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For those of us reared in the 1980s on a diet of dominant, thrilling and charismatic tennis players from the United States, it has been scarcely credible that the sport in the country has failed to produce a single top-30 talent in the men's game for the best part of two years. But at the Australian Open there have been signs that a return to the glory days may be upon us.

In the 70s and 80s, John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors were two behemoths who slugged it out with the best in the world, winning 15 grand slams between them. Then came the Pete Sampras era when the serve and volleyer staked his claim as the greatest to play the sport, setting the record for the most slams won in the modern era (14), a mark that stood until the arrival of Roger Federer, Rafa Nadal and Novak Djokovic.

Before the Holy Trinity's emergence Michael Chang, Jim Courier, Andre Agassi and, even Andy Roddick, so often the bridesmaid, all won at least one slam with the latter trio also reaching the world No.1 spot at some point in their career. But since Roddick won the US Open in 2003 – his only slam – no American male has stepped forward with any conviction.

The same could not be said of American women's tennis. While Serena Williams continued to wrack up titles and retain a vice-like grip on the No.1 spot for a total of 319 weeks all told there has been a steady stream of talent progressing at impressive pace behind her with Coco Gauff, Jennifer Pegula and Amanda Anisimova all offering hope of a bright future following Williams' retirement last year.

As recently as 2021, Martina Navratilova put the disparity down to something as simple and arbitrary as cyclical trends saying: “Just look at Italian tennis. In this case, for ten years it was the girls who stood out.

Now it is the boys who are in the elite. The same goes for American tennis. They are cycles and I hope that our kids will improve little by little.”

However, what the last fortnight in Melbourne has demonstrated is that the wheel might have come full circle. Survey the last eight at this year's Australian Open and you would have found the names of Sebastian Korda, Tommy Paul and Ben Shelton – to one female (Pegula) – in the draw. Tomorrow morning the unseeded Paul takes on Novak Djokovic for a place in the final bidding to become the first American man to win a slam decider since Roddick's victory 20 years ago.

Widen the search and you'll see there are 10 names in the top 50 of the ATP rankings while Francis Tiafoe, who reached the semi-finals at Flushing Meadows last September, is world No.15. Tommy Fritz is eighth, Paul will start next week 19th at worst, Sebastian Korda is 26th and there are a host of other twentysomethings all with the potential to go further with Shelton among those with real promise.

What happened? There is no great mystery, no alchemic formula that the United States Tennis Association concocted. No, the answer to all sporting development that shows exponential gains tends to be the same the world over. In 2008, the USTA opened a Tennis Academy aimed at creating a tennis reflex aimed at tempting youngsters away from other more popular sports. It has consumed vast quantities of investment but finally seems to be reaping rewards.

“It’s very important for our sport to have competitive Americans,” said Novak Djokovic yesterday. The Serb might just have been indulging in some mind games since he faces Paul for a place in the final but the wider point was sound. Competitive Americans in the men's game mean greater interest from sports fans in the largest country in the world, which in turn means greater broadcast and sponsorship revenue for tennis and its players alike.