The real drama of the 2017 US Open

Timothy Wee Timothy Wee

It was business as usual for Rafael Nadal as he clinched his third US Open title over Kevin Anderson, while the underwhelming all-American women grand slam final between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys failed to live up the hype.

Typically, the grand finals matches are the main highlights of any grand slam tournament. Just not this year at the US Open.

It was bound to happen. Having witnessed Nadal’s comfortable victory, the sight of the experienced world number one clutching a Grand Slam trophy is getting old. Unless you are a huge Nadal fan.

On the flip side, the occasion got the better of twelfth seed Madison Keys in her women grand final match against fellow compatriot and friend Sloane Stephens. The sheer amount of errors in the first set was disappointing and painful to watch at times.

Thankfully, all is not lost. There were thrills and spills in the 2017 US Open, if you know where to look.

 

Asian Pride

People love an upset. Or rather, they love the drama that comes with it.

Which is why the opening round upset between rising Japanese American star Naomi Osaka and reigning US Open champion Angelique Kerber got our panties in a bunch.

For 65 minutes, the 19-year-old power baseline hitter dominated the former world number one, allowing Kerber to take just four games in two sets.

The victory, her first over a top-ten ranked opponent, is the best win over a ranked opponent for a Japanese player since Akiko Morigami upset then world number three Nadia Petrova at Roland Garros in 2006.

 

Dressed To Kill

And the award for the most dapper US Open dresser goes to… 20-year-old German, Alexander Zverev. Drawing comparison to tennis great Bjorn Borg, the fourth seeded player was all style and no substance as he succumbed to defeat at the hands of Croatian Borna Coric.

His retro adidas striped kit (complete with matching headband) looked straight out of Wes Anderson movie and pays homage to the character Richie Tenenbaum from the movie The Royal Tenenbaums.

Big Mouths Strike Again

When there is smoke, there is always fire. And boy were there some fiery bad boys this year.

First off, 22-year-old Australian Nick Kyrgio dropped an F-bomb in his all-Australian first round match against John Millman.

Frustrated by a shoulder injury, the incident occurred when the bad boy of tennis lost his temper and screamed at himself. Apparently, it was so loud that it was picked up by the TV cameras.

Kyrgios, who denied the incident when confronted by the chair umpire, was given a code violation. He would lose the third set, causing him to rack up another violation when he decided to smash his racket.

Taking a leaf out of Kyrgios’ book, world number 22 Fabio Fognini ran his mouth and made insulting sexist remarks to a female chair umpire in his opening singles match loss. That was only one of the three separate code violations which saw the fiery Italian ejected out of his doubles spot and fined $23000 (nearly half of his $50000 prize money).

Despite a public apology, the 2015 Australian Open doubles winner is under investigation by the Grand Slam Board and could face a permanent ban and fine of up to $250000. Fognini was previously fined $27500 in his 2014 Wimbledon first round win.

 

Love Is In The Air For Sharapova

Returning from her 15-month drug suspension in April, Maria Sharapova took part in her first Grand Slam for the year. The wildcard entry was battling a left arm injury, but that did not stop her from registering an opening win over second seed Simona Halep. The 30-year-old eventually lost to world number sixteenth Anastasija Sevastova despite taking the first set.

However, Sharapova was quick to pay tribute to the fans: “I’ve had an amazing reaction from fans since I’ve been back and that’s been very special”. The Sharapova fan in us is inclined to agree babe.

 

Two (Williams) Heads Are Better Than One

In a US Open tournament missing key players such as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, it is perhaps the absence of the pregnant Serena Williams that was most keenly felt.

While Serena was home on mummy duties, her (bestie/BFF) sister Venus made a return to the Top Five since 2011 with her hard fought two hours 35 minutes quarter-final match against unseeded Czech Petra Kvitova.

Clearly, she needed Serena’s calming support and presence as she was eliminated in the semis against eventual winner Sloane Stephens after an intense third set tie-breaker.

Nonetheless, the 37-year-old still managed to provide a talking point and one of the lighter moments of the tournament when she struck a serve straight into a ball boy’s family jewels in her match with Maria Sakkari.

