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Monday, January 7, 2013
Updated: January 10, 11:08 AM ET
Life after Roddick for U.S.? Bleak

By Greg Garber
ESPN.com

While his fellow Americans have been Down Under for weeks preparing for the Australian Open, Andy Roddick has been hacking his way around some of the nation's greatest golf courses -- and taking the Chicago Bears to task for firing coach Lovie Smith after a 10-win season.

"Started 7-1. Finished 10-6. Blah blah blah. 10 wins is 10 wins," Roddick tweeted on the infamous Black Monday.

Roddick
It has been close to a decade since an American man, Andy Roddick, won a major. And it's conceivable we might have to wait another decade.

His credibility in the tennis arena, of course, carries a little more weight. Before Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic ever reached the very top of men's tennis, a 21-year-old Roddick won the 2003 U.S. Open and finished as the ATP World Tour's No.1-ranked player.

That was the last time an American man won a major; Serena Williams, by comparison, won two last year and, it is widely suspected, will soon -- perhaps by the end of the month -- add to her total of 15. Not only is it extremely likely the U.S. men will fail to win a Grand Slam singles title this year, but it could be quite a while. At the moment, they're working on a 0-for-36 streak. And not one of the current American men has ever progressed as far as a Grand Slam singles semifinal.

Those folks close to the U.S. junior program say the 14-year-olds are a special group -- which means it could be 2020 before they're seriously challenging for an Aussie title.

"I think," said Patrick McEnroe, the U.S. Tennis Association's general manager of player development, "we've got some work to do."

It all starts Monday in Melbourne with first-round matches at the Australian Open. With an eye to the oncoming 2013 season, here's a look at the five top-ranked American men, with thoughts on each from McEnroe.

John Isner, 27


Year-end ranking: No. 14. Career best: No. 9
2012: 45-21, two titles (Newport, Winston-Salem).
Grand Slams: AO (3rd RD), RG (2nd), W (1st) USO (3rd).
Best Grand Slam result: Quarterfinals (2011 USO).
McEnroe: "A question mark. He showed us what he's capable of at times, but he's been disappointing in big events. He's got something to prove. He needs to prove he can be a top-20 player in the Slams."
Prognosis: Not good. Isner pulled out of the Australian Open with a knee injury after hurting it at the Hopman Cup last week. When healthy, Isner, at 6-foot-9, has the height advantage going for him, which helped secure the ATP World Tour ace crown last year. It's the other end of that matchup, the return, that needs some work.

Sam Querrey, 25


Year-end ranking: No. 22. Career best: No. 11
2012: 37-25, 1 title (Los Angeles)
Grand Slams: AO (2nd), RG (1st), W (3rd), USO (3rd)
Best Grand Slam result: 4th RD (W and USO)
McEnroe: "He's in a really good place right now. He's found the right balance of having a life and working hard. He's on the verge of a really big year if he can stay healthy."
Prognosis: Back-to-back wins over Djokovic and Milos Raonic in Paris last fall lifted Querrey's spirits. With few points to defend across the first half of the season, Querrey should be the top-ranked U.S. man and, perhaps, might find himself in the top 10 for the first time. He still needs to focus on point construction.

Mardy Fish, 31


Year-end ranking: No. 27. Career best: No. 7
2012: 21-11, no titles
Grand Slams: AO (2nd), RG (DNP), W (4th), USO (4th)
Best Grand Slam result: Quarterfinals (AO, W, USO)
McEnroe: "A question mark. Obviously he's not going to play in the Australian Open with his ongoing heart condition. I hope he can get back and play, because this should be a golden age for him. He worked so hard the last three, four years last to be in the top 10. He's earned the right to go out on his own terms."
Prognosis: Fish has been practicing sporadically in California during the break, but isn't ready to return to the ATP Tour full time. Hopefully, by the time Indian Wells rolls around, he'll be ready to go.

Brian Baker, 27


Year-end ranking: No. 61. Career best: No. 52
2012: 11-13, no titles
Grand Slams: AO (DNP), RG (2nd), W (4th), USO (2nd)
Best Grand Slam result: 4th RD (2012 W)
McEnroe: "He's definitely not a surprise anymore. The other players now know him. Secondly, and more important, is his health. When he started the grind of the regular tour, he didn't do as well. A lot of it will be a balance of taking care of his body and his schedule, playing at highest level on a consistent basis."
Prognosis: After five serious surgeries and six years away from the big time, Baker returned with a flourish last spring. Playing a match a day over several long stretches was a shock to his system. After a diligent offseason, he should be better prepared.

Ryan Harrison, 20


Year-end ranking: No. 69. Career best: 43
2012: 23-24, no titles
Grand Slams: AO (1st), RG (1st), W (2nd), USO (2nd)
Best Grand Slam result: 2nd RD (W and USO)
McEnroe: "He's made a lot of steady progress, but this is his sort of a make-or-break year for him, a big year for him to make a move if he wants to be a legitimate threat."
Prognosis: Yes, he's only 20, but this is the time professional men begin to mark their territory. Harrison had the bad luck to lose first- or second-round Grand Slam matches last year to Andy Murray, Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro. Harrison qualified at Brisbane earlier this month but fell to 30-year-old Tommy Robredo in the first round. Going forward, these are the kind of matches he needs to find ways to win.