US braced for Roland Garros mauling in French Open
The United States has gone 29 Grand Slam events without celebrating a men's champion and the French Open, which starts on Sunday, is unlikely to break that streak.india Updated: May 20, 2011 11:03 IST
The United States has gone 29 Grand Slam events without celebrating a men's champion and the French Open, which starts on Sunday, is unlikely to break that streak.
Andre Agassi was the last American to win the men's crown at Roland Garros in 1999 and Agassi was the last US player to get as far as the quarter-finals in 2003.
Since then, the mantle has passed to Andy Roddick, his country's last major winner when he lifted the 2003 US Open.
But Roddick, currently struggling with a shoulder injury, has never got beyond the fourth round on the testing clay courts of Paris.
He's not even the national number one anymore, having been supplanted by close friend Mardy Fish, whose Roland Garros best is a second round spot.
These are dark days for American tennis.
Just a week ago, there was no US man or woman in the world's top 10 for the first time since the ranking system was introduced almost 40 years ago.
Serena Williams, the last American Roland Garros women's winner in 2002, is absent this year through injury as is sister Venus.
But not all is lost, says legendary tennis guru Nick Bolletieri, the former coach of Agassi.
He believes Roddick should forget about his awkwardness on clay, and play to his strengths.
"Amen. He said his game isn't suited to clay. So then play the damn game that's made you a heck of a player," Bolletieri told ESPN.
"Just play like it's a hardcourt match and don't worry about the surface. Come in. Chip and charge and make the guy pass you, because the longer you stay at the back of the court, the harder it gets.
"Andy has improved his groundstrokes, but he's not going to cause too much damage getting in long rallies from the back court."
Roddick won two matches on clay in Chile in March as the US reached the Davis Cup quarter-finals, but was beaten on his only two outings in Europe -- losing to Flavio Cipolla of Italy in Madrid and then Frenchman Gilles Simon in Rome.
But going into his 10th Roland Garros, the 28-year-old former world number one remains hopeful of a deep run.
"Obviously anyone who tells you that they are going into the French with no match play is not telling the truth," he said.
"That having been said, I have four more matches on clay this year than last year including the Davis Cup before going into the French so I will see."
Roger Federer, who along with Rafael Nadal has carved up 24 of the 29 majors since Roddick's 2003 US Open win, believes the Americans should not be written off.
"There are not that many teenagers in the top 100 so I think many countries are going through a phase where they do not have the talent they hoped to have," said the Swiss.
"Even in France, Germany, England or America, all those countries are struggling and waiting for an up and coming player like we always hope for like Rafa (Nadal), Novak (Djokovic) and myself, or (Andy) Roddick or (Michael) Chang.
"This is kind of missing at the moment and those countries have to be patient and this creates a lot of pressure on the people working in the federations and the media, especially in the bigger countries like America."