Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
The fate of American men’s tennis rests with one man…
NEW YORK — The fate of American men’s tennis at this US Open now rests on the right shoulder of one man.
Take us out, Tim Smyczek.
Who you may ask?
That’s right, Tim Smyczek, a 25-year-old journeyman from Milwaukee whose car ran out of gas on its way to the Open Wednesday, is the last American hope in the men’s draw.
It doesn’t exactly call to memory the days of Sampras and Agassi, Connors and McEnroe.
When Philipp Kohlschreiber of Germany smacked a forehand overhead into an open court inside Louis Armstrong Stadium late Saturday afternoon, he eliminated No. 13 John Isner, the highest-ranked American, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5).
Isner was thought to have a puncher’s chance to make a run at this US Open.
Most figured he would at least reach the fourth round where an entertaining rematch with Rafael Nadal awaited.
Heck, if Isner played the match of his life maybe he could even knock off Nadal, everyone’s favorite to win the tournament, and possibly set up a quarterfinal with Roger Federer.
Only two weeks ago, the 6-foot-10 Isner and his rocket serve pushed Nadal to two tiebreaks before he lost in the final of the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Along the way, Isner posted victories over world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 6-ranked Juan Martin Del Potro.
But Isner couldn’t stop Kohlschreiber, a German ranked No. 25 who was able to overcome Isner’s 26 aces that capped out at 141 mph.
So now Isner will join the rest of the American men on the sidelines watching.
In fact, he won’t even be watching Smyczek on Sunday.
“No, I’m going to watch football for a while,” Isner said. “That’s all I care about.”
Isner joined Jack Sock, an Andy Roddick clone from Nebraska who lost earlier Saturday to No. 18 Janko Tipsarevic, 3-6, 7-6(1), 6-1, 6-2, among American men on the sidelines.
Three others went out on Friday when Sam Querrey, Donald Young and Rajeev Ram all lost.
Tommy Haas, who lives in Florida and has duel American and German citizenship, is still in the draw. But he wants to be considered German, not American.
After eliminating American Rhyne Williams, a former University of Tennessee star, in the first round, Russian Nikolay Davydenko told SNY.tv this: “All American players play the same games. Serve, forehand on hardcourts mostly.”
It wasn’t a compliment.
Davydenko was saying Americans, Isner and Sock being prime examples, are predictable, relying too much on the big serve and the huge forehand.
Obviously, that approach isn’t enough to compete with the European players who are now dominating the sport.
In case you missed it, four men from Switzerland, Spain, Serbia and Scotland have won 33 of the last 34 Majors.
The American hopes are now down to Smyczek, who took more than four hours Friday to top Alex Bogomolov Jr. of Russia in a five-set second-round match.
“I’ve had chances,” he said after the win. “I’ve played in several main draws. You know, I’ve always thought I could. It makes me really happy. Obviously it’s been a long time for it to happen the first time now when I’m 25.
“But, you know, I’m just looking ahead and looking at the next match, and I’m really excited.”
The world’s No. 109 ranked player is a true journeyman.
He’s never advanced this far in a Major before and has made headlines because his courtesy car ran out of gas on the way to the Open on Wednesday and he had to Tweet out pictures of the car on the side of the road to get assistance.
About an hour later, a tournament employee who noticed the stranded car, stopped to pick Smyczek up.
“My coach and I just started laughing,” he said. “I felt bad for the lady because she knew she screwed up. But there was nothing you could do but laugh. Thankfully, I gave myself enough time this morning that I wasn’t too worried about missing my match or anything.”
He added: “I’m just glad we didn’t break down in the Midtown Tunnel. Would have been a disaster. They might have had to push back matches for everybody.”
It has been 10 years and 40 Majors since an American man, Roddick, last won a Major, and that was here in Flushing Meadows.
If Smyczek doesn’t get past Spain’s Marcel Granollers in the third round Sunday, it will mark the first time in the Open Era that an American man doesn’t reach the fourth round here.
And if he doesn’t get to the quarterfinals — unlikely since he would likely meet Djokovic in the fourth round — it will have been two full years since an American man last made it that far at a Major.
But at this point, the fate of American men’s tennis, such as it is, rests on his right shoulder.
Take us out, Tim Smyczek.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.