The U.S. has never failed to place at least one man in the top 20 since the ranking system was put in place 40 years ago. The streak is just barely intact -- Sam Querrey sits squarely on No. 20 -- and is likely to end by the conclusion of the French Open, if not before.
Querrey has never shown much consistency on clay, and this is hardly his favorite time of the year. He was bounced out of last year's French Open in the first round (tough draw: Janko Tipsarevic), and his reputation took a massive hit at Roland Garros three years ago, when he took a discouraging loss, admitted he was "mentally fried," bailed out on the doubles with John Isner and flew back to California.
Isner, currently ranked 23rd, appeared to have made a dramatic clay-court breakthrough in last year's Davis Cup when he beat Roger Federer in Switzerland and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in France, each en route to U.S. victories. But the rest of his season was a disaster. After departing early at Madrid, Rome and Nice, he lost to 261st-ranked Paul-Henri Mathieu at the French Open and said his confidence was totally shot -- "I don't even want to think about tennis right now. I just let this whole trip get to me."
There is nothing in the pile of recent evidence to suggest Isner or Querrey can forestall a drop in the rankings. No man in the top 20? That would be the most discouraging news in American men's tennis since Andy Roddick's retirement.
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