 

Federer, Denied

Despite being plagued with a back problem before the tournament, third seed Roger Federer was always one of the favourites to land the title. Having already bagged two Grand Slams this year, the 36-year-old was hoping for a historic sixth US Open win; one more than his idol Pete Sampras.

But there was no fairy tale for the nineteenth time Grand Slam winner as he was beaten by Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in a match where his injury prevented him from exerting his authority.

However, can we really fault the Swiss tennis legend?

Considering his niggling back injury and the fact that he laboured through two epic five-set match against American Frances Tiafoe and Russian veteran Mikhail Youzhny in the earlier rounds, we are ready to tip our proverbial hat off to Federer for his herculean 2017 US Open effort.

Was Nadal’s US Open win the easiest slam ever?

While Rafael Nadal’s third US Open title was undoubtedly well deserved, the Spaniard was blessed with good fortune along the way.

The 31-year old’s 16th grand slam title was remarkable in the fact that he managed to win the title without having to face a single player ranked inside the world’s top 25 – believed to be the first player to do so in slam history.

Aside from defeating world No.32 Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, in the final, the highest-ranked player the Spaniard faced was No. 28 Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.

Nadal was also helped thanks to the absence through injury of several of the tour’s big guns including Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Milos Raonic and Kei Nishikori.

But luck remained on his side during the tournament too, as number seven seed Grigor Dimitrov, ninth seed David Goffin and 15th seed Tomas Berdych were all knocked out before he had chance to play them.

The biggest obstacle to Nadal’s title charge – Roger Federer – was then sent packing when Del Potro defeated him in the quarter-finals.

One could argue that Nadal’s form would have seen him beat all the above mentioned players anyway, but there’s no denying he enjoyed a relatively easy run to the title.

Nadal’s path to the US Open:

First round — defeated Dusan Lajovic (No. 85) 7-6, 6-2, 6-2
Second round — defeated Taro Daniel (121) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 6-2
Third round — defeated Leonardo Mayer (59) 6-7, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4
Fourth round — defeated Alexandr Dolgopolov (64) 6-2, 6-4, 6-1
Quarter-final — defeated Andrey Rublev (53) 6-1, 6-2, 6-2
Semi-final — defeated Juan Martin del Potro (28) 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2
Final — defeated Kevin Anderson (32) 6-3, 6-3, 6-4

Anderson overwhelmed by Nadal’s all-court game

South African Kevin Anderson said that it was not nerves but rather Rafa Nadal’s ruthless all-court game as the reason for his loss in the final of the US Open on Sunday evening.

The 31-year-old first-time grand slam finalist was beaten 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 by Nadal in New York in the Spaniards 23rd grand slam final.

In an interview after his defeat, Anderson said despite losing he thought that he played pretty well in the final.

“I think the nerves that I was maybe going to feel, you know, I felt pretty good out there,” Anderson told reporters.

”I thought I was hitting the ball very well. “It was more the conundrum of playing Rafa as opposed to being in my first final.”

Nadal played near-perfect tennis on Sunday, never facing a break point and always looked in control of proceedings.

“Rafa made it very difficult for me tonight,” said Anderson. “I felt he got a lot of returns back. He varied his return position quite a lot. You know, one of the best defenders in our sport.”

Nadal proud to be part of era-defining champions

Spanish superstar Rafa Nadal says he is proud of belonging to a generation of era-defining champions after winning the US Open in New York on Sunday evening.

In winning his third US Open title, by beating South African Kevin Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in the final, the world number one has now won 16 grand slam titles, three behind Swiss superstar Roger Federer who sits on top with 19 slams.

The 16 slams Nadal has won so far: Australian Open (2009); French Open (2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2017); Wimbledon (2008, 2010); U.S. Open (2010, 2013, 2017)

At the press conference after his US Open triumph, Nadal said though his career rivalry with Federer over the years had been important for the sport as a whole but felt that belonging to a generation of era-defining champions is of greater importance.

"Of course this rivalry has been important for our sport, in my opinion," Nadal said about his rivalry with Federer.

"That involved a lot of people, and because of different styles, different characters, and we played for the most important things for such a long time, I think that was the great promotion for our sport.

"I feel happy to be part of this rivalry, but at the same time, I played, even more, matches with Novak (Djokovic) than with Roger in such important matches, too."

