Where have you gone, Roddick? U.S. men look to end Wimbledon drought

Where have you gone, Roddick? U.S. men look to end Wimbledon drought

The current crop of players try to join their countrymen as champions and finalists.

Between the reigns of Bjorn Borg and Roger Federer, American men had more than their fair share of success at Wimbledon, with Pete Sampras dominating for nearly a decade and Hall of Famers John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and Andre Agassi winning titles.

Jim Courier and MaliVai Washington also reached finals at the All England Club over that time, paving the way for Andy Roddick. However, the hard-serving American was stopped in the championship match by Federer in three battles, most notably in 2009, when he lost 16-14 in the fifth set.

Since that match, no male player from the U.S. has reached a Grand Slam final. With the rich legacy of their compatriots behind them, today’s athletes will be out to snap the decade-long streak at Wimbledon. Here’s five of them with the best opportunity to do so.

John Isner

First-round opponent: Casper Ruud

2018 was a banner year for the American: After a slow start to the season, Isner captured his first Masters 1000 title in Miami, then shortly afterward, put in the best Grand Slam performance of his career by reaching the semifinals in Wimbledon. Having contested the longest match in history already, it appeared he was going to make a challenge at that record in the penultimate round against Kevin Anderson. His college rival prevailed 26-24, but Isner didn’t let that loss knock him off track as he earned a spot at the ATP Finals. This year, a highlight has been another final-round appearance in Miami, which came with an undesired outcome: A foot injury suffered in that match has kept him off the court since then. Making his return to action at Wimbledon, a lack of match play could pose some problems, but as he showed last year, his serve and readiness to always battle could get him out of some tight contests. 

Sam Querrey

First-round opponent: Dominic Thiem

Coming in to Wimbledon with enough on-court reps will also pose a challenge for Querrey. The Californian has returned to the court this week in Eastbourne after 11 weeks off due to an abdominal injury and has made a strong showing at the final grass-court tuneup event. It’s an encouraging sign heading into the major where he’s had the most success. In 2016, the American stopped Novak Djokovic, who was going for a fifth Grand Slam title in a row, in the third round as he advanced to his first major quarterfinal. Querrey went a step further the following year as he made it to the semis, posting a win against Andy Murray along the way. Like Isner, the surface suits his powerful style of play, and the memory of past triumphs could help his cause.

Taylor Fritz

First-round opponent: Tomas Berdych

Another Eastbourne semifinalist, Fritz has made nothing but strides this year. He hit his career-high in the standings, No. 40, in January and is only a couple of spots removed from that right now. Consistency has been a key for the 21-year-old, as well as the desire to keep challenging himself. Despite clay not being completely conducive to his game, Fritz dived into the spring season abroad head-on, posting wins against such top-20 caliber players as Diego Schwartzman, Guido Pella and Roberto Bautista-Agut. The confidence built then has been on display this week with the best grass-court performance of his young career. An all-court player with a huge game, Fritz is capable of having a Slam breakthrough in London this year.   

Frances Tiafoe

First-round opponent: Fabio Fognini

The general consensus is that Tiafoe is destined to accomplish great things before his playing days are done, with the 21-year-old showing flashes of what could be over the past couple of years. In 2018, he won his first singles title in Delray Beach on hard courts, reached the Estoril clay-court final and made it to the third round of Wimbledon. On the cusp of a second-week showing, Tiafoe let a two-sets-to-none lead slip away against Karen Khachanov. This year, Tiafoe made it to the final eight at a major for the first time in Australia, and also reached the quarterfinals in Miami. Aside from those two results, though, 2019 has been full of disappointing on-court results. The Melbourne and South Beach performances indicate that he can channel his energies for the biggest events, and they hardly get more prestigious than Wimbledon.

Steve Johnson

First-round opponent: Albert Ramos-Vinolas

Versatility has long been a strong suit for one of the greatest players in college tennis history: Of his four career singles titles, two have come on clay and the others have been claimed on grass in Newport, R.I., and Nottingham, England. He’s slumped to an 8-15 record this year, though, as he heads into Wimbledon, going 2-3 over the grass-court warm-up events. Johnson has shown he knows how to navigate the lawns, evidenced by a fourth-round appearance at Wimbledon in 2016—his best result at a Grand Slam. His backhand slice can keep his opponents off-balance and is most effective on the sleek grass. If he’s to make his mark at a major, Wimbledon might be the best place to do it.