Speaking of relevant, this is my first blog post in almost a year. The last update was February 2014, which illustrates my true commitment to all things not related to American tennis. I have still been watching from afar, occasionally going to tournaments, playing every week, chatting with the few guys I know that are still on tour and of course tweeting here and there. Mostly I haven't posted because you don't really need me! What I set out to do has been executed with enthusiastic vigor by Jonathan Kelley at On the Rise. Blogging is a grind and it's a total commitment and Jo has been a rock star. American tennis is lucky to have someone like him so go check out his content.
Besides being called out for my lack of posting, I wanted to write because this has been an exciting time in American tennis. I can't remember the last time I said that. Consider what's happened:
- Ryan Harrison in week 2 of the season wins the Happy Valley Challenger. Posting wins over Chung, Rola, Authom, Bolt and Baghdatis - we got our first sense that Ryan might be finally turning a corner. That week gave Harrison points good enough for about 30% of his entire 2014 total.
- Donald Young and Steve Johnson both made the quarters in Auckland. At this point in American men's tennis, making the QFs of a 250 if you're not Isner is a big deal.
- Johnson and John Isner both made the 3rd round of the Australian Open. That slam was disappointing overall, but the month of January was better than some months we've had in recent years.
- Young Jared Donaldson wins the Maui Challenger, his first title at that level. He's only 18 and he's supposed to be the next great American. For him to make a jump like that at this point, weak draw or not, is very encouraging. This same tournament saw Donaldson's younger friend Stefan Kozlov take out veteran Michael Russell.
- A couple American vets make the finals of the Dallas challenger with Tim Smyczek beating Rajeev Ram. Not only that, but Mardy Fish entered the doubles draw for his first tournament back after announcing he would play Indian Wells (and later Miami). Fish won one match in doubles with Mark Knowles.
- Over in Launceston, Bjorn Fratangelo won his first challenger.
- Then Memphis happened. Harrison, Denis Kudla and Austin Krajicek all qualified. Harrison almost beat Nishikori in round 2, Krajicek almost beat him in the quarterfinals, and Sam Querrey and Young both made the semis. A nice revival for Querrey especially, since he beat his good buddy Isner on the way.
- The following week Young made the final in Delray Beach losing to Karlovic, his first ATP final since 2011 and the first time an American not named Isner has made an ATP final since 2012.
- This week, Harrison made it into the Acapulco qualifying draw as an alternate. He wasn't even a direct entry into qualifying, which means he easily could have decided against showing up. But he did, he qualified, and then he beat Dimitrov and Karlovic, among others, for a spot in his first 500 semi against David Ferrer tonight.
Those are just the highlights and it's not even March. We've yet to get a big run from Isner which hopefully happens at Indian Wells or Davis Cup where both settings seem to always bring out his best stuff... but otherwise we're getting more excitement and results than we've seen in YEARS. Oh, and Mardy Fish is coming back soon.
Not that I ever expect US tennis to become what it was with McEnroe and Connors, or later Sampras, Agassi, Courier and Chang. The days of 4 guys in the top 10 and 8 guys in the top 30 are over. But I believe the days of 3 guys in the top 100 are over, too. We're starting to get over that hump and expect more relevance in the men's singles side of the sport coming real soon. It's already happening. The world caught up to us and passed up by and we're beginning to catch back up to them. So what better time to awake from my blogging slumber? Don't call it a comeback just yet, but we might be digging ourselves out of this funk.