U.S. men's tennis fading as San Jose event goes into darkness
As the Northern California men's tournament unfolded for the last time, it was only fitting that Rafael Nadal's comeback and the Serena Williams-Victoria Azarenka showdown were the sport's dominant headlines over the weekend. The SAP Open has spent far too many years in the shadows. Now comes the utter darkness.
In the end, it was all about Milos Raonic's third straight victory in the event, a straight-set thrashing of Tommy Haas in the final. But with most of the key Americans performing in San Jose, let's take a moment to assess the state of U.S. men's tennis, based on the top 100 rankings and beyond:
It should be noted, as well, that the Haas match brought some crucial issues to life. Isner
"That's what decided the match," he said. "But Tommy was very good. There's no shame in losing to him. He's an awesome player at 34 and doing what he's doing. He's been at the very top of the game, he's in incredible shape and he's hitting the ball really well."
"He served unbelievable," Querrey said of Raonic. "I wasn't really even close to getting a look at his serve. I just felt like I was under pressure the whole time. We had some big servers here -- John, myself, [Ivo] Karlovic -- but Milos was the only guy in the field who was consistently over 140 [mph] the whole week. It's pretty impressive. Even if you get a racket on it, most likely you're not catching it clean or putting it back deep."
As for the prospect of bypassing a friend, Isner, in the rankings, Querrey said, "It's a goal. But I want to do it based on my results, not something where John fades back in the rankings. I want to have won a lot of matches and really deserve it. He's not going to give it up easily."
With so many towering, big-serving players in the event, Querrey drew the inevitable questions about movement -- or lack of -- and whether that presents a handicap in tennis.
"That's what you guys always say, that we don't move well," said Querrey, somewhat annoyed. "But we do. Every player over 6-foot-5 moves well in this sport."
And that concluded the interview. "Except Karlovic," a smiling Querrey whispered on his way out.
After beating Harrison in Davis Cup play last April, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga told reporters, "His major weakness is that he is very, very nervy. I knew that if I held on longer than him, it would be to my advantage. You look at him and think, 'OK, he's not feeling great.' "
A stirring performance at Indian Wells or Miami would bring Harrison's name back into the spotlight. He wouldn't mind a decent draw at the majors, either, after facing nightmares in the first round (Andy Murray) and second round (Novak Djokovic, twice) over the course of his last five Grand Slam events.
Those outside the top 100 who played San Jose:
That match offered a stern reminder of the demands placed on any young player with designs on excellence.
"I think I got a little complacent," Johnson told tennisreporters.net. "In college, I could get away with a few more things. I've got to learn that's probably not going to work out here. These guys, if you leave something hanging, something short, they're going to put the pressure on you. They'll take any little mistake and put it down your throat."
Sock can hardly afford to look ahead to the U.S. Open, although he must be tempted. He won the Open's 2010 junior title, drew a cherished nighttime assignment against mentor and fellow Nebraskan Roddick the following year and reached the third round last year before falling in four sets to Nicolas Almagro. Power isn't the issue with Sock, still just 20.
"You can't teach the RPMs on his forehands," Roddick said after that 2011 match, which he won in straight sets. "You can't teach 135 mph in your arm, or the way his ball jumps off the court. He's just going to have to learn some of the subtleties of the game."
So far, that has proved to be a most difficult task.