Take a good look at the real history of U.S. tennis before getting too nostalgic for its supposed "golden era."
This year's first tennis Grand Slam event—the Australian Open in Melbourne—is underway, and so it's time for more laments about the current state of American tennis. "We got spoiled over the years," John McEnroe said Monday. "Accustomed to great things happening to us, with Connors, Sampras, Agassi, myself. It was a great history and now we're struggling."
The struggles are obvious. No American man ranks in the top 10 (John Isner at No. 13 is the highest ranked, and he is out of action with an injury). Only Sam Querrey (No. 22)—the only American among the 32 seeded men players in the tournament—is in the top 25. True, Serena Williams (ranked third) is on hand to raise the hopes of American tennis fans—which led Querrey to joke that "Serena's probably the real leader" in response to a question if "he had emerged as the leader of the American men at this tournament." No one was laughing, though, when the (bad) luck of the draw slated the two top-ranked American men—Sam Querrey and Brian Baker (No. 57)—against each other in the second round, a match that came to an abrupt end when Baker, after winning the first set in a tie-break, had to retire with a knee injury in the second set.
But one way to make things today seem even worse than they are is to misremember American tennis's "great history" as greater than it ever really was—to claim as a "sign of the times" that "the meeting of the top two Americans in the second round—instead of in the final—as so often happened in decades past," as The New York Times did.