Indiana Daily Student

As sports go global, the US proves it’s slipping

There seems to be an unsurprising correlation between a nation’s political power and its sports prowess.

It makes perfect sense that given a larger pool of resources and manpower, a nation would be athletically dominant.

The United States has been no exception. For the better part of a century, we’ve pretty much kicked butt.

That’s what makes the Williams sisters’ simultaneous Wimbledon exits so jarring. It’s not really the fact they lost, but what has been realized in the aftermath.

Globalization has loosened America’s vice grip on the international sports scene.

When they are at their best, Serena and Venus are the class of the women’s game, a near-perfect blend of speed and power. For years, even when they’ve been apathetic, they’ve been the country’s best tennis bet.

At times, they have been criticized — and rightfully so — for focusing too much on topics with little importance.

This hasn’t been a problem lately, though. As they’ve crept closer to tennis mortality, the sisters have become more dedicated, spending more time fretting over fitness than fashion.

What they were dealing with at the All England Club was a laundry list of lingering injuries. Their inability to shake off the rust was not earth-shattering, but the void their early departures created was.

It’s only the third time in the Open era since 1968 that an American woman failed to reach Wimbledon’s quarterfinals.

But they continue to be the only hope for American women’s tennis, and help doesn’t appear to be on the way.

It hasn’t been much better for the United States over on the men’s draw. Mardy Fish, the lone American to make the quarterfinals, has yet to reach a major final and will need to run through a few legends to get there this time.

Over the past decade, Andy Roddick, the 2003 U.S. Open champion, has been the United States’ most consistent championship threat. But as of late, tennis’ A-Rod has been wildly inconsistent with more than a few early-round flameouts.

An American tradition that was buoyed by Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras has slowly evaporated into thin air.

So what gives? Why can’t the U.S. seem to find fresh faces to compete with tennis’ best?

It’s easy to point to the sport’s lack of sex appeal. Very few of our young athletes are going to choose tennis instead of football. But I think it cuts a little deeper than that. As our world has become more connected, it’s become easier for athletes to emerge from untraditional locales.

It’s fitting that this generation’s best player, Roger Federer, hails from tiny Switzerland, a nation known for its political neutrality and not its rich sports legacy.

Even with the USTA throwing its weight around to “save” American tennis, it faces a radically different landscape, one that’s become undeniably global. Potential that might have been previously untapped now has the opportunity to be realized.

We live in a world where the U.S. men’s soccer team still can’t close out matches, golf’s past five major champions are non-American and the reigning NBA Finals MVP is German.

Even last week’s NBA Draft had an overwhelming international flair. After an early run on European players, I started wondering if they had moved the draft from Newark to Sarajevo.

There were some mitigating factors — the impending lockout and a weak college class — but it’s becoming safer to pick international players.

Perhaps we’re witnessing some kind of anomaly and Americans will quickly reestablish dominance.

But as globalization increases, the success gap in international sports seems to be narrowing.

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