On The Decline Of American (And Australian) Men’s Tennis - UBITENNIS
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On The Decline Of American (And Australian) Men’s Tennis

The best player from the US, John Isner, is 35 and ranked outside the world Top 20, while the only truly great prospect seems to be 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima – this might be the lowest point for American tennis.

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A few days ago, a reader sent us some interesting observations: “While sifting through the latest ATP Ranking, I asked myself: who is the highest-ranked American? How high is he? When I realized it was John Isner, sitting at N.23, I thought of the famous Latin phrase, ‘sic transit gloria mundi.’ When I was young, the Yankees dominated along with the Australian’s, who seem to be on the rocks themselves. Is it just my impression? If it isn’t, which could be the reasons for such a decline?

 

It seems to us that the topic may be of interest to many, so we decided to answer the first part of the question, starting from some statistical data obtained by:

· The first ATP Ranking released in 1973.

· The first ranking of the four following decades.

· The most recently released rankings.

Here is the result:

Here are some observations.

The first ITF global report in 2019, which was elaborated by 195 national tennis federations, shows that there are about 87 million tennis players in the world; in the areas of our interest the numerical distribution is this:

 USAEUROPAAUSTR.
    
Number of practitioners (millions)18272.3
Number of male practitioners (m)8.2161.4

In Europe, there is a Top 100 player every 235,000 men; in Australia, one every 280,000; in the USA, one every 911,000 (we think that is appropriate to reflect on these data, dear parents and kids, before making a decision vis-à-vis whether or not trying to follow the path of professional tennis).

In 1973, the United States occupied 23 of the Top 100 positions and 6 of the Top 20; at the beginning of the following decade, their edge over the rest of the world was equally if not more overwhelming. In the last thirty years, however, this prominence has gradually disappeared: first in terms of quantity and then of quality; the last American to occupy top spot was Andy Roddick on January 26, 2004, and the last one in the Top 10 was John Isner on January 27, 2019. The new faces of American tennis do not appear to point to the imminent advent of an American Male Renaissance: among the 9 players present in the top 100 today, the youngest is Frances Tiafoe, who will turn 23 next January and occupies the 63rd spot; the best-positioned teenager is 19-year-old Brandon Nakashima at N.203, followed by his peer Jenson Brooksby at N.299; far behind is Govind Nanda, N.709. Given such premises, it will be difficult for the US to get back to winning ways in the Davis Cup, a competition in which their record tally is stuck at 32 since 2007. 

Australia cannot yet be called a bygone men’s tennis power, since it hasn’t been that long since they boasted the best player in the world, i.e. Lleyton Hewitt on May 12, 2003 – he was also the last Australian to make the Top 10 in July 2006. However, this is a far cry from the age when this nation competed with the United States for the sceptre of world tennis. To give a more complete idea of ​​what Australia represented in the past for tennis, between 1950 and 1967 they won the Davis Cup 15 times (the USA won the remaining three); since 1973, the Aussies have bagged six more, the last one in 2003. For the foreseeable future, they can count on twenty-one-year-old Alex de Minaur, ranked 29th in the world, and on the wayward moods of Nick Kyrgios, currently 43rd; further down the line, they can count, to a lesser extent, on Alexei Popyrin, a peer of De Minaur, but more untested at high levels, but mostly they will have to rely on the Divine Providence, since the best-ranked Australian teen is 19-year-old Hijkata at N.672.

The numbers tell us that, since 1973, Europe’s trajectory has been almost specular to the Australian one. At the beginning of the 1980’s, men’s tennis in the Old Continent was going through a period of severe crisis, from which it was able to brilliantly recover – since February 2004, a European has occupied the throne in the world rankings with no interruptions. At the team level, since the beginning of the new millennium, a European country has lifted the Davis Cup 16 times out of 19. There are no credible alternatives to this sporting dictatorship on the horizon: among youngsters, the sole Denis Shapovalov (who has European origins himself) seems to have the potential to be able to aspire to a Major win; extending the analysis to the very young – i.e. the top ten tennis players born after January 1, 2001 – the tune is the same, since five of them are Europeans including the three most promising:

1.      Sinner, Italy, 46     

2.      Musetti, Italy, 123          

3.      Alcaraz, Spain, 136           

4.      Nakashima, USA, 203     

5.      Tseng, Taiwan, 288

6.      Draper, UK, 297            

7.      Brooksby, USA, 299        

8.      Zeppieri, Italy, 317          

9.      Baez, Argentina, 330               

10.  Cerundolo, Argentina, 345      

Countries belonging to the former Iron Curtain (and Yugoslav) block have been giving a significant contribution at the success of the European tennis for a long time; as a matter of fact, there are 19 representatives of these nations in the top 100:

  • Serbia 5          
  •  Slovenia 1         
  • Russia 3           
  • Poland 1          
  • Moldova 1        
  • Lithuania 1         
  • Hungary 2       
  • Czech Republic 1                       
  • Croatia 2          
  • Belarus 1     
  • Bulgaria 1          

At the end of our analysis, we believe that the feelings of our reader have been largely confirmed.  However, the second part of the question (the most important) he posed to us remains unsolved: if the USA and Australia are really in decline, what are the causes?

