It appears we have a new blowtorch in American men’s tennis. This time around, he’s sans afro and headband.
Hey, whatever gets us to watch, right?
It’s been a long time since American men’s tennis fans have had anything to cheer about. We fondly reminisce over when our talent was actually relevant, yet only one man not named Federer, Nadal or Djokovic has won a major tournament in the last twenty-six tries. That was Juan Martin Del Potro, who won the US Open in 2009.
The drought has been even longer for American men. Andy Roddick won the only major of his career, the US Open in 2003. Since then, we’ve been waiting impatiently, and rather fruitlessly, for Roddick’s return to greatness. The 2009 Wimbledon final was as close as he got, where he lost to, none other than, Roger Federer.
American men’s tennis has been so boring lately, it’s no wonder Ryan Harrison has been losing his temper.
For over a decade, from Michael Chang’s French Open victory in 1989 to Andre Agassi’s Australian Open title in 2001, American men dominated tennis. Pete Sampras won fourteen majors during that time. Agassi won eight. Not to be forgotten, Jim Courier won four.
Then of course, there was John McEnroe. Johnny Mac won seven majors from the late ‘70s to mid ‘80s and became as renowned for his tantrums as for his championship trophies. The new generation loved him; the older generation resented him.
The difference is Mac won. Ryan Harrison, and his comparable temper, has yet to come close. In this year’s U.S. Open, the unseeded Harrison lost in straight sets to 27th ranked Marin Cilic, throwing his racket several times in the process, and leaving us once again clinging to the hopes of Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish and James Blake. In other words, why watch?
For years now, we’ve been thirsting for the chance to anoint our next American hero, especially since Federer’s reign is on the decline. But Nadal is 25, Djokovic is 24 and our next hero is still nowhere in sight.
Harrison, 19, is from Shreveport, Louisiana, and like all men’s tennis players of note, was trained at the Bollettieri Academy. (How long has it been since you’re heard that name?) Harrison is currently ranked 66th in the world, but climbing those next sixty-five spots will be the most difficult thing he’ll ever have to do. Plenty of rackets will be shattered in the process.
Harrison’s temper tantrums will catch our eye and on an opening Monday at Flushing Meadows, he probably gave folks a hearty chuckle. With Harrison’s demeanor, comparisons to McEnroe are inevitable. Just like with Mac, some fans will find it entertaining and others will find it immature. But as long as Harrison gets bounced in the tournaments that matter, the comparisons will end there.
And still we will wait for our next grand champion.