As is the case whenever there’s a tennis grand slam event in progress, my wife has been devouring lots of hours of ESPN’s US Open coverage. I’ve joined her to watch several matches and noticed several impressive young American women I’d never heard of who have made it to the third or fourth round.
In particular, Coco Gauff, Taylor Townsend, Caty McNally, and Kristie Ahn have put on quite a show. Townsend in particular was refreshing in her old-school serve-and-volley game — until last night, when she ran into Bianca Andreescu, who took away Townsend’s net game with her own aggressive approach. On the international front, there are also very talented young women like Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty.
Meanwhile, on the men’s side, there’s no equivalent, and no one who comes close to The Big 3 (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic).The days of Sampras and Agassi are long gone. The only names even in the best-new-American-guys conversation would be Tennys Sandgren and Francis Tiafoe, neither of whom is a Grand Slam rookie nor a real crowd favorite. It has been sixteen years since an American man made it to the finals of any tennis Grand Slam, let alone winning one (Andy Roddick was the last, in 2003).
Like Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens, who broke out a few years ago, the hot new female American players have all been inspired by the success and longevity of Serena and Venus Williams. In a sport that needs new stars, they are drawing plenty of attention, both in the stands (which have been packed for most of their matches) and on TV (where ratings go up when they play).
It will be interesting to see if they — and others like Naomi Osaka, who spent most of her life in Florida but plays for Japan — will play well enough in the next few years to stay in the spotlight, thus encouraging yet another generation of women to excel at tennis.