The Struggles of American Men's Tennis: A Look at the 20-Year Major Championship Drought

Updated: 53 Tennis

Discover the struggles faced by American men's tennis as it grapples with a 20-year major championship drought, while rising star Taylor Fritz seeks to break this streak at the upcoming US Open.

The Struggles of American Men's Tennis: A Look at the 20-Year Major Championship Drought
Michael Calabrese US Content Manager

Experienced sports journalist, College sports expert and broadcaster, hailing from Pennsylvania

To state the obvious, American men’s tennis has fallen on hard times. While the female side of the sport has produced megastars like the Williams Sisters, it is also supported by rising stars including Sloane Stephens, Coco Gauff, and Jessica Pegula. The men’s side of the equation, unfortunately, has become an afterthought on the sport's biggest stages. The last American to win a major was Andy Roddick in 2003. That twenty-year drought is also reflected in the ATP rankings. Only ten separate American tennis stars have cracked the top ten since 1997. Many of them are retired, leaving a massive void in the game. 

🎾 American men's tennis 🇺🇸🎾 has fallen on hard times ⬇️⌛️. While the women's side boasts megastars like the Williams Sisters 🌟👯, American men struggle to make a mark. It's been 20 years since an American man won a major 🏆. Let's hope rising star Taylor Fritz can change that at the upcoming US Open! 🙏🎾

1997 - Michael Chang

No Longer Ranked, Highest 2nd

By James Phelps from USA - Michael Chang, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2765993

The diminutive star burst onto the scene in 1989 with a win at the 1989 French Open. He remains the youngest man to ever win a singles major (17 years old). Throughout most of the 1990s he teased fans with his promise and potential, reaching the finals of both the Australian and US Open in 1996. But from 1998 onward it was a slow descent into irrelevance. He topped out at No. 2 in the world in the fall of 1996 and retired by 2003.

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1999 - Todd Martin

No Longer Ranked, Highest 4th

By Wally Gobetz - https://www.flickr.com/photos/wallyg/239597732/, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1292101

If Chang was the mighty mite of American tennis in the 1990s, Martin was a Paul Bunyanesque figure. At six-foot-six, he was one of the premier power players in the game for much of the 90s. He reached the finals of the Australian Open (1994) and US Open (1999) and had a handful of deep runs at Wimbledon. But unfortunately for Martin, he ran into Pete Sampras Down Under and Andre Agassi at the US Open in the finals. He would rise as high as a No. 4 world ranking in the mid-90s before slowly falling off in the latter years of his career. He would hang it up in 2004 after a 14-year career. 

2001 - Pete Sampras

No Longer Ranked, Highest 1st

By Craig ONeal - cropped version of Pete Sampras, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5100846

One of the true luminaries of the game, Sampras dominated not only the American scene but international competition as well. During his storied 14-year career, he won 14 major singles titles. At the time when he retired in 2003, he was the record-holder for most singles titles in ATP history. During a three-year run from 1993 to 1995, he won 50% of the majors, taking home three straight Wimbledon titles, two US Open titles and winning once Down Under at the Australian Open. The only major that eluded him during his career was the French Open. He only made one semifinal in 13 career starts at Roland Garros. 

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2005 - Andre Agassi

No Longer Ranked, Highest 1st

By Shinya Suzuki from New York, U.S.A. - Andre Agassi, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19844935

The other tennis legend that Americans were privileged to watch during the 1990s was Andre Agassi. Unlike Sampras, Agassi captured the career Grand Slam, winning all four majors during his career. He was particularly special at the Australian Open, winning the event four times and reaching the semifinals twice between 1995 and 2003. His on-court performance earned him over $31 million during his career and he was a sought-after pitchman. At his peak, he was rumored to be making $25 million a year in endorsement dollars. In the early 2000s, he was prominently featured in a series of American Express commercials. 

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2008 - James Blake

No Longer Ranked, Highest 4th

By si.robi - Blake WM13-008Uploaded by sporti, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93982668

Blake had a solid run from 2005 to the beginning of 2008 when he consistently was making deep runs at majors. In 2006, he made the third round of the French Open and Wimbledon, while reaching the quarterfinals at the US Open. That run helped him peak at fourth in the ATP rankings and it appeared the 26-year-old was on the cusp of breaking through. Unfortunately, Blake’s career was marred by injuries and inconsistency. He never regained his 2006 form and failed to realize his immense promise at major tournaments. 

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2010 - Andy Roddick

No Longer Ranked, Highest 1st

By si.robi - Blake WM13-008Uploaded by sporti, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=93982668

A-Rod is the last American to win a major when he beat out the competition at the 2003 US Open. He reached number one in the ATP rankings and was in the mix at majors for the next four years. From 2004 to 2007, he reached three finals, two semifinals and four quarterfinals at the four majors. As a former world number one, he was sought after as a spokesman. He was the face of Lacoste and signed numerous lucrative shoe deals including a five-year, $25 million contract with Reebok. His career ran its course after an impressive run in which he found himself in the World Top Ten for nine consecutive years. Tennis pundits believed that he still had more left in the tank, but he retired in 2012 at the age of 30. 

2011 - Mardy Fish

No Longer Ranked, Highest 7th

By Cinewatt - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6927904

Fish was a close personal friend of Andy Roddick and lived with his family in the late 90s while playing prep tennis and basketball. While Fish racked up wins on tour, he never made a real dent in the majors, topping out at the quarterfinals in the Aussie and US Opens and Wimbledon. With prototypical size and form, it seemed like a foregone conclusion that Fish would eventually break through on the international scene, but that never materialized. He retired in 2015 after a profitable ($7.4 million) 15-year career. 

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2017 - Jack Sock

Current World Ranking 366th, Highest 8th

By si.robi - Sock BOR22, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=118152122

The thirty-year-old has won three majors on the double front, but he has never made a serious run in a singles major. Despite a 13-year track record, he’s failed to make the quarterfinals at any Grand Slam event and has just a 51% career winning percentage at majors. In 2016, he put together a series of solid performances at the majors and won the Paris Masters the following season. That remains his most impressive tournament victory, one of just four in his career. He has fallen off in recent years and is holding on as the 366th-ranked player in the world at age 30.  

2018 - John Isner

Current World Ranking 101st, Highest 8th

By si.robi - Isner WM19 (18), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=81288213

The 38-year-old is a dinosaur by modern tennis standards. Isner went pro in 2007 and has been tempting fans with his potential and mammoth size (6-foot-10). His best season as a pro came in 2018 when he made the semifinals at Wimbledon and the quarterfinals at the US Open in back-to-back majors. He holds a career win percentage of 67% at the US Open, but he’s yet to pass the quarterfinals in New York. When you combine his tournament earnings and his endorsements, he’s cleared over $20 million in his career to this point. 

Present - Taylor Fritz

Current World Ranking 9th, Highest 5th

By si.robi - Fritz RG22 (3), CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=119264102

The new hope in American tennis is Taylor Fritz. The 25-year-old Californian has been a rising star for the past seven years, collecting wins at events like the Indian Wells Masters. His currently ninth in the World, and has risen as high as five. He was the first top-five American since Roddick and is viewed as the Americans' best chance to break the Grand Slam drought that is now running over 20 years long. Three straight first-round exits at majors in 2023 has thrown cold water on his plans, but he has the game to turn things around at this year’s US Open. 

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