That Andy Roddick — the unwitting poster boy for the fading American male tennis profile — got knocked out of the U.S. Open early once again should come as no surprise.
His second-round loss to 44th-ranked Janko Tipsarevic Wednesday came with the usual official-baiting — “Call 1-800-RENT-A-REF!” — he screamed at one point. That too, has become part of Roddick’s routine. But when his opponents can easily telegraph him, there’s a problem. Says Tipsarevic:
“He needs to be more aggressive. People say he was much more dangerous when he was young because he was really going for the forehand every chance that he had. Now I just don’t see that.“
Roddick’s loss means that the top-rated American male still in the field is No. 18 John Isner, the survivor of this summer’s epic Wimbledon match with Nicolas Mahut.
Isner also is an anomaly high in the global tennis rankings in that he’s a former college standout. He played for the ultra-successful program at the University of Georgia, which boasts one of the finest facilities in the country and has played host to several NCAA championships.
But college tennis is not considered a pathway to professional stardom, either for men or women. Growth in the sport has been stagnating for years, as athletics directors seek to boost women’s participation by adding sports with large head counts (i.e., rowing) and cut back on men’s sports with weak constituencies (i.e., tennis). The College Sports Council, which supports changes in the current enforcement of Title IX, released data to that effect this week.
Naturally, the Women’s Sports Foundation and the NCAA took exception, saying it is unfair to blame Title IX.
He said, they said. Nothing new here.
Just one quibble though: I can understand why the CSC wanted to grab some headlines as the U.S. Open got underway. Clearly it has accomplished that objective. But like its release of a similar numbers gap between male and female college soccer players prior to the start of the World Cup, its case could have been helped by a direct connection to the event.
For example, although a number of players on the U.S. soccer team played college soccer, Landon Donovan, who scored the iconic winning goal against Algeria, steadfastly avoided the college game by turning pro at 17. College soccer is generally a hindrance to the development of elite players because of the level of competition and limited practice time.
Depending on how long he remains in the U.S. Open, perhaps Isner can bolster the cause of college tennis as much as he’s being regarded as the face of the American game.