The U.S Open is over and with it, another grand slam season comes to a close. What a season it has been. Who would have predicted Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal winning two slams apiece? I don’t believe anyone saw this sort of resurgence coming from them. What they’ve done is absolutely remarkable and deserves its own article. So, we’ll save that discussion for later and talk about the guys who stole the show this fortnight.
Rafael Nadal came into the U.S Open on a less than stellar run of form. He’d failed to make at least the semifinals, in his last three tournaments – Wimbledon, Montreal, and the U.S Open. So, even though he’d ascended to number one in the world, he wasn’t seen as the top favorite to win it all. That honor went to his career rival, Roger Federer. Yet it was Rafa who dealt better with what quickly became a chaotic tournament and won it all at the end. Say what you will about Nadal’s draw, he had to fight off a few tricky opponents along the way. The rankings don’t always reflect the true talent of a tennis player. Look no further than Del Potro to find that out.
I believe Kevin Anderson deserves an A+ not just for this tournament, but the way he has steadily transformed himself, over the last three years. He has gone from what was looking like a journeyman career, to being a consistent participant in the second week of slams, and now to being a first-time grand slam finalist at the age of 31. Kevin Anderson rode his big serve and big game to the finals, beating red hot Pablo Carreno-Busta in the semi-finals, to set up a final showdown with Rafael Nadal. His, was the fairy tale run no one was talking about. He may have lost in three straight sets to Nadal, but at 6’8″ he showed us that big man tennis at its best, can be a pleasure to watch.
Juan Martin Del Potro
Del Potro’s finest moments came in the fourth round and quarterfinal stages of the tournament. He played nine sets to defeat Dominic Thiem and Roger Federer in that order. No easy feat. His five set thriller against Thiem was for me, the best match of the tournament, with regards to shot making quality, momentum swings and edge of your seat tension. That it was a comeback, made it all the more enjoyable. Del Potro, at the brink of being knocked out of the tournament, appeared to rediscover himself again. He would ride the wave of that momentum, through a four set upset of Roger Federer, before suffering defeat at the hands of Nadal. Still, Del Potro should take a lot of positives from this year’s U.S Open. He’s proven to the world and most importantly to himself, that he can still pose a threat to win grand slams, even with a retooled backhand.
Pablo Carreno Busta
Before this tournament, Carreno Busta was simply one of the Spaniards. I don’t think he cared either way. He was the only player to reach the semifinals without dropping a set. Carreno Busta went on a fiery, and for him, unprecedented winning streak, through the grand slam. At 26, he still has time to build on this. He’s got a solid game to watch and it will be interesting seeing how far he goes with it.
I had not heard of Rublev before this tournament, but boy does he have a big game. He hits with power and ferocity from both wings. However, while that game allowed him to post some impressive wins during the tournament, it is still unpolished. Rafael Nadal ruthlessly exploited the nineteen-year old’s weaknesses and inexperience, during their quarterfinal clash. Still, Rublev is only nineteen. He should get better with time.
At 5’7″, Diego Schwartzman represents a fast fading breed of tennis player. The diminutive counterpuncher. Most of the rising stars today are tall, big and powerful. Among them, Diego Schwartzman would look out of place. Yet, he acquainted himself very nicely with the company he kept and the tournament. Diego made a brilliant run to the quarterfinals of the tournament downing one of those big men, Marin Cilic, in the fourth round. Such a poerformance will certainly put him in the spot light. Well deserved.
It is not all the time that making the fourth round of a slam earns you an A+ but who would argue with Denis Shapovalov’s performance over the fortnight. At eighteen, he was the youngest player left in the draw when the second week rolled around. He’d also electrified the New York crowd more than any other player. That’s tough to do when you are in the same tournament as Federer and Nadal. Yet Shapovalov captivated us with his game, his youthful exuberance and his boyish bravado. With his lefty game and one-handed backhand swing, he gave us a glimpse of the best of both legends, merged into one. More so, I believe Shapovalov may have inspired young athletes his age. Time will tell what effect his run had, but I can assure you there was an effect. If he keeps this up, he will keep us watching and loving tennis, long after today’s stars are retired.
Check back with TenniSense tomorrow, for the A – List performers on the WTA side.