Commentary

And the wait will continue

The 2013 US Open has proven the American men are a step behind

Updated: September 1, 2013, 11:33 AM ET
By Greg Garber | ESPN.com

NEW YORK – Much has been made of the sorry state of American men's tennis. This US Open did little to create any positive momentum.

While the women have thrown three athletes into the fourth round, the men haven't helped themselves. The opposite, actually.

There's no No. 1 seed like Serena Williams, no obvious up-and-coming, knocked-down phenom like Sloane Stephens. There's not even a cadre of kids on the cusp, well up in the rankings, like Jamie Hampton and Alison Riske -- or even a junior champion seemingly destined for greatness like Taylor Townsend.

Saturday, two of the three American men left standing were in action. On Sunday, there will be one.

Twenty-year-old Nebraskan Jack Sock won the first set against No. 18 seed Janko Tipsarevic but fell 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-1, 6-2. Sock, who made the third round for the second year in a row, was attempting to collect his first fourth-round berth in a major.

John Isner, the top seeded American at No. 13, fell to No. 22 Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-4, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (5). He was playing with a sore thigh, but … "the thigh wasn't an issue," he said later. "It hurt on a few instances, but once I got really warm and what not, you know, that certainly wasn't the reason I lost at all. More of a fatigue thing, which was my own fault. I used too much energy [in the fourth set], and I shouldn't have done that. It was stupid on my part. So I was pretty gassed there. Had I kept it calm, I think I could still be out there right now."

Sam Querrey, the second-ranked American man, crashed out in the second round and missed out on a date with 17-time Grand Slam singles champion Roger Federer. James Blake retired earlier at this tournament and Mardy Fish, 31, has been plagued by health issues.

And so, the only remaining man at this US Open is the unlikely Tim Smyczek [pronounced Smee-chek, if you want to impress your tennis-following friends], the 25-year-old from Milwaukee, who plays Marcel Granollers of Spain in a third-round match Sunday.

The long wait for a major champion will almost certainly continue for some time. They've played 39 Grand Slams since Andy Roddick broke through here in 2003. America is on the verge of 0-for-40.

Isner showed some life in the second set, but his movement around the court diminished as the match progressed. Still, he forced a fourth-set tiebreaker and was trailing only 4-3 when the German stepped up with a huge cross-court forehand winner. When Isner's tired-looking forehand soared long, Kohlschreiber had three match points.

The 29-year-old German collected the last by moving aggressively to net to control the rally, then sending a forehand smash for a (very) clean winner.

Isner is 3-2 against Kohlschreiber for his career – and both losses have come here in the last two years. At the 2012 US Open, Isner lost in the fifth set when Kohlschreiber survived 24 aces and converted all three break point opportunities.

Saturday, Isner drilled 26 aces -- 20 more than Kohlschreiber -- not to mention 65 winners, balanced by 40 unforced errors. But the German managed to break his service one more time.

There were high hopes that Sock, who reached the third round here two years in a row, would make the next step against Tipsarevic. It didn't happen.

Tipsarevic dropped the first set and, at times, looked like a … (sorry) sock puppet. But after winning a second-set tiebreaker, he really put the hammer down. He's only 18-17 for the year, but his record on hardcourts is 14-9.

Sock, ranked No. 86 among ATP World Tour players, was undone by 48 unforced errors -- twice the number Tipsarevic had. Sock has a career record of 5-4 at the US Open; he won the junior singles title here in 2010.

In his news conference, the usually genial Isner was asked if he was going to watch Smyczek's match on Sunday.

"I don't care," he said. "No, I'm going to watch football for a while. That's all I care about."

On his next answer, he acquiesced -- a bit.

"I mean, I'm happy for him, yeah," Isner continued. "I'm not going to watch his match. I like Tim a lot, but I'm done with tennis for a while."

With all due respect for the guy from cheese country, that's true for the American men at the elite singles level, too.

Etc.

Unseeded Serena and Venus Williams won their second-round doubles match 6-4, 6-4 over fellow Americans and No. 7 seeds Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears … No. 8 Richard Gasquet defeated No.32 Dmitry Tursunov when the No. 32-seeded Russian retired with the score 6-3, 2-6, 6-4, 4-2.

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.

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