Since Nadal won the first of his 10 French Open titles, he, Federer and Djokovic have won 43 of the 51 grand slams with only Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Juan Martin del Potro and Marin Cilic also winning the major titles.

"In my career, I have been involved in different rivalries. I feel lucky to be part of all of them in some way. In another way, I have been in an era where three players achieved 19, 16 and 12 (grand slams)," he said of himself, Federer and Djokovic.

"That’s a lot, no? There is a remarkable part of the history of our sport. So that means was difficult for everybody to win titles in this part of the, in this era.

"That’s difficult to find some players in the same generation that achieve all the things that we achieved," Nadal said.

"We are in an era that is not nice to say, because I'm part of it, but we are in an era that some players make incredible things in this sport, no?

"Happy to be part of it, and I feel lucky to be part of it and enjoying the fact that I have been involved in some way in the two rivalries. That is amazing, no?" he added.

Nadal crushes Anderson to seal 16th Grand Slam title

Rafael Nadal won the US Open title for a third time in New York on Sunday evening with a straightforward 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Kevin Anderson.

Nadal’s 16th grand slam title was never in doubt as he dominated his opponent from the off in what was the South African’s first grand slam final.

The first two games established the tone for the set, and the match, with Anderson having to fight off immense pressure on his serve – fending off several deuces just to hold, before Nadal claimed his own service game comfortably.

The pressure finally told after 45 minutes in the seventh game when an Anderson double fault and a wide forehand gave the Spaniard the crucial break, from where he served out and then broke Anderson again for good measure to take the first set 6-3 in just under an hour.

Nadal got even better in the second set, losing only three points on serve during the whole set and making just two unforced errors.

Just one break of service was required as Nadal pressured Anderson in the sixth game, racing to the net to seal it in style at the second attempt with a smash from an attempted Anderson lob.

The third and final set began as the others had, with Nadal ramping up the heat on the Anderson serve before earning the break as the South African fired a forehand long.

And that was all Nadal needed as the rest of the final set went with serve.

The 31-year old used all his experience to close out the match, despite being taken to deuce for the first time in the match, and claim his third US Open title and first since 2013.

It also capped a remarkable year for Nadal and rival Roger Federer as the duo shared all four Grand Slam titles, Nadal adding the US Open to his 10th Roland Garros crown, while Federer claimed the honours at Wimbledon and Australia.

Wilander: Stephens could win many slams

American Sloane Stephens, who won the US Open on Saturday night in convincing fashion in New York over countryman Madison Keys, has the ability to win many more grand slams according to Mats Wilander.

The 24-year-old Stephens thumped Keys 6-3, 6-0 in just 60 minutes at Arthur Ashe Stadium, a clear indication that she has the potential of adding more slams to her 'résumé' going forward.

What makes her victory even more special is that Stephens battled back from foot surgery in January, having been wheelchair bound at one stage. 

Former world number one Wilander told Reuters in an interview that he felt Stephens played well and had been solid throughout the tournament but he felt she had not been "there emotionally all the time until this week".

"The game is there, she just hasn’t really been there emotionally all the time until this week," Wilander told Reuters.

"Maybe her last injury woke her up and made her appreciate how fortunate she is and that she should work really hard."

"She is so talented, so quick and so emotionally calm. She doesn’t have any weakness. It’s the first of many grand slam titles if you look at how she played today."

The question is if Stephens want's or has the drive to do it? especially after saying 'maybe she should retire’ after her victory.

"Today, nobody in the world beats Sloane Stephens," said Wilander. "If she cares in every match she plays like she did today, she’s going to be up there in the rankings very quickly.

"But we don’t know what her ambitions are. She said it herself, maybe I should retire today because this is the best day, I can’t top this. There you go, you’re not going to hear (Rafa) Nadal say that."

"She’s the oldest of the next generation and she’s the more mature, that makes the difference," said Wilander.

"When foot speed and calmness are your two strengths, it’s easier because hitting winners is a gamble. Some days it works, some days it doesn't.

"Madison Keys will be her main rival but there are a lot of good players. Elina Svitolina, most probably (Jelena) Ostapenko, (Daria) Kasaktina."

Sloane Stephens: Fast Facts about the US Open champ

Sloane Stephens captured her first grand slam tennis title on Saturday when she defeated friend and compatriot Madison Keys in the final of the US Open at Flushing Meadows.

