Things started to get real western last week in Indian Wells, which makes a certain amount of sense if you’re familiar with the rich and often dark history of the Sonoran-Colorado desert—a vast area of which the Coachella Valley and all those irrigated, golf-and-tennis oases are a part.
The outlaws this past week, though, were not native tribes, nor the road agents and rustlers of the past. Rather, they were the tennis rank-and-file, men and women like Alexandr Dolgopolov, Camila Giorgi, Roberto Bautista Agut, Casey Dellacqua, Alexandra Wozniak, Ernests Gulbis, and Kevin Anderson.
The BNP Paribas Open has been a fascinating and exciting combined event. That’s been great. But the doings have also underscored the dismal state of U.S. tennis.
Put plain and simply, we stink.
The “best” American players at the moment, with very few exceptions, are the ones who have the least amount of obvious, natural talent. The only American player in either draw whose hopes were still alive as of Friday morning was the No. 12 seed on the men’s side, John Isner. This wouldn’t be so hard to digest (at least by those who care) if the familiar old order once again dominated the remaining slots in the draw—if the final weekend featured the Azarenkas and Nadals and Sharapovas and Berdychs and Williamses of this world. But that’s not the case.
Players from everywhere on earth were cashing in last week, so where were the hopeful U.S. players? Nowhere, really. The only U.S. players to make even the fourth round were Isner, Sloane Stephens, and Lauren Davis. And among them, only Isner had a shot at playing on the final weekend.
Davis gets a pass. She had a terrific tournament before a stomach virus impelled her to give Australian qualifier Dellacqua a walkover into the quarterfinals. That’s a pity, because Davis had upset the hobbled world No. 4 Azarenka, and backed that up with a good win over fellow American Varvara Lepchenko (in truth, Lepchenko also had a good tournament, with a solid win over two-time Indian Wells champ Daniela Hantuchova). But besides Davis, that’s not a lot of production out of 13 players.