Commentary

That's a wrap for U.S. men in Miami

Updated: March 26, 2013, 10:43 PM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

MIAMI -- They played the first version of this tournament in 1985 at Laver's International Tennis Resort about an hour's drive from here, in Delray Beach. Martina Navratilova and Tim Mayotte, both American citizens, were the winners.

Since then, the event has moved twice and had five names -- remember the lovely sounding NASDAQ-100 Open? -- but there has always been one constant:

There was always at least one American man in the quarterfinals. In the 29th staging of what is now called the Sony Open Tennis, Sam Querrey, an affable 25-year-old Californian, was the last hope to keep that streak intact.

[+] EnlargeSam Querrey
AP Photo/Lynne SladkySam Querrey has shown some promise this year, but against Tomas Berdych, he barely showed up.
Instead, after holding serve at love to open a fourth-round match Tuesday, he lost an astounding 12 of the next 13 games to Tomas Berdych. The 6-1, 6-1 defeat clocked in at a scant 51 minutes.

"Just one of those awful days," Querrey said afterward in a matter-of-fact tone. "I missed routine forehand after routine forehand. The more you miss, the harder it gets to get the ball in. It just kept getting worse."

And so, put another way, we have the first all-European quarterfinals in Miami. To America at large, that might not seem like a big deal, a parochial note at best. But, in fact, it is symptomatic of a trend that was in play long before Andy Roddick retired after last year's U.S. Open. There was a time (the '60s) when nearly half of the top 100 players in the world were American.

At the moment, there are seven American men in the top 100, and three of them -- Michael Russell, James Blake and Mardy Fish -- are older than 30.

Since the inception of the ATP World Tour rankings in 1973, at least one American man finished in the year-end top 10 -- until last year. John Isner was the leading light for the U.S., finishing at No. 14, followed by Querrey (22) and Fish (27).

Currently, Querrey is our best, at No. 20, and Isner is No. 23.

In the wake of Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi and Roddick, these players get a lot of questions about the fragile state of American men's tennis. After losing to Berdych, Querrey was asked whether he was disappointed to be the last American eliminated.

Perhaps as a reflex, he sort of dodged the question.

"I'm disappointed how I played today," he said. "I mean, overall it's been a couple good weeks. Made [Miami's] round of 16, [Indian Wells'] round of 16. But I want to just put it behind me as quick as I can.

"You know, I have a big week next week."

A few hours before Querrey fell out of the tournament, U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier announced Querrey and Isner -- who split two matches here -- would play singles for the United States in the April 5-7 quarterfinal tie against Serbia in Boise, Idaho.

No. 1-ranked Novak Djokovic is scheduled to play for Serbia; he and countryman Janko Tipsarevic both were still alive in the draw here when Querrey departed.

The funny thing? Both Querrey and Isner beat Djokovic last year, and the fast hard courts and thin air in Boise's courts will be designed to complement their big games.

Courier just wishes they'd be more confident in their body language -- particularly when they're not feeling confident.

"I don't love that in any player, let alone players that play for the United States," Courier said in a conference call last week. "I'm more of a believer of faking it if you're not feeling good than showing someone that you're down.

"I'd like our guys to be more street fighters on our team. I like them to walk around with their chests out. Sam and John can absolutely bulldoze almost any player on tour if they're playing well. Everyone is built a little bit differently, that's for sure. That's a little bit of a work in progress, I think."

After losing to No. 9 seed Marin Cilic here in straight sets, the 6-foot-9 Isner finds himself a middling 7-7 for the season.

"Honestly it's just technically things I need to work on," he said. "You know, I'm a big guy. Missing that many shots, it's probably from getting too high up and I'm not staying in the saddle.

"I'm not physically tired. I'm not mentally tired. I'm healthy. Go back, train and try to get my ass in gear for Davis Cup. That's a big task for our team, a big task for me."

A year ago, the United States smoked Switzerland 5-0, then edged France 3-2 in the quarterfinals before falling to Spain 3-1 in the semifinals.

Earlier this year, Querrey and Isner won three singles matches in a 3-2 first-round win over Brazil.

Querrey sees this Davis Cup tie as an opportunity to make a statement.

"I think so, yeah," he said. "We won our first-round Davis Cup. Hopefully, I think we're going to win in Boise."

And then he paused for a moment. It wasn't Joe Namath predicting the demise of the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III, but when Courier reads this, maybe he'll feel better about the street-fighting capacity of his team.

"I think we have a good enough team," Querrey said. "I think we're going to win that. Hopefully, I think we're going to win the next one after that. I think we can go all the way.

"If we were to win a Davis Cup, I think that would silence some people, even if we didn't have guys in the top 10 or even a few guys in the top 20."

Greg Garber

Writer, Reporter
Greg Garber joined ESPN in 1991 and provides reports for NFL Countdown and SportsCenter. He is also a regular contributor to Outside the Lines and a senior writer for ESPN.com.