Thursday, January 22, 2015

9 Americans in the Australian Open 3rd round is great

Nobody ever looks back at a major and says "boy, that country sure had a lot of wins through two rounds!" but your friendly neighborhood blog thinks the US has achieved something to celebrate and so we are posting this post for, erm, posterity. 

As faithful readers of this blog know, we get a little annoyed every time someone mentions the death of American tennis. Because first, they're usually forgetting the women, and second, they're comparing the men to prior glory days (particularly the 70s and 90s) that reflected a game that is well in the past. You'll likely never see any nation with 3-4 multiple slam winners competing at the same time and ruling the upper reaches of the rankings on either tour. The game is just too widespread for that (which is awesome). Even the almighty Spanish men, who seem to have unlocked the secret of producing high-level tenistas, have only produced one major champion in the past decade, plus an additional one-final-wonder in David Ferrer. Nearly as mighty France has no male champions. Hell, only two Russian women have won majors in that same time period, and for a while they had what seemed like 25 women in the WTA Top 20.

The fact that "only" two American men are into the 3rd Round of the 2015 Australian Open should be put in some perspective. No, we don't have anyone who will be playing for major finals any time soon. Yes, that's a big, big problem. But at this tournament we (yes, I know it's absurd to use that pronoun in this context):

  1. Outperformed our rankings (per the seeding, only 1 player - John Isner - should have advanced this far)
  2. Suffered only 1 "upset" loss (Querrey, vs. Pospisil) in 11 matches, offset by 1 "upset" win (Johnson, vs. Giraldo)
  3. Have as many players still around as all but 4 other countries in a given singles draw (US women, Spanish men, Czech women, Australian men) 
Here's the breakdown of where the 7 most prolific countries are at this point in the tournament:

1. USA 9
2. ESP 6
3. CZE 5
4. FRA 4
5 (tie). AUS, ITA, GER, CAN 3

I mean, that's a lot. Yes, it's mostly women. But this shows that professional tennis is just a very, very diffuse game, nation-wise. And again, that's awesome.

Now look: it's still early in the tournament and there's every possibility that by Tuesday, the 9 Americans will be down to 0 or 1. There are some incredible obstacles in our path to the quarterfinals: at least one of Djokovic, Nishikori, Kvitova, Radwanska, and Halep would have to lose for anyone but Serena Williams to reach that stage. And Serena's matches are no cake-walks - Svitolina, then potentially Muguruza.

But for now, let us take a moment to celebrate what we have: arguably the best tennis nation in the world, still.

And it looks like we're only getting better...

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