Uncle Sam, the cartoon drawing, holds a tennis racket.

Photo : Zazzle.com

Is 2023 the year the United States reasserts its dominance as a tennis nation? With a population of over 330 million, will it finally give the world a No.1? 

On January 30, there were 10 Americans in the ATP Top 50 for the first time since 1995 and 9 Americans in the WTA Top 50.

That’s 19 players from the US in total.

Pretty impressive.

Now, let’s double the field and take a look at the Top 100.

On January 30, there were 15 Americans in each Top 100. That’s a lot. And that’s promising for a nation from which so many big names have steadily emerged over the past 50 years.

Photos : Panoramic & Fox Sports / Hulton Archives)

Connors, McEnroe, Courier, Sampras, Agassi and Roddick each left their mark on the ATP, but it’s been dead calm ever since tennis’ A-Rod rose to No.1.

The women’s side has fared better, since Serena Williams still ruled the rankings in spring 2017. But just a few decades ago, there were more Americans in the draws—players like Evert, Navratilova, Davenport, Capriati and Venus.

Is the drought about to end? With so many athletes from the US in the Top 100, things may be looking up.

Photo : Jimmie48 / WTA

In the women’s game, the players most likely to rise to No.1 are Jessica Pegula and Coco Gauff: the indestructible veteran and the uber talented 18-year-old. If not them, we may have to wait for Amanda Anisimova or Katie Volynets, who are both 21.

In the men’s game, Taylor Fritz seems poised to ascend. Anyone else? Frances Tiafoe? Sebastian Korda? Ben Shelton? We’ll see.

Photo : Koji Watanabe

The competition is fierce in the WTA and ATP but having so many Americans in the Top 100 is good news.

In case you were wondering, here are the countries that gave us the most Top 10 players on January 30.

Sources : WTA, ATP

Notice the strong Czech and Russian contingents in the WTA and the large Spanish, French and Argentinean delegations in the ATP.  

Bianca (No.37), Leylah (No.39), Rebecca (No.74), Félix (No.7) and Denis (No.27) place Canada fifth in the WTA and tenth in the ATP along with a few other countries.

That said, there are no guarantees an American hero will emerge to repeat what Serena and Andy were the last to accomplish and dominate the tennis universe any given week, month or year.

Photo : Alex Oleniuk / Toronto Star

But with strength in numbers, the chances are a lot better.

Félix Auger-Aliassime at Laver Cup Vancouver

Photo : Coupe Laver

Because the location of Laver Cup rotates between cities in Europe and the rest of the world each year, the 2023 tournament is set to take place in Vancouver. Organizers couldn’t be happier to have Félix Auger-Aliassime on Team World, since he had the most spectacular 2022 season out of all his follow non-European representatives.  

In addition to his four titles, he closed out the year at No.7, the highest ranking of any potential member of the red team. And he qualified for the ATP Finals in Turin.

In team tennis, he led Canada to victory at the first (ATP Cup) and last (Davis Cup) events of the year. And wasn’t he ultimately the driving force behind Team World’s very first conquest in Laver Cup history?

Photo : Coupe Laver

While Félix’s participation was a given, I’d like to point out that Vancouver and Laver Cup are a natural fit.

It’s a topic I discussed last July with Grant Connell—one of the most famous British Columbians in Canadian tennis—and Vancouver sports personality David Cox. If you missed the interviews, you can catch up here.

Repentigny to Hua Hin

Photo : WTA

The first raised the winner’s trophy in 2015. The second did the same two years later, in 2017.

I’m talking about the National Bank Canadian Junior Open Championships in the Montréal suburb of Repentigny, which hosts the best U18 competitors and has seen its share of future tennis stars over the past 35 years. The tournament has always been a lead-in event for the US Open junior championships and set many talented kids on their tennis career paths.

You’ll easily recognize Bianca Andreescu on the left. On the right is Marta Kostyuk of Ukraine.

I had the opportunity to cover several semis and finals in Repentigny for TV, and it’s impossible to forget the competitors who really shone, including Bianca and Marta back when they were only 15 years old.

Photos : Tennis Québec

When it comes to Bianca Andreescu, you’re familiar with her emergence and incredible 2019 season.

For Marta Kostyuk, pro tennis has been more of an uphill battle. After finding her way to the Top 100 three years after Repentigny, she’s spent the past three years circling the Top 50.

I was curious to see the first head-to-head between the two junior champions, which took place on February 3 in Thailand.

Bianca, ranked No.42, got off to a great start. She breezed through the first set 6-0 before Marta, ranked No.60, got her wits about her and forced the Canadian to 7-6.

During their respectful, even warm, handshake at the net, I doubt they thought about their junior wins in Repentigny. Still, for me, there was that small common denominator.

Image : WTATV

For Andreescu, the match seemed to be another milestone in her quest to get back into the winner’s circle, especially since she said 2023 could finally be her year of redemption, provided she keeps injuries at bay.

But she’d barely uttered the words before bad luck struck again.

Photo : WTA

In the next round, she was forced to retire against another Ukrainian player, Lesia Tsurenko. Bianca got ahead 5-3 in their semifinal but then lost eight straight games (7-5, 4-0) before throwing in the towel because of a right shoulder strain.

Fingers crossed that it’s only a minor setback and Bianca will finally be able to reach her full potential.


Email: privard@tenniscanada.com

Twitter: @paul6rivard

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