(KTXL) — The latest tennis rankings came out this week, and for the first time in almost 50 years ago, no American man is ranked in the Top 30.
There is a long list of American tennis greats on the men’s side: Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi to name a few.
But that was a long time ago.
“If we want in the future, 10 years from now, 20 years from now, to have American’s competing for Grand Slams, I think you’ve got to change the whole system from top-to-bottom,” said Joseph Morris Gilbert, with JMG Tennis Academy.
Until this week, there has always been at least one man from the United States ranked in the Top 30 since Tennis began using computer-calculated standings in 1973.
Andy Roddick was the last American ranked first in the world, shortly after winning the 2003 U.S. Open. It was also the last time an American man won a Grand Slam Singles title.
“Do we think we can get higher, do we think we can do better? Because the goal has been to get so many players to the Top 100,” Gilbert said. “If we raise that bar, if we raise that goal to like, who can we get as the next Grand Slam champion, who can we get into the Top 10, who can we get into the Top 5.”
Gilbert, who runs JMG Tennis Academy at Arden Hills Wellness Resort, has coached past junior national champions — such as Jenson Brooksby who is ranked 166th on the Men’s side.
He has been embedded in American tennis for four decades, but he says he is excited for change.
“I would love and be excited to see them kind of at this point, blow it up and re-look at it and re-start it,” Gilbert said. “And go, ‘OK, how are we looking at each area, and how can we do this way better?’”
The coach does not just see one problem with American tennis but rather several through the development stages. One glaring issue is separating younger players who just love the game from elite players.
“OK, participating and rec is one thing. How are we going to develop the best player in the world is a whole other thing,” Gilbert said. “And right now those are kind of blended together, and you really got to separate those two.”
“Just more importantly to see players improving would be the biggest thing, I feel like for Americans,” Brooksby said. “There are some guys rising, so I think the future will be bright.”
Brooksby is one of those rising players. Two years ago, as an 18-year-old, he won three qualifiers and his opening round match at the U.S. Open.
But he admits that tennis is currently dominated by European players.
“I do feel like the structure a little bit, like money-wise and the training-wise, is a little better in Europe,” Brooksby said. “I mean, right now, there are more Europeans at the top, there is no denying that.”
“If we want top American players, if we want Grand Slam champions, putting the resources into giving the best players everything they need,” Gilbert added.
But Gilbert says they have got to be willing to change first.
Gilbert and Brooksby leave next week for Paris to get ready for the French Open, which begins at the end of the month.