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Taylor Fritz becomes new American No. 1, but the prestige isn’t what it used to be

Taylor Fritz takes over as the top-ranked American this week, joining a special group that included the likes of Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi

Taylor Fritz and John Isner Taylor Fritz and John Isner

On Monday, 23-year-old Taylor Fritz became the top-ranked American men’s player in the ATP rankings list. Fritz climbed two spots to No 30 to overtake John Isner. The 35-year-old Isner failed to defend his 2019 Miami Open runner-up points last week, going down in the round of 16 at this year’s event.

As a result, Isner saw his ranking drop from No 28 to No 38 in the rankings this week, losing his long-held position as the top-ranked American on the ATP Tour. Isner has finished 8 of the last 9 seasons on the ATP Tour as the top-ranked American male.

With one ATP singles title under his belt at the age of 23, Fritz still has plenty of time to rack up more wins and break more personal bests on the tour. But the American has yet to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam or the quarter-finals at an ATP Masters Series event.

While Fritz will likely place more emphasis on improving his own ranking in the coming months – his current personal best is No 24 – as compared to playing the numbers game with his countrymen, his positioning as the top-ranked American comes at a time when American men’s tennis has struggled to replicate the success of its predecessors.

The current ATP Top 100 has 10 American men, but none among the top 25. Following Fritz and Isner are 23-year-olds Reilly Opelka and Tommy Paul at No 45 and No 53 respectively, 29-year-old Tennys Sandgren at No 59, 33-year-old Sam Querrey at No 60, 20-year-old Sebastian Korda at No 65; then come 23-year-old Frances Tiafoe at No 67, 31-year-old Steve Johnson at No 83, and 27-year-old Marcus  Giron at No 89.

John McEnroe et Jimmy Connors - Roland-Garros 1984

There’s a lot of depth in American tennis, but we no longer see a true top-flight talent among the American men yet. Gone are the days when multiple Americans such as Jimmy Connors, Arthur Ashe and John McEnroe or Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier and Micahel Chang, ruled not just their national rankings but also the world rankings.

An American male has not held a top 5 ranking since Andy Roddick on September 7, 2009.

Korda’s rise has been a bright spot

One of the sweeter spots in the American men’s tennis landscape over the past eight months has been the spectacular rise of 20-year-old Sebastian Korda, the son of former Grand Slam champion Petr Korda and Regina Rajchrtova, a former world No 26. The 6ft 5 in former junior No 1 has risen from well outside the top 200 when tennis restarted last August to his current perch at No 65 in the world. Korda reached his first ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final at the Miami Open last week in just his second main draw appearance at a Masters 1000 event.

Korda, who is being mentored by American legend Andre Agassi and spent several weeks training with him this winter in Las Vegas, reached the round of 16 at Roland-Garros on his main draw debut last year. He will turn 21 this July.

American men in the top 100 year-end rankings – 2011-2020

  • 2020 – 9 of the current 10 American men in the top 100 had also finished the 2020 season in the top 100 – the only exception being Korda (led by Isner at No 25, Fritz at No 29)
  • 2019 – 8 American men finished in the top 100 (led by Isner at No 18, Fritz at No 32)
  • 2018 – 11 Americans in the year-end top 100 (led by Isner at No 10)
  • 2017 – 9 in top 100 with three in top 20 (led by Jack Sock at No 8, Querrey at No 13, Isner at No 17)
  • 2016 – 7 men in the top 100 (led by Isner at No 19)
  • 2015 – 7 men in top 100 (led by Isner at No 11)
  • 2014 – 5 players in top 100 (led by Isner at No 19)
  • 2013– 7 players in top 100 (led by Isner at No 14)
  • 2012 – 7 Americans in top 100 (led by Isner at No 14)
  • 2011 – 9 Americans in top 100 (led by Mardy Fish at No 8)
  • Last American man to win a Grand Slam: Andy Roddick at the 2003 US Open
  • Last American man to reach a Grand Slam final: Andy Roddick at 2009 Wimbledon
  • Last American man to hold a Top 10 ranking: John Isner on May 27, 2019
  • Last American man to win a Masters 1000 title: John Isner at the 2018 Miami Open
  • Last American man to reach a Masters 1000 final: John Isner at the 2019 Miami Open final
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