LONDON -- Much has been made of the sorry state of American tennis. Maybe the United States Tennis Association ought to go the throwback route and bring back the grass courts at Forest Hills.
For all the yelping about the United States' woes at the elite level, there is evidence on these lush lawns of the All England Club that things might not be all that bad.
Of the 21 Americans in the main draws, no fewer than a dozen advanced to the second round. Four of eight men -- John Isner, Sam Querrey, Jack Sock and Denis Kudla -- lived to fight another day. The women were a sporty 8-for-13. Eight of the remaining 64 were playing under the American flag, 12.5 percent, or the mandatory service charge restaurants are demanding in Wimbledon Village.
We're used to seeing Serena and Venus Williams perform well here; they have a combined 10 Wimbledon titles. But suddenly we're starting to see some new names. Sloane Stephens reached the quarterfinals here last year as a 20-year-old. Alison Riske and Madison Keys won two matches a year ago at the ages of 22 and 18, respectively.
On Tuesday, 18-year-old Victoria Duval knocked off No. 29 Sorana Cirstea and Riske took down No. 26 Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova. Oh, and Keys and No. 1-ranked Serena also won in the top half of the draw.
Pretty tidy work for a country where the cupboard is supposedly bare.
Melissa Isaacson of espnW and senior writer Greg Garber kick it around in the latest installment of Baseline Buzz.
Greg Garber: The big story on Day 1 was the loss of Stephens to the fiancée of the Washington Capitals' Alex Ovechkin. The Sometimes Great One was attending the NHL awards show in Las Vegas and missed Maria Kirilenko's impressive win -- only her second of the year. "I was sleeping," Ovechkin confessed. Even with that loss and the defeat of former junior No. 1 Taylor Townsend, there were all kinds of positives for the Americans.
Melissa Isaacson: Greg, the really exciting thing, I'm sure you will agree, is that though we were just beginning last year to talk about the potential of such players as Keys and Riske -- Coco Vandeweghe wasn't even in the conversation -- they are knocking off top-10 players this year. And in the case of Keys and Vandeweghe last weekend, winning WTA singles title. Keys, 19, defeated now-seventh-ranked Angelique Kerber in three sets at Eastbourne, and Vandeweghe, 22, a qualifier in the Topshelf Open in the Netherlands, won her first WTA tournament, upsetting grass-court specialist Jie Zheng, who reached the semis at Wimbledon in 2008, 6-2, 6-4. Both are for real, but Keys in particular is a player many people can see winning a Slam one day.
Garber: It's worth mentioning, Missy, that all of this is happening with Jamie Hampton sitting on the sideline. The 24-year-old from Auburn, Alabama, reached the fourth round at Roland Garros a year ago and was ranked as high as No. 24. She won her first three matches of 2014 in Auckland, New Zealand, but was forced to withdraw from her semifinal match with Venus Williams. Within a month, Hampton had surgery on both hips in Colorado. She has a big game that translates well on hard surfaces and grass. She will be a welcome addition when she returns, presumably, later this year. For the record, she's still the only undefeated WTA player for the season.
Isaacson: Keys is the "It Girl" for the moment, breaking into the top 30 for a career-high ranking and one ahead of No. 31 Venus Williams. Keys is also the youngest player in the top 50, but you're right, she is hardly the only one. I like Riske, 23, another strong American grass-court player who didn't even qualify for the 2013 Australian and French Opens but reached the third round of Wimbledon and the fourth round of the US Open last year, beating No. 10 Petra Kvitova along the way. This year, Riske advanced to the third round of the Australian and second of the French. Ranked 44th, Riske defeated No. 26 seed Pavlyuchenkova 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 in the first round Tuesday and next plays Camila Giorgi in a winnable match.
Garber: Here's another fun fact to put things in perspective: Last year, the American women collectively won 12 matches here, going 12-13. This year they will almost certainly surpass that number. The overall record is an impressive 10-7. If Serena wins a few more matches, the U.S. will come in well over .500.
Isaacson: And who would have thought Stephens would not be included among the wins? Stephens, the highest-ranked American woman (No. 18) after Serena Williams, lost her first-round match to 109th-ranked Kirilenko. Venus Williams, who last won the title here in 2008 and lost in the fourth and first rounds, respectively, in her last two outings, is into the third round, which is a bonus. But we're talking about the next generation of women, and Americans can be encouraged with the future outlook.
Garber: Agreed. Even though some of Wednesday's results were disappointing -- Vandeweghe lost to Tereza Smitkova 6-3, 7-6 (4), and Varvara Lepchenko fell to Caroline Garcia 7-5, 6-3 -- there is much to talk about. How about Lauren Davis, the 20-year-old from Boca Raton, Florida? The 5-foot-2 athlete defeated No. 12 seed Flavia Pennetta 6-4, 7-6(4).
Isaacson: Davis' victory was huge, considering she beat Pennetta, a seasoned player who, though not necessarily a great grass-court player, came in with a 22-10 match record this year. This included her career highlight, the Indian Wells title, and she has advanced to the round of 16 at Wimbledon three times in 12 appearances. Another reason to feel at least half-good about the day? Keys and Riske teamed in doubles to defeat Petra Cetkovska and American Vania King 7-6 (5), 6-2.