THE BLOG
03/05/2013 04:00 pm ET | Updated May 05, 2013

Where Have All the Aaron Kricksteins Gone?

Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time passing
Where have all the flowers gone?
Long time ago
Where have all the flowers gone?
Girls have picked them every one
When will they ever learn?
When will they ever learn?
-- Pete Seeger

With tennis balls dancing in my mind and with all due respect, let's take a shot at a re-write to the Seeger epic just as the tennis world enjoyed "Tennis Night" in Hong Kong and at New York's Madison Square Garden where Juan Martin del Potro defeated Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams defeated Victoria Azarenka in a pair of (nearly) sold-out exhibitions right in the big top of New York City's Madison Square Garden.

Where have all the Aaron Kricksteins gone?
Long time passing shots,
Where have all the Aaron Krickteins gone?
Long time ago.

Where have all the Andre Agassis gone?
Charming personality for everyone,
Where have all the Andre Agassis gone?
Long time ago.

Where have all the Michael Changs gone?
He's won Roland Garros for Hoboken,
Where have all the Michael Changs gone?
Long time ago.

Where have all the Paul Annacones gone?
Wimbledon quarters and coaching a ton,
Where have all the Paul Annacones gone?
Long time ago.

Where have all the Andy Roddicks gone?
U.S. Open Champion,
Where have all the Andy's Roddicks gone?
Long time ago.

During my lifetime, I had the great pleasure to witness the glory years of several sports and sports franchises. It's been well documented that I worked my way through the Larry Bird-Magic Johnson era of NBA basketball, arguably the greatest period in league history. I was also lucky enough to see the New York Mets win their "Miracle Mets" world championship in 1969, the New York Knicks in their most glorious era where Willis Reed, Walt Frazier and the Red Holzman schooled Knickerbockers played a team-oriented, pleasing, brand of basketball that forged two NBA titles and created a legion of "make the extra pass" basketball fans that grew-up with "The City Game" and a "Hit the Open Man" mentality.

I was hand-delivered a New York Islanders franchise that struggled mightily as an expansion franchise but soon after upset their New York Rangers rivals ('75) and went on to win four consecutive NHL Stanley Cup championships when Bryan Trottier personified the perfect two-way player maker, Denis Potvin took a lesson from the NHL's all-time greatest defenseman, Bobby Orr of the Bruins, to mold the NYI team around his very intimidating defensive presence while he quarterbacked the offense and power play to perfection. The Isles, with super-sniper Mike Bossy (50-in-50 was the norm), Clark Gillies and a host of muckers and fan-favorites, like Bobby Nystrom, Butch Goring, John Tonelli, complemented by rock-solid goal-keeping by Billy Smith. Not bad fort a high school sophomore, eh?

Then, there was tennis.

On the women's side, every summer at the U.S. Open, we were there to witness Chrissy Evert going up against the greatest tennis player of all time in Martina Navratilova, a singles, doubles and mixed doubles ultra-champion and 18-time Grand Slam title winner. On the men's front, the list is ridiculous and I'll rip through it in no particular order ...

We were there to watch John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Arthur Ashe, Stan Smith, Pete Sampras - all American-born and bred. Meanwhile, Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Roger Federer, Rod Laver, Boris Becker and Mats Wilander were the international opponents, to name just a few.

Undoubtedly, it was the greatest era of tennis in history and it might never ever be duplicated.

So what happened?

Where did all the tennis players go? And, specifically, where are the American tennis players?

Let's ask Johnny Mac?

"Andy Roddick's now gone and we haven't won any slams in 10 years since Pete Sampras quit other than Roddick's one (2003 U.S. Open), so obviously there's some concern here. There's a lot of work to do and I think people remember the old days a bit," said McEnroe to a media contingent assembled to see the John McEnroe Tennis Academy housed at Sportime facilities at three different locations in New York and its suburbs. "It was a great time for me and it was sort of a golden era for American tennis with Jimmy Connors and myself, then Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Jim Courier.

"So, yes, there's something that's missing and hopefully we can fill that niche and maybe inspire some younger kids as well."

What happened to the talent pool? Did the kids all start playing basketball and lacrosse, because they're certainly not playing baseball and (American/NFL-style) football. Ask President Barack Obama about that, eh?

"I've seen them all," McEnroe chimed in. " What Billie Jean King has done for the game and the way she played was more like how I played, Then, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert won a billion tournaments, Steffi Graf. And, when Serena (Williams) is on, she's the best I've ever seen play. She has the whole package as far as what she can bring to the table.

"Hopefully for us, (meaning American tennis), we're wondering where the next American guy is? For the next American woman, we're still looking pretty sharp. Hopefully this will inspire some other people to get out there," noted McEnroe.

And, he's backing up his wish with a venture sure to create a few new stars, right from the New York metropolitan area because McEnroe's academies help train more than 300 young prospects, who get first-hand training from Douglaston's favorite son, along with his brother, mark, and Peter Fleming -- Mac's longtime doubles partner who heads up a gaggle of 30 of the top tennis coaches in the country, all packed into facilities on Randall's Island, Westchester County and out on Long Island. Because of Johnny Mac's heavy travels and TV commentary gig, his academy is managed by his brother after it was created by New York entrepreneur Claude Okin.

So where's the next American tennis champion?

"You look at John Isner, he's big and athletic and he played four years of college tennis," said McEnroe. "That's the type of kid, an athlete, that will become the future of tennis and I think, here, in a city like New York, we can find those type of kids."