Venus victory cannot hide problems in U.S.

LONDON, (Reuters) – Venus Williams’s first-round win  at Wimbledon yesterday was a small but important step in  American women’s tennis re-establishing itself after injuries to  the five-times champion and sister Serena had exposed an  alarming lack of depth.

Very few of the fans dodging the south London rain will have  heard of any of the other American women in the draw for the  grasscourt grand slam despite the nation’s history of success  with Billie Jean King and Chris Evert among the greats.

Venus Williams

Venus, out for five months with an abdominal problem,  hammered Akgul Amanmuradova 6-3 6-1 with little sign of nerves   but the same cannot be said for her compatriots lingering well  down the world rankings.

“At this point I don’t think there’s as many people in  general in U.S. tennis as we’re used to seeing. So I think  that’s a priority (to address), especially in terms of the U.S.,  which is so used to having five or six people in the top 10 on  each side,” Venus told a news conference.

Her sister Serena, the Wimbledon champion, has been out  even longer with various health problems and is set to give  worried U.S. tennis aficionados a further boost by facing  Aravane Rezai in her first-round match today.

Otherwise it is a bleak picture with Bethanie Mattek Sands,  a place below Venus in the rankings at 31, better known for her  wacky dress sense and penchant for wearing knee high socks than  her forehand or serve.


Unheralded Alison Riske did take a set off second seed Vera  Zvonareva in her first-round loss but it is the men’s game where  Americans appear to be faring better despite a lack of grand  slam success in recent years.

Ryan Sweeting plays defending champion Rafa Nadal in the  second round after battling past Pablo Andujar in a five-set  nerve-jangler and reckons the state of the U.S. game is not as  bad as some pundits believe.

“I don’t really think that American tennis is dead, a lot of  players are winning matches. It’s tough with the hype and aura  around Roger Federer and Rafa to really focus on American tennis  but I feel American players are playing well,” Sweeting told  Reuters.

“A lot of bright things are to come from U.S. tennis. There  are a lot of younger American girls coming up now and it takes  time to develop, it doesn’t happen overnight. Bethanie Mattek  Sands is trying to make a run, she’s going in the right  direction.”

The dearth of U.S. talent contrasts markedly with the influx  of American fans into the All England club, with many taking  photographs at the plaque which remembers last year’s 11-hour  epic between compatriot John Isner and France’s Nicolas Mahut.

The general consensus among U.S. fans is that tennis is  getting squeezed out in American high schools where the choice  of many sports and the need to study and party makes dedication  to the racket difficult, unlike in Eastern European nations.

“People in Europe are almost trained to play one sport their  entire time but in the U.S. people try out lots of different  sports,” Abi Getto told Reuters as she queued for tickets.

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