Last night Andy Roddick lost in the second round of the U.S. Open to Serbian Janko Tipsarevic. Is the problem with American Mens’ Tennis the problem with America?
It was a beautiful night at the US Open last night, if on the warm side. But even from my nose-bleed seats halfway up the promenade section, it was clear the heat was nothing compared to Andy Roddick‘s meltdown, which came across like an allegory not only for US mens’ Tennis, but for the US itself.
US mens’ tennis, much like the US at large, faces serious challenges right now on the world stage.
When Andy Roddick, the top American player who was ranked at number 9 in the world going into last night’s match, stumbled earlier this summer it was the first time in decades that an American didn’t occupy a spot in the top 10 rankings worldwide. It was as if watching an era of comfortable dominance yield to an era of shaky uncertainty.
Roddick’s indignance last night when an umpire called him for a foot fault was Roddick’s undoing. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. This was supposed to be Roddick’s tournament. He wasn’t supposed to be losing to a 44th-seed nobody from Serbia.
But Tipsaveric, like the challengers to America’s global dominance, wasn’t taking anything for granted. He wasn’t playing like a single point was owed to him, and he was willing to work, and work, and work, for every shot.
Meanwhile, rather than getting down to the work at hand, Roddick was busy complaining. The crowd, which had been solidly behind him from the start, was quick to turn as his rant continued, raising calls of, “Just play, Andy!”
We’d be wise to heed the call.
In settling into a comfy sense of American entitlement, we make assumptions that may be not only unrealistic for the twenty-first century, but anathema to our competitors, who are willing to work way harder than we are. The belief that we will always be richer than our parents, that we will retire at 55 and receive healthy social security benefits, that our property values will one day send our kids to college—these assumptions may be softening us, slowing our game and distracting our will to just play.
If America is to pull out of the global economic challenges it faces, much like US mens’ tennis, it’s going to have to realize that the rest of the world has caught up. Our American status no longer guarantees us victory. And if we don’t stop thinking about what we’re owed and just play, we may not even find ourselves competing in the finals.