Website CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta and his good friend Steve Flink, with their deep knowledge of the top tennis systems, could try to give us an answer in one of their future videos. We are simply humble scribes of the editorial staff – lacking such knowledge and aware of the fact that the vision that is drawn from the numbers we have presented is partial, because of the limited sample examined. All we can hope for is that our work can at least offer some interesting food for thought.

Original article by Roberto Ferri; translated by Matteo Pelliccia; edited by Tommaso Villa

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Novak Djokovic Survives Almighty Sinner Scare to Reach Wimbledon Semis

The dramatic encounter featured a fight back, multiple breaks of serve and even an injury scare.

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Reigning champion Novak Djokovic staged an epic comeback to keep his hopes of winning a seventh Wimbledon title alive after ousting Jannik Sinner in a five-set thriller.

 


Djokovic, who only dropped six games against Sinner in their previous Tour meeting, was forced to battle back from two sets down to prevail 5-7, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, in a roller-coaster encounter on Center Court. The triumph marks Djokovic’s 84th win at the tournament which is the joint-second highest tally in history alongside Jimmy Connors. Only Roger Federer has won more.

“Huge congratulations to Jannik today for a big fight. I’m sure that there are going to be a lot of opportunities for him on the big stage. He’s mature for his age and is already an established top 15 player over the last few years,” said Djokovic.
“He was unfortunate today but he has plenty of time.”

Taking on one of the most promising future prospects of men’s tennis, Djokovic’s latest encounter was a match of two halves. Initially, he appeared as if he would suffer a shock loss to world No.13 before he managed to conjure up an emphatic comeback. Breaking Sinner’s spirit who was bidding to become only the third Italian man to reach a Wimbledon semi-final in history.

“We had two different matches. He was the better player for two sets. (Then) I went out for a toilet break, had a little pep talk (with myself) in the mirror,” the 20-time major winner revealed.
“Sometimes in these circumstances where not much is happening positively for you on the court in terms of tennis. These things are necessary – a little break and pep talk to try to recuperate.’
“I was fortunate to start well in the third set by breaking his serve and that gave me the confidence boost. I saw a bit of doubt in his game and my experience of these kinds of matches helped me.”

The first set was a roller-coaster encounter between the two tennis titans on Center Court. Reigning champion Djokovic started out guns blazing by winning seven points in a row before Sinner got onto the scoreboard after prevailing in a 17-shot rally. The top seed looked to be in full control until a double fault on break point enabled his rival to bounce back. Continuing to play some inspired tennis with blistering shot-making, a cross-court winner enabled the Italian to break once again and this time had the chance to serve the opener out. A task he passed with flying colors.

Continuing to take his game to Djokovic, Sinner appeared unfazed about trying to become the youngest men’s semi-finalist at SW19 since 2007. Producing powerful hitting from the baseline, the 20-year-old extended his lead two games into the second frame. A stunning backhand volley followed by a Djokovic error elevated him to a 2-1 advantage. Spurred on by the crowd, the unprecedented onslaught continued with the help of some costly errors from the Serbian. He sealed the double break with the help of a successful Hawk-Eye challenge before securing a two-set lead in his favor with the help of a 122mph service.

Facing a swift exit, Djokovic once again illustrated the fighting spirit that he is renowned for. Capitalizing on a blip in form from Sinner, he cruised through the third set to resurrect his chances. 

Steaming rolling his way into a decider, Djokovic continued his dominance during the fourth frame by winning four straight games. However, closing that set out was full of drama. First, Sinner suffered an injury scare after going over his ankle before continuing. Then Djokovic fended off a break point and squandered two set points before closing it out. 

A stunning sliding passing shot in the decider set Djokovic up with a chance to break and move to a game away from victory. Something he did with the help of a Sinner error which the Italian instantly regretted by putting both his hands on his head. After that mishit, Djokovic ended the clash with a love service game. 

“I’ve been blessed to play professional tennis for 20 years but nevertheless I go through those doubtful moments like everybody else. The inner fight is always the biggest fight. Once you win the fight the external circumstance is more likely to go in your favor. I knew I could turn this match around. I have done that a few times in grand slams.” Djokovic concluded.


