After a quite brilliant US Open, Michael Graham picks out a few things he liked – and a few things he didn’t like – from a superb fortnight of tennis.
That men’s final
The ATP are really spoiling us at the moment in terms of their Grand Slam finals. True, they probably don’t provide the most competitive matches throughout the whole tournaments, but the the last two finals have been stunning.
They have been contested by four different players too, which is nice, and the show that Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvevev put on for the US Open final was simply outstanding.
It was two warriors, producing top quality sport on the biggest stage and it was pure sporting theatre. Bravo, gentleman. Bravo.
Nadal’s game at this year’s US Open was probably better than we have ever seen it before on hardcourts.
There was literally nothing not to love about the Spaniard’s performance over the course of the two weeks. He was aggressive, physical, powerful, and brilliant, as well as showing all his supreme competitive qualities when he needed them most in the final.
Perhaps most encouraging for everyone, perhaps except Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, was how free from injury he looked.
He even looked great in purple.
— Tennis TV (@TennisTV) September 9, 2019
How long does it feel like we have waited for Medvedev? Not specifically him, so to speak, but someone who can go toe-to-toe with the established elite of the ATP Tour, when they are at or close to their best, over five sets, when it matters the most.
Yes, Medvedev wasn’t able to get over the line against Nadal and break tennis’ top trio’s hold over the Grand Slams, but no one could say that he wasn’t at their level on Arthur Ashe on Sunday.
To look at Medvedev, you’d not even think he was an athlete, never mind an elite one, but somehow the Russian seems able to piece together a game that is supremely effective, and the fact it is so unorthodox just makes it all the more endearing.
One of the best things about the WTA in the last two years has been how wide open every competition has been. No one has been able to dominate, and that has made it absorbing.
The downside of that, of course, is that the tour has been lacking a little in superstars. Andreescu could change all of that, and it’s entirely subjective as to whether or not that’s a positive or not.
The first signs of a changing of the guard?
We all knew that there was going to be a time when Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams could no longer dominate.
We expected, and hoped that time would come a little sooner, but for the first time in a LONG time it feels like that time is at least close.
Grigor Dimitrov’s renaissance
Tennis has not been kind to Dimitrov since he won the ATP Finals in 2017.
His game pretty much collapsed out of nowhere, seeing him fall from number three in the world to number 78 going into the US Open.
His run to the semi-finals, though, was a real reminder of what the Bulgarian is capable of, and hopefully it won’t be a fleeting return to his best.
The TV coverage
It hasn’t really mattered what TV channel you have tuned into, you have pretty much been guaranteed seeing some top quality tennis coverage.
The breadth of insight, the quality of analysts, and the incisive, entertaining commentary has given tennis fans an abundance of riches to enjoy and long may it continue.
Failures of the ATP youngsters
Medvedev aside, the NextGen really disappointed in New York, and it’s becoming far too regular occurrence at Grand Slams.
No one expects them to go out and win Slams yet, but you’d like to see them going deep into the competition and at least running into the players they hope to one day usurp at the top of the game.
Alexander Zverev got to the quarters, but you’d probably expect that.
The rest… well the less said the better. Stefanos Tsitsipas crashed out in the first round for the second Slam in a row, and no one really caught the eye at all.
I guess, on one level, part of the appeal of Grand Slams is that they are the biggest test in tennis, and the physical tests are very much a part of that.
That said, it was a little rough to see both Djokovic and Federer succumb to injury in their matches. It’s part of the game, but the narrative would have been better had they lost a lot more naturally.
Serena Williams’ vulnerability
Seeing Williams no longer dominate the WTA is not difficult at all. It’s a better competition without it.
What hasn’t been as easy to watch, though, is her mental vulnerability as she chases a record 24th Grand Slam title and, perhaps more importantly to her, a first since becoming a mother.
Whatever else you could say about Williams, she has always been as genuine as they come and it was not easy to see her hurting so much after what was a fourth Grand Slam final defeat in a row.
She, of course, has no right to win, but maybe she could have lost in a less heartbreaking fashion.
The challenge system is a good part of tennis, as it minimises mistakes and controversy.
What is frustrating though is how often players have started to abuse it, ‘challenging’ calls they know were good just to get a breather or disrupt the rhythm of a surging opponent.
Call it clever gamesmanship and matchplay if you want, but I don’t personally like it.
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