While the men’s tournament at the US Open produced produced a predictable outcome with Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer reaching the final, the women’s draw turned out to be a total surprise with two Italian women reaching their first Grand Slam final. All this and more in our weekly recap of world tennis.
Novak Djokovic Wins 10th Grand Slam Singles Crown
Novak Djokovic capped the best season of his career by winning the US Open title on Sunday – his second title at Flushing Meadows and the 10th Grand Slam of his career, by beating Roger Federer in four sets in the final. The Serb continued to show why he is the best player in the world, combining impregnable defense with superb athleticism and aggressiveness to derail the aging Swiss legend, who had otherwise played flawless tennis through the first six rounds of the tournament.
Djokovic played far better on the key points of the match as he turned in a 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win. The Serb became only the third player in the Open Era (after Rod Laver and Roger Federer) to reach the finals of all the four Grand Slams in a single year. With Federer still coming up short in the Slams and Rafael Nadal showing signs of aging, at 28, Djokovic looks set to dominate the game in the coming years and could very well end up tying up Pete Sampras and Nadal’s tally of 14 Slams.
The Serb commented, “You know, winning [a] Grand Slam is very special for any tennis player when you are dreaming of becoming a professional tennis player. When you are kind of finding that inspiration, motivation, these are the tournaments you dream of winning. So to actually relive these moments again after 2011 it’s quite incredible. To win against one of the biggest rivals, as you said, all-time Grand Slam champion, somebody that, you know, always keeps on fighting till the last point, keeps making you play an extra shot, yeah, all these things now are very special to me.”
Federer, whose SABR shot was perhaps the biggest talking point of the tournament, was left ruing his break point opportunities (4 of 23) but still reaching his first final in New York in six years shows how he has rebuilt his game at the age of 34. “I had too many break chances. Of course some of them I could have done better, should have done better, all these things. Surely, he didn’t give me much, that’s for sure, but still, I should have done better.”
Stan Wawrinka made another deep run, reaching the semi-finals where he was beaten by Federer while defending champion Marin Cilic put in his best performance of the season by making the semi-finals where an injury restricted his play as he went down to Djokovic after winning only three games. For Nadal, the tournament proved to be another disappointment – losing after taking a two-sets-to-love lead for the first time in his career as he went down to Italian Fabio Fognini in the third round. The Spaniard’s confidence has surely been dented and unless he sparks a revival during the clay court season next year, this could very well be the beginning of the end for the Spaniard. Andy Murray battled through some early round skirmishes and a bad cold to reach the last 16 where he was stunned by big-serving Kevin Anderson, ending the Brit’s streak of reaching the quarