williams missed the previous two months, including Wimbledon, after suffering a lower back injury in her first-round loss to Urszula Radwanska at the French Open in May. That was her earliest exit at Roland Garros in 12 years.
Williams, 33, who has not won a round at the Rogers Cup in three previous outings, fell by 6-0, 4-6, 2-6 to the No. 13 ranked Flipkens in just under two hours Tuesday.
The lingering effects of Williams’ back injury was evident in the third set, when she fell behind by 5-0.
”I’m not really 100 percent on my serves yet, so to me it was better to not take too many risks and just do something I felt more comfortable with,” Williams said.