It capped a remarkable comeback from injury for the 24-year old who only returned to the tour in the summer after missing 11 months with a stress fracture to her right foot.

But what do you know about the latest US tennis star to make a name for herself?

FOX Sports Asia gives you the lowdown on the newest rising star in the world of women’s tennis.

Stephens was born in Florida in 1993. She is the daughter of Sybil Smith, a competitive swimmer and John Stephens a former NFL running back.

Her mother was the first black female All-American and took sixth-place in the 100m backstroke at the NCAA championships in 1988. Her father played running back for the New England Patriots, the Green Bay Packers, and the Kansas City Chiefs around the end of the 1980’s.

Stephens celebrates with her mother.

Stephens started attending the Chris Evert Tennis Academy at the age of 11 before moving to the Nick Saviano High Performance Tennis Academy the next year.

She first rose to prominence at the 2013 Australian Open, when seeded 29th she defeated Simona Halep, Kristina Mladenovic, and her idol – world number three and tournament favourite Serena Williams – in three sets to reach the semi-finals before losing to world number one and defending champion Victoria Azarenka.

Stephens withdrew from the 2016 US Open with a stress fracture to her right foot that would keep her out of the game for 11 months. She made her comeback at Wimbledon in July.

The US Open is her fifth WTA title. Her others came at the 2015 Washington Open, the Auckland, Mexican and Charleston Opens (all 2016) and now the US Open.

Six weeks ago she was ranked 957 in the world. Stephens joins Kim Clijsters (2009) as the only unseeded woman to win the US Open title since the Open era began in 1968.

Stephens the star as Keys crumbles on big stage

Sloane Stephens was on song as she beat a nervy Madison Keys 6-3, 6-0 in the women’s final of the US Open.

Much was expected of this final as two young stars were paired up against each other however the match-up never delivered.

Stephens cut a composed figure however Keys was jittery and anxious.

In a bizarre opening set Keys went for every shot possible and hardly landed one in play.

So high was her error count that Stephens only needed to hit two winners.

She took the first set 6-3.

In the second stanza, Keys completely lost her way and continued to try and force the issue.

Stephens won the second set 6-0 and so became a major champion for the first time in her career.

Speaking afterwards, both players expressed how much their friendship meant to each other.

Stephens joked that she was ready to retire after this achievement.

Serena breaks social media silence to praise Keys and Stephens

Serena Williams has congratulated fellow Americans Madison Keys and Sloane Stephens on reaching the US Open final.

Fans around the world have been waiting for an update on Williams’ new born baby girl, but instead they got a series of heart-warming tweets about how proud Williams is of the rising WTA stars.

Either Keys, 22, or Stephens, 24, will become the first American to win the US Open since Jennifer Capriati in 2001. Other than Williams herself, of course.

With over 11 years in age difference between Williams and this crop of new talent, it’s easy to see why Williams feels a touch responsible for the duo.

Nadal’s ruthless comeback slays del Potro

Rafa Nadal is just one step away from a 16th grand slam title after a ruthless comeback saw him blow away Juan Martin del Potro.

The world number one struggled to contain del Potro’s serve and powerful forehand in the opening set, yet he roared back in stunning fashion to secure a clash against South Africa’s Kevin Anderson in Sunday’s final.

Del Potro had played nine sets in the previous two rounds and that effort took its toll on the Argentine as he ran out of gas and succumbed 4-6, 6-0, 6-3, 6-2.

It leaves Nadal as firm favourite to win his first US Open since 2013 after winning all four of his previous encounter against Anderson.

“It means a lot,” said Nadal.

“It has been an amazing season of course after a couple with injures and troubles.

“To be back here in front of this amazing crowd, on this amazing court, and to have the chance to fight for another title is so important to me.

“I changed a couple of things after the first set.

“I was playing too much to his backhand and I knew that I had to change and move him more and be more unpredictable. It worked really well and I am very happy.”

Nadal found his range in the second set and after going ahead 3-0, the match became one-way traffic, as he won nine games in a row.

Del Potro attempted to reserve some energy for the third set, but he found himself 5-2 down and with no way back into contention.

A forehand winner down the line brought Nadal the break he needed in the fifth set, before profiting from his first match point with a backhand passing shot.


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