 

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(VIDEO EXCLUSIVE) Why Rafael Nadal Faces His Biggest Test Yet

Tennis Hall of Famer Steve Flink joins UbiTennis to reflect on the highs and lows of day 8 of Wimbledon.

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Will the upcoming quarter-final be Rafael Nadal’s hardest match yet? How will Nick Kyrgios’ shoulder recover?

 

The second Monday at Wimbledon was one full of intrigue in the men’s draw. Whilst on the women’s side, Simona Halep was in impressive form against Paula Badosa but tennis commentator Flink explains why he thinks her upcoming clash with Amanda Anisimova will be tougher.

Alongside Ubitennis CEO Ubaldo Scanagatta, Flink also looks at Jannik Sinner’s chances of causing a huge upset against reigning champion Novak Djokovic. 

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WIMBLEDON: Rafael Nadal Coy Over New Injury Speculation

After the foot problems in Paris, there is a strong possibility the Spaniard could be experiencing another injury issue.

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image via twitter.com/atp

There are fresh concerns surrounding Rafael Nadal after he declined to go into the reason why he was wearing abdominal taping during his fourth round match at Wimbledon. 

 

The 22-time Grand Slam winner was seen wearing some kind of protection in the abdominal area after changing his t-shirt during one of the breaks. In recent weeks Nadal has been dealing with physical issues due to a long-term foot condition he has. At the French Open he revealed that he had to undergo injections in order for him to continue playing en route to winning the tournament for a 14th time.

Playing 21st seed Botic van de Zandschulp, Nadal battled his way to a 6-4, 6-2, 7-6(6), win. Speaking to reporters after his latest win at The All England Club, the Spaniard sidestepped a question about a potential abdominal problem he could be experiencing. 

“I am a little bit tired of talking about my body. It’s not that I don’t want to answer your question, but at the same time sometimes I am tired of myself, all the issues that I am having. I prefer to not talk about that now,” he replied.
“I am in the middle of the tournament and I have to keep going. All respect for the rest of the opponents. I am just trying my best every single day. For the moment I am healthy enough to keep going and fight for the things that I want.”

Continuing to stay coy about his form and health, Nadal offered an alternative perspective when asked if he was nearing his best level once again. He has dropped just two sets in four matches played so far at Wimbledon which is his first grass-court event since 2019. 

“It’s always the same here. It’s not about how close I am to the level or not. I don’t know that. I can’t predict what can happen.” He said.
“But the positive thing is the first two matches haven’t been good. Then two days ago I played at a high level for the first time. And today most of the matches, again, at a very positive level.”

The straight sets scoreline failed to tell the true story of Nadal’s roller-coaster win on Center Court. Taking on Zandschulp, a player who burst onto the main scene last year by reaching the US Open quarter-finals as a qualifier, the 22-time major champion engaged in a match of two halves. Nadal looked on the verge of an easy victory after breaking once in the first set, twice in the second and storming to a 5-2 in the third. However, the Dutchman refused to go down without a fight by displaying his best tennis of the match to draw level. 

Now engaged in his first real test, Nadal was under intense pressure to close it out in three. If he didn’t there would have been an inevitable delay for the roof to come on due to poor light. If that occurred, there would be less than two hours of play left before the 11pm curfew began.

Nevertheless, Nadal didn’t need the roof as he squeezed through the tiebreaker. After squandering three consecutive match points, he prevailed on his fourth with the help of a lob that triggered Zandschulp to smash the ball out. 

Nadal is through to his 47th major quarter-final and is only the third man in the Open Era to do so at Wimbledon after celebrating his 36th birthday. In total, he has won 309 main draw matches at Grand Slam tournaments.

In the last eight, the Spaniard has a shot of revenge when he takes on Taylor Fritz who ended his 20-match winning streak earlier this year in Indian Wells. During that match, Nadal had a rib injury and he had beaten the American earlier that month in Mexico. 

“That last match (in Indian Wells) was zero because I had a stress fracture on my rib, and it was difficult to learn many things because the pain was terrible playing that match.” He said. 

As for Fritz, he believes their upcoming clash will be at a higher standard given the form both players are currently in. Fritz is currently on a eight-match winning streak after recently claiming the Eastbourne Open title. 

“It’s going to be a lot different match obviously. Indian Wells was kind of crazy with both of us being extremely beaten up before the final. This time I think we’ll get healthier versions of both of us, we’ll see.” Fritz previewed.

The question for nadal, is how healthy is the current version of him really is? Only time will tell. 

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