Serena Williams dominated the tennis scene for countless years and is widely regarded as the greatest female player of all time.
However, despite Sloane Stephens’ triumph at the 2017 US Open and Sofia Kenin’s victory at the 2020 Australian Open, during the period between 2008 and 2016, no other American woman won a grand slam, which is a testament to Williams’ dominance and illustrates the lack of American representation at the top of elite women’s tennis.
However, since Williams called time on her career, Coco Gauff has emerged as a potential successor to her mantle, with the 19-year-old lighting up the tennis world with her scintillating game. She has already collected three career titles and reached as high as number four in the world rankings, currently lying in sixth.
Even though Williams’ shoes will be incredibly difficult to fill, many think Gauff will take the tennis world by storm in the years to come both on and off the court, as displayed by the young American’s multi-year sponsorship with New Balance which has been active since she was aged 14.
New Balance has also launched shoes dedicated to Gauff, the CG1 performance shoe, emphasizing her popularity and marketability.
Alongside Gauff, Jessica Pegula has recently shot up the rankings after winning the Guadalajara Open in 2022, becoming the first American to win a WTA 1000 title since Madison Keys in 2019.
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Since then, she has reached the WTA Finals, climbed to number three in the rankings, and is being backed to be a force for the upcoming grand slams this year. Gauff and Pegula are the only current American representatives within the WTA top 10.
In the men’s game, there has not been an American grand slam winner since Andy Roddick’s triumph at the 2003 US Open, marking almost 20 years.
This is an astonishing statistic given the level of dominance from US players in the 1990s and early 2000s, where Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Jim Courier, and Andy Roddick combined for 27 grand slams between 1990 and 2004.
This coincides with the rankings, as there has not been an American world number one on the ATP tour since Andy Roddick in February 2004.
A big reason for this is the emergence of the ‘big three’ of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic who have dominated the sport since 2004, collecting 64 grand slams between them.
The trio have been ruthless over the last 19 years, with only nine other players collecting a major since 2004, covering 76 grand slams.
Federer announced his retirement in 2022, and with Nadal and Djokovic also getting older at 36 and 35 years old, respectively, this could pave the way for new up-and-coming players to take over the sport, as we are believed to be approaching a new era.
Could this be an opportunity for American tennis to restamp its mark on the sport?
Currently, 20% of the ATP top 50 are made up of American players, with Taylor Fritz being the highest-ranked.
The 25-year-old enjoyed a stellar 2022 season, picking up his first Masters 1000 title in Indian Wells and Japan Open, as well as making his debut at the ATP World Tour Finals in Turin, which included a scintillating display that saw him beat Nadal in the round-robin stage before eventually reaching the semi-finals.
Fritz became the first American to win in Indian Wells since Andre Agassi in 2001, a testament to his quality and potential after dismantling Nadal in the final.
He is currently ranked 10th in the world and is the highest-ranked American tennis player on the ATP tour. Fritz is backed to be a contender for this year’s grand slams and is expected to fulfill his potential which saw the young American become the number one ranked player during his junior years.
Alongside Fritz, Frances Tiafoe also enjoyed a successful 2022 season, reaching the US Open semi-finals, the first American male to do so since Roddick in 2006.
Consequently, Tiafoe is currently ranked a career-high 14th in the world. His explosive game is a challenge for any opponent and the 25-year-old has continued his form into 2023, reaching his first Masters 1000 semi-final at Indian Wells.
Fritz has set the benchmark for the Americans, with fellow USA national, Tommy Paul, currently ranked 19th, revealing his hunger to be where his compatriot currently is.
Paul claims that the healthy competition between the players to be the best in their country is driving all American tennis players to improve and strive for success.
20-year-old Ben Shelton made his ATP debut in 2022 and has burst onto the scene reaching the fourth round of this year’s Australian Open in his second-ever grand slam, reaching a career-high 39 in the world currently.
Australian tennis star, Alexei Popyrin, described the young American as a formidable force with an excellent serve, claiming that Shelton is destined for the top 10 this year if he carries on his form.
Sebastian Korda has also shown promise, reaching this year’s Australian Open quarter-finals after cracking the top 30 in 2022, with his only current ATP title coming at the Emilia-Romagna Open in 2021.
Korda has impressed in the last two years, with tennis legend John McEnroe backing the 22-year-old to be the best of the American bunch.
Many American tennis fans are confident in Gauff and there is a growing expectation that she will deliver grand slam success soon, with the hope that she can handle the pressure that comes with her popularity and off-court marketability.
On the men’s side of the tour, an American grand slam winner is well overdue. With the current ‘big three’ dominance rapidly coming to an end, it is increasingly likely that someone from the current crop of American talent could deliver and end the long-standing drought.
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