Do you remember the wasteland that was American men's tennis in
the mid-1980s? No U.S. male won a Grand Slam event between John
McEnroe's victory at the 1984 U.S. Open and Michael Chang's
triumph at the '89 French Open. With no American younger than 25
having finished among the world's top 30 in the last five years,
a comparable dry spell was looming--at least until 18-year old
Andy Roddick (right) won the U.S. Clay Courts on Sunday for his
second consecutive ATP tournament title. Savvy tennis fans,
however, have seen Roddick coming, particularly if they surf a
handful of websites that keep tabs on emerging talent.
The weekly sportsline.com/tennis feature "Future Game" has
spotlighted such young Americans as Roddick and Mardy Fish, 19.
At rowztennis.com (slogan: "Row Z...from the outside looking
in"), a site run by knowledgeable New York City tennis fans
Stephanie and Lanie (photos but no last names provided),
up-and-comers occasionally make the "Picture of the Week"
feature. Last week, of course, Roddick got the nod. For amateur
news itfjuniors.com, a splashy site from the International
Tennis Federation, lets surfers customize world junior rankings
to break out the Americans. (The top-rated U.S. player,
18-year-old Ytai Abougzir of Delray Beach, Fla., is fourth among
18-and-under boys.) USTA.com/juniors provides in-depth player
bios and match stories, while juniortennis.com has a section
called "Right of Passage" that profiles promising players who,
because they are over 18, have had to leave the junior ranks for
college tennis or the pros.
Is Roddick the best of the new generation? Time will tell. Ten
years ago Chang and Jim Courier seemed to be the next Connors and
McEnroe, but Sampras and Agassi became the legends.