A New Era of Tennis?
This year’s US Open was simply incredible from a spectator’s perspective. From Day 1 to the final Sunday, there was a constant flow of sporting entertainment, be it the superb quality of tennis on court, or controversy on the sidelines. There is in fact, so much to unpack about the last fortnight, that it is best to tackle each topic one by one.
We simply have to start by talking about Emma Raducanu’s fairy-tale run to the US Open title. Raducanu entered the US Open qualifying ranked 150 in the world, but 3 weeks, 20 sets, 10 matches and one sporting miracle later, she had become the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon triumph in 1977. A remarkable achievement, made even more remarkable by her age. At just 18 years of age, Raducanu has so much time to develop her game even further. Furthermore, Raducanu did not drop a single set along her 10-match winning streak. The furthest she was pushed in any set was a tight 7-5 set against Mariam Bolkvadse in the second round of qualifying. I bet Bolkvadse isn’t quite so disappointed at her early qualifying exit now that all is said and done.
After some celebrations followed by some well earned rest, it will now be Raducanu’s goal to compete for more big titles. She is now the British Number One and is a proven winner who is no longer as badly affected by the weight of pressure and expectation. A repeat of what happened at Wimbledon is unlikely. However, the women’s game is known for being highly volatile. Many players who have success end up falling away and never returning to the big stage. Think about players like Eugenie Bouchard and Jelena Ostapenko, showing excellent form in one Grand Slam, then hardly appearing in the latter stages of one again. Raducanu has done immensely well, but let’s not assume she will win multiple major titles. Let’s enjoy her incredible achievement now, she could do without any more pressure.
No Calendar Golden Slam for Djokovic
After coming through several tight matches on his route to the US Open final, it really looked as though it was meant to be for Novak Djokovic, especially after coming out on the right side of a marathon 5 set tussle against his conqueror at the Olympics, Alexander Zverev in the semi-finals. But Daniil Medvedev had other ideas. In his 3rd Grand Slam final, Medvedev found another gear, and simply blew an out of sorts Djokovic off the court with some heavy first and second serves, and excellently placed and well varied groundstrokes. Medvedev came through 6-4 6-4 6-4, blocking out the heavily pro-Djokovic crowd to claim his first major title. Djokovic never looked comfortable, destroying a racket and almost hitting a ball towards and official in what could have been a repeat of last year’s default at the US Open in the process. Djokovic was aiming to be the first player in the open era to win all 4 Grand Slams in the same year, but fell short just one match away from history.
Medvedev’s biggest moment of adversity came when he had a championship point at 5-1 in the 3rd set. The crowd simply would not settle when he was trying to serve, causing him to hit a double fault and several wayward groundstrokes. The New York crowd bordered on and the surpassed the line of disrespect, boisterously cheering any Medvedev error, including double faults. However, Medvedev impressively managed to ignore what was happening and win, showing incredible class with his muted celebrations after the match, having seen how devastated his history chasing opponent was. Djokovic will not win the calendar slam, but still has time to surpass Nadal and Federer to win his 21st Grand Slam, but with Medvedev now a proven winner, and the return of the likes of Rafa Nadal and Dominic Thiem next year, you can’t help feeling that Djokovic has missed his best opportunity to really prove that he is the greatest ever.
Changing of The Guard
The last time there were 2 new Grand Slam champions in both the men’s and women’s singles of a major was 1990, when Pete Sampras and Gabriela Sabatini won their maiden titles at the US Open. Serena Williams has been a big presence in the women’s game, while since Roger Federer’s first Grand Slam win at Wimbledon in 2003, 59 of the 74 major events played since have been won by either Federer, Djokovic or Nadal. With Medvedev’s long expected first Grand Slam title, a new era has potentially been ushered in. Medvedev was already the World Number 2, he just needed to prove his worth at the Grand Slams, which he did emphatically, losing only one set the whole tournament. What’s more, we’ve seen several young players perform very well over the past fortnight. Leylah Fernandez made the women’s final at just 19 years of age, while the big story on the men’s side was young Carlos Alcaraz, beating Stefanos Tsitsipas on his stellar run to the quarter-finals. Alcaraz is 18 years old. Felix Auger-Aliassime, 21, reached his first Grand Slam semi-final, losing only to the eventual champion Daniil Medvedev.
Off-Court Drama (and some fun)
‘Before we start, does anyone need the toilet?’ is what Andy Murray will feel like should have been asked before his match with Stefanos Tsitsipas. Over the last few months, Stefanos Tsitsipas has drawn the ire of pretty much the entire tennis world with his lengthy toilet breaks after losing sets, with many seeing it as a play to try and disrupt the rhythm of his opponents. The most serious example of this was when he took his bag (which contained his phone) to the toilet against Sascha Zverev at the Cincinnati Masters while his dad (also his coach) was seen texting away on the sidelines. Tsitsipas took lengthy toilet breaks against Andy Murray and Adrian Mannarino at the US Open, both times after losing a set, earning himself nicknames such as ‘Toiletpas’ or ‘Cheatsipas’. Murray (and many others) tweeted about the incident afterwards, saying that he had lost all respect for Tsitsipas. Awkward.
There was also an awkward moment in the women’s final, when Leylah Fernandez complained about a stoppage while she had a break point on Emma Raducanu’s serve. Raducanu had slipped chasing down a ball, causing blood to drip down her leg. This is known as an acute injury, so Raducanu was allowed to have an immediate medical timeout to receive treatment, which prompted Fernandez to rant to the umpire, and even cry on court. Raducanu was well within her rights to seek treatment. Examples of an acute injury could be a twisted ankle, a heavy fall, or a deep cut. If Raducanu had stopped the game to have a sore shoulder or cramp treated, perhaps Fernandez would have had a case. For now she has a runner’s up medal, and some serious thinking to do.
Oh, and that fun I was talking about. While Novak Djokovic couldn’t complete the calendar golden slam, Dylan Alcott was able to in the Wheelchair men’s singles. To celebrate, he was seen downing a pint from his trophy during the men’s final. I think I speak for all tennis fans when I say, what a legend.
Written by Emre Saridogan