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By Nick Georgandis

With John Isner's cratering in the third round last week, the 2012 Australian Open officially became the 33rd straight Grand Slam event not won by an American male.

The failure is hardly Isner's fault, even if he was hailed as the future of the American game as recently as 2010.

Andy Roddick, the last American to win a major or be ranked No. 1, retired down two sets to one against Lleyton Hewitt in the second round; tour vet Mike Russell was gone by the first day, as were Ryan Harrison and Jesse Levine.
Ryan Sweeting was the only American to play above his station, making the second round before falling to David Ferrer.

Top-ranked American Mardy Fish flopped against Colombia's Alejandro Falla; Sam Querrey looked old and slow against Bernard Tomic, who still can't decide what he likes best - tennis, his car or his girlfriend; and Donald Young followed up last year's US Open streak with a second-round nose-dive against Lukas Lacko.

When Roddick won the US Open in 2003, American men had no reason to think their dominance was about to come to an end. Earlier the same year, Andre Agassi had won his eighth Slam - the Australian Open - and Pete Sampras had taken his 14th a year earlier at Flushing Meadows.

Prior to the current dry spell, the longest the United States had ever gone without a men's championship occurred between Wimbledon in 1963 and the US Open in 1968 - a span of 21 straight Grand Slam tournaments.

Chuck McKinley won Wimbledon for the stars and stripes in 1963, but the next few years were largely dominated by Australia's Roy Emerson (seven titles) and Spain's Manuel Santana (three).

In 1968, the Open Era began at the French Open, and two majors later, Arthur Ashe broke the US drought at Flushing Meadows.

The United States' third-longest drought came two decades later in 1984, at the end of the Jimmy Connors/John McEnroe era of dominance. Between 1981-1984, Connors and McEnroe combined to win eight Slams, two a year.

The next year, 1985, began the emergence of Ivan Lendl, Boris  Becker and the 1-2 Swedish punch of Stefan Edberg and Mats Wilander. That quartet won 15 of the next 16 majors before Michael Chang broke through in 1989 at Roland Garros, which led to the era of  Agassi, Sampras and Jim Courier.

It's a hot-stove topic to say it's been this many years since an American man won a tournament, but the more disturbing trend is that by and large, American men haven't even been close to winning a major in a time frame going on a decade.

Today's American men not only don't win majors, they don't even come close. World No. 8  Fish has played in 38 Grand Slams and has three quarterfinal appearances to show for it.  In those three quarterfinal matches, he has won a grand total of two sets and led by a set exactly once.

Roddick, fallen to No. 16 in the world, is an American dinosaur - last of a dying breed. In his illustrious career, he's reached five finals, three semifinals and a whopping nine quarterfinals at the majors - but he hasn't gone beyond the quarters since his epic Wimbledon loss to Roger Federer.

Without putting too fine a point on it, the rest of the American male current crop is a joke at the Slams.  Isner's quarterfinal last fall at the US Open is his only such appearance in the first five years of his career; Young's fourth-round appearance last fall was hailed as visionary and was his best ever; James Blake has reached three Slam quarterfinals in his career, but he's about as relevant right now as parachute pants and ALF.

The bitter truth of it is - with the likes of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray circling, it's going to get worse before it gets any better for the American men's game.

 

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