American Tennis Isn’t Dying But It Does Need Help

Lawrence Kleger

Lawrence Kleger
JMTA Academy Director

…”One bright spot for U.S. men’s tennis is talented junior Noah Rubin, a 17 year old from New York who’s playing in the junior tourney at the U.S. Open. He’s coached by Lawrence Kleger, the Executive Director of Tennis at SPORTIME, where the John McEnroe Tennis Academy is located. Kleger thinks one reason American men are lagging behind their female compatriots is that “tennis is way higher up the pecking order for women than for men. Men have a lot more options to play elite sports. It’s more of a lucrative sport with a higher profile for women than for men.”

Kleger’s right about the better fortunes for women’s tennis stateside. Though Sloane Stephens bowed out of the Open this year to Serena Williams (no shame in that), she’s been marked as a future Slam winner (rightly so, when her forehand is firing), along with big-serving teen Madison Keys. (Both Stephens and Keys train with the USTA, in Carson and Boca Raton, respectively.)

He also noted that the decline of men’s tennis in the States misses the global picture. “Tennis has become so much more popular around the world. Other countries have stepped up what they do. It’s much more popular in Europe and South America than in the states now.” That’s unsurprising when you consider that over the last 10 years, the only men to win Slams hail from Europe (Federer, Nadal, Safin, Djokovic, Murray) and South America (del Potro).

Kleger added, “When you have Americans doing great in sports, we follow those sports. Our dominance is gone for the near-term so tennis isn’t big in the U.S. As exciting as Nadal versus Federer is, the interest is nowhere near if an American player made the final. That’s a concern for the USTA. Their funding comes from the Open and TV ratings go up with Americans in the finals.”

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