Isner, Querrey, Young make solid trio of U.S. hopefuls
Posted: Friday August 17, 2007 11:01AM; Updated: Friday August 17, 2007 12:48PM
As American tennis fans, we've been spoiled by the long line of men's champions our country has produced. But it's been awhile since one of our own has broken through -- the last American Grand Slam champ was Andy Roddick at the U.S. Open in 2003.
The cries for a new generation of stars to follow Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier, Michael Chang and Roddick have been getting even louder. Luckily, we have three excellent prospects on their way. They're all different in their style of play and personality, but they all have what it takes to challenge the elite of the game.
John Isner, a 6-foot-9 giant who recently graduated from the University of Georgia, created a frenzy by reaching the finals in Washington, D.C., a few weeks ago in just his second ATP-level event. He won an unprecedented five straight third-set tiebreakers and showed he not only has one of the biggest serves in the history of the game, but also thrives in pressure situations.
Isner is capable of disrupting anyone's rhythm with a serve that routinely surpasses 135 mph and second serve that rarely dips below 120 mph. When he acquires more experience at the ATP level and defines his game plan to focus on attacking and putting pressure on his opponents, he'll be a nightmare for anyone in the world to play against.
Tennis has never seen such a tall player that moves as well, hits the ball as cleanly off both sides and has such soft hands around the net. But what's more is that Isner is also a very approachable, modest and polite 22-year-old. He's very marketable and will resonate with tennis fans, and is destined for the upper echelons of the game.
Isner also a result of the college-tennis system. Hopefully the progress he made during his years in Athens will instill more confidence in the American college system as a reasonable alternative for players who need refining and maturing on- and off-court.
As a result of his impressive start to his professional career, Isner was granted a much-deserved wild card into the main draw of the U.S. Open, and he will be a name nobody wants to see as an early round opponent.
Sam Querrey has also been impressive as of late. The 19-year-old Los Angeles-area native burst onto the scene last year and, while he struggled during the clay- and grass-court seasons, a return to the comfort of his favorite hard courts has yielded success.
Querrey advanced to his first career semifinal earlier this summer in Indianapolis where, on his way to an upset of fellow American James Blake in a third-set tiebreaker, he set an ATP record with 10 straight aces. Sam's impressive summer has continued with wins over Marc Gicquel, Mikhail Youzhny and Juan Mónaco in Cincinnati, and he'll be playing in his first Masters Series quarterfinal on Friday.
Querrey's game is similar to Roddick's in that his main weapons are his serve and forehand, but he's an underrated mover for someone his size, also like Roddick. Querrey has unlimited potential and will only continue to improve as he develops his skills at the net.
Sam's off-court personality mirrors his California upbringing. He is laid-back and relaxed, and his ability to diffuse tension will help him deal with the inevitable pressures of tour life.
Donald Young is the third American star on the rise. As I wrote last month, expectations have been high for the 18-year-old southpaw from Atlanta, and while it has taken him a little longer to develop than many anticipated, he's making huge strides lately. He won the Wimbledon juniors competition last month and immediately followed that up with a dominating performance in winning the $75,000 challenger in Aptos, Calif.
Young has yet to break through at the ATP level, but the talent is there. He has gotten stronger and the result is a more explosive serve that enables him to use his forehand as a tremendous weapon. His speed and deft touch are as effective as they are entertaining to watch, and with his continued development he will surely be a force on the ATP Tour soon.
Yes, Young is a little less overtly outgoing than Isner or Querrey, but he's very smart, endearing and enjoyable to be around. Similar to Isner, Young was granted a main-draw wild card into the U.S. Open in a couple weeks.
American tennis fans have a lot to look forward to in these three distinctly different future stars. Keep watching.
Twelve-year ATP Tour veteran Justin Gimelstob writes for SI.com on alternate Fridays.