John Isner, now the best American player

And, poof, just like that, American tennis is gone. No, not just from the Australian Open, where the last American man standing, John Isner, lost before the first weekend of the year’s first major. US tennis is gone from the world map, too.

The top players have faded, and the bottom ones aren’t good enough. This is the moment US tennis has been nervous about for years:

Not one American man is good enough even to contend for a major championship. Forget Wimbledon. Forget the US Open. And only one woman, Serena Williams, is good enough. She will hide the problems in women’s tennis in the United States for a little while longer.

But the men? They are a vacuum.

It has been coming for years. John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors passed the baton to Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras, who passed it to Andy Roddick, who managed to win just one major. But still, he was a top player. And now? Roddick has crossed the finish line and put the baton on the ground somewhere. No one will take it. You want it? It’s yours.

Please read the rest of the column at

About gregcouch

I can talk tennis all day long, and often do. And yet some of the people I talk to about it might rather I talk about something else. Or with someone else. That’s how it is with tennis, right? Sort of an addiction. Sort of a high. I am a national columnist at and a FoxSports1 TV insider, and have been a columnist at the Chicago Sun-Times. In 2010, I was the only American sports writer to cover the full two weeks of all four majors, and also to cover each of the U.S. Masters series events. I’ve seen a lot of tennis, talked with a lot of players, coaches, agents. I watched from a few rows behind the line judge as Serena rolled her foot onto the baseline for the footfault, a good call, at the 2009 U.S. Open. I sat forever watching a John Isner marathon, leaving for Wimbledon village to watch an England World Cup soccer game at a pub and then returning for hours of Isner, sitting a few feet from his wrecked coach. I got to see Novak Djokovic and Robin Soderling joke around on a practice court on the middle Sunday at Wimbledon, placing a small wager on a tiebreaker. Djokovic won, and Soderling pulled a bill out of his wallet, crumpled it into his fist and threw it at Djokovic, who unwadded it, kissed it, and told me, “My work is done here.’’ And when Rafael Nadal won the French Open in 2010, I finished my column, walked back out onto the court, and filled an empty tic tac container with the red clay. I’m looking at it right now. Well, I don’t always see the game the same way others do. I can be hard on tennis, particularly on the characters in suits running it. Tennis has no less scandal and dirt than any other game. Yet somehow, it seems to be covered up, usually from an incredible web of conflicts of interest. I promise to always tell the truth as I see it. Of course, I would appreciate it if you’d let me know when I’m wrong. I love sports arguments and hope to be in a few of them with you here. Personal info: One-handed backhand, serve-and-volleyer. View all posts by gregcouch

3 responses to “AUSTRALIAN OPEN: U.S. TENNIS, R.I.P.

  • Barbara Mitchell

    Please pardon the indirect route I’ve taken to reply to your article on Joe Paterno as the comments link on the article was not active. As a PSU graduate, beginning there the first year Paterno was head coach, I appreciate your attempt to deal with ambiguity and to avoid the black/white polarities so apparent in the tragedy of the last few months. I am an educator faced with reporting abuse and the daughter of an 86-year-old, well-traveled retired Naval officer, so I feel it important to take issue with some of your assumptions.
    Before you tell us how hard it is to believe that Paterno didn’t know about certain sexual acts, I urge you to spend some time in the retirement communities full of folks from that generation. They are typically not well informed regarding that topic and choose to avoid it, especially the men who, like Paterno, are decidedly single-minded about the topics that do interest them. Should they be more aware, certainly, but it’s not unusual to avoid uncomfortable topics, especially folks in THAT generation.
    Second, until you’ve been in the position of reporting abuse, it is naive to condemn a person who struggled with it. The welfare of children comes first, always. The system that is in place in most educational settings makes it a legal requirement to report abuse. It is also a legal requirement in most instances to say nothing more about it after reporting it, due to the need for confidentiality for the victims. When I asked follow-up questions of my superiors after reporting a suspected abuse, I was told they could not discuss it. Only if I had been asked to testify would I have been given more information.
    That was a parental situation. Imagine if it was a trusted peer, someone you had worked with for 30 years. Over and over again we learn about the hideous secrets that abusers have skillfully concealed in our communities. I have no sympathy for child abusers, but I have also seen careers of innocent teachers ruined by troubled children who have learned just enough to shock adults and do not have the maturity to understand the ramifications of their accusations. Teachers receive inservice training because these situations are so complex. I am very sure Paterno never received that kind of training.
    The anger directed at Paterno could just as easily be redirected at the parents and neither is appropriate in my opinion. There have been few articles written by sports reporters on this topic that have demonstrated a breadth of understanding about the issues that are really involved. The additional tragedy will be if the focus continues to be misdirected, allowing abusers even more opportunities. I hope you’ll find ways in your future columns to address that in a positive way. Thank you.

  • Houston

    Thank you Barbara, you are my hero of the day. I think it a tad unprofessional to drop a bomb, make some remarks about such a incendiary issue and refuse to let anyone respond, such as Couch did with the Paterno article. The poor man is dead after he got humilated and fired for a job her held for over 50 years. Isn’t that punishment enough, Greg? He admitted he was wrong while virtually on his death bed, but you question his sincerity? What kind of person are you? What did you expect him to do, beat cancer and come back when he is better, go off any meds he was on for the pain (do you even know how cancer pain feels like), or should he turn back his age to better explain himself, after all he was OVER 80 YEARS old? After all the terrible press he received for weeks (SI was running 3 articles a day for a week about how bad of a man Paterno was), and after his death, you just can’t let a terrible situation die a dignified death. Thanks Greg. Oh, by the way, Sandusky was the one who abused those children, and the one who saw everything, Mike McQueary, the one who left Sandusky alone with the child and went to his father’s house without saying anything to anyone (and lied about contacting police) is still employed at Penn State. Paterno was the only one that has admitted his wrongdoing, but that isn’t enough for people like you, Greg.

  • Houston

    Stick with tennis.

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