Tennis: Europe's reign to continue

From left: Janko Tipsarevic, Peng Shuai, Daniela Hantuchova and Juan Monaco are in town for the Clash of Continents tournament at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

THE LIKES of John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Jim Courier, Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi ensured the United States’ dominance of men’s tennis for much of the ’80s and ’90s.

But Europe has dominated the men’s game since Andy Roddick’s 13-week reign at the top of the Association of Tennis Professionals’ (ATP) world rankings ended in February 2004.

The great rivalry of the past decade has been between Switzerland’s Roger Federer (world No. 2) and Spain’s Rafael Nadal (No. 4), with Serbia’s Novak Djokovic – the current No. 1 – coming to the fore in the last two years.

Not forgetting Britain’s US Open champion and world No. 3 Andy Murray.

With Roddick retired, the US now look to the likes of John Isner (world No. 14), Sam Querrey (22) and Mardy Fish (27) to challenge the Europeans in the men’s game.

But Argentinian Juan Monaco thinks Europe’s dominance will continue for the foreseeable future.

“It’s going to be tough for any of them (the Americans) to become the world No. 1; it’s still going to be Europe for many years,” said the 28-year-old at the Clash of Continents pre-tournament press conference at the Swissotel the Stamford’s New Asia Bar last Friday.

“Novak and Murray are both 25, while Rafael Nadal is just 26. Even when Roger (Federer, 31) retires, the trio are still young enough to dominate.

“Then there are younger players such as Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and Australia’s Bernard Tomic, who have it in them to be the leaders in the future.”

Monaco will battle it out with world No. 9 Janko Tipsarevic of Serbia, Japan’s Kei Nishikori (19) and Querrey (22) in the US$520,000 ($633,800) tournament at the Singapore Indoor Stadium today and tomorrow.

The player, nicknamed “Pico” and ranked No. 12, pointed to the lesser popularity of tennis in the US as a possible reason for its decline.

He said: “There are so many sports in the US and tennis is probably ranked sixth or seventh in terms of popularity. “On the other hand, tennis is the No.

2 sport in my country and in general South America is getting a bit better because we are doing some good stuff there.

“Asian tennis is also growing because guys like Nishikori give more confidence and hope to others going into professional tennis and that is very important.”

Querrey was not at the press session as his flight was delayed.

But Tipsarevic is convinced that the Americans cannot be taken lightly.

The 28-year-old said: “I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the US dominance in tennis; they are still a big tennis nation with a lot of great players.

“It is just that they put their standards so high up that people think that they’re struggling when their No. 1 player is ranked 10th or 11th in the world.

“I think they are going to come around – I am not going to say when, but I sure hope it doesn’t happen when I am still playing.”

sayheng@sph.com.sg


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