The first week of the US Open, the final Grand Slam of the season, is complete and there were plenty of talking points. While Serena Williams remains the favourite on the women’s side, the men’s title seems to be a three-way contest between Djokovic, Federer and Murray. Here’s our recap of the first week’s action at Flushing Meadows.
Djokovic, Federer, Murray alive as Nadal crashes out
Three of the “big four” in men’s tennis remain alive after the first week of the tournament and surprisingly, Roger Federer is the only one of them who has yet to drop a set. World no. 1 Novak Djokovic has been impressive in the early rounds, but needed four sets to get past the unorthodox Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut in the fourth round. The Serb seems relaxed in New York; he even did an on-court dance post his win in the second round and seems on course to make another final here. At 34, Federer continues to make people sit up in awe. The Swiss has dropped only 20 games in his first three matches and next meets the big-serving John Isner in the last 16 on Monday. But most of the talk around Federer (besides his age), has been centered around his new SABR return – a new tactic he has started using in matches where he half volleys his opponent’s second serve in a bid to get to the net quickly and give the opponent less time to react.
Murray is also through to the last 16, but his struggles early on could hurt him later, as the tournament comes to the finish line. Murray needed four sets to get past troubled Aussie Nick Kyrgios in round one and five sets to beat Frenchman Adrian Mannarino in round two. A straight sets win over Thomasz Buellucci in round three surely helped him conserve some energy in the heat of New York. However, Rafael Nadal did not make the tournament’s second week, as the Spaniard got knocked out in the third round by Italian Fabio Fognini, who has now beaten the Spaniard three times this year. Nadal lost after winning the first two sets – the first time he has let such a lead slip in his career, and marks the first time since 2004 that the Spanaird has not won a Grand Slam in a season. The lack of confidence is clearly evident for all to see, and if Nadal fails to turn it around by the time the clay court season comes next year, it could very well mark the beginning of the end of his career.
Serena Williams’ quest for history remains alive
For the first time, the US Open women’s final has sold out before the men’s final, and you can put that down to one reason – Serena Williams’ quest for history. The American is chasing her 22nd Grand Slam title this week (tying with Steffi Graf for most Slams in the open era) and is only three wins away from completing the first Grand Slam sweep since 1988. While she has been dominating this season, Serena continues to struggle in her matches but seems to overcome them purely by her mental fortitude. Serena struggled in the second round against Kiki Bertens and needed three sets to beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands in the third round. Next up is a quarter-final showdown against sister Venus Williams, who Serena says is her toughest opponent. Venus is playing well again and is through to her second Grand Slam quarter final of the season, after going four years without making one. It is hard to think that Venus will end Serena’s quest for glory, but that should be a match to watch anyways.
Donald Young impresses in New York
A decade ago, Donald Young was hailed as the future of American tennis. Now at the age of 26, Young is best described as a journeyman on the tennis tour. But that hasn’t stopped him from having one of the best weeks of his career. The former junior world no. 1 is through to the fourth round of the US Open – only the second time he has made the second week at a Slam, after coming from two sets to love down on two occasions. His reward is a fourth round showdown with the French Open champion Stan Wawrinka, who has quietly moved into the second week unnoticed. Defending champion Marin Cilic is also still alive in the draw and could meet Djokovic in the semis this year, if he is able to get past Tsonga in round four. It was not a good tournament for Kei Nishikori, the beaten finalist from 12 months ago, who lost in the first round to Frenchman Benoit Paire.
Halep, Kvitova and Azarenka to challenge Serena
At the end of two rounds, only 3 of the top 10 seeds on the women’s side remained alive in the draw – top seeded Williams, second seed Simona Halep and fifth seeded Petra Kvitova. Former world number ones Caroline Wozniacki and Ana Ivanovic, Wimbledom semifinalist Lucie Safarova and Wimbledon finalist Grabine Mugururza and new top 10 members, Karlona Pliskova and Carla Suarez Navarroall all crashed out early. Halep and Kvitova could meet in the semifinals for the right to meet Serena but there is also former world no. 1 Victoria Azarenka in the mix of things. Azarenka is slowly getting back to the form which saw her win back-to-back Australian Open titles, and could very well knock Halep out in the quarters.
The best of the rest
There were plenty of other notable moments from week one; from Nick Kyrgios’ entertaining four set loss to Murray in round one to Eugenie Bouchard rediscovering her winning touch before a concussion forced her to pull out of the tournament; from Mardy Fish’s heroic comeback from anxiety to quit the game on his own terms to Lleyton Hewitt’s brave five-set loss in his final US Open, and from the Bryans losing in the first round to the record number of retirements in week one.