Wimbledon 2017: How U.S. Men's Contenders at All England Club Have Almost Disappeared

“You are invited to try to imagine what it would be like to be among the hundred best in the world at something. At anything. I have tried to imagine; it’s hard.”

This is David Foster Wallace, writing near the start of his seminal 1995 essay on tennis. Wallace has been watching Michael T. Joyce, a Californian playing in the qualifying rounds of the Canadian Open who once reached a career-high No. 64 in the world. Even to Foster Wallace, a talented amateur, Joyce is unimaginably talented.

He was also, in the mid-1990s, part of a U.S. men’s tennis scene possessed of incredible depth. Foster Wallace lists them: Tommy Ho, Vince Spadea, Jonathan Stark, Robbie Weiss, Steve Bryan—and that’s before you got to Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras.

At the 1995 edition of Wimbledon, 21 American men entered the first round proper. One, Sampras, went on to win the tournament for the second year in a row.

By 2013—the worst U.S. performance in 100 years on the men’s side of the draw—not one American man made it to the third round. From 2014 to 2016, only one player—Sam Querrey—made the quarterfinals.

Wimbledon
Join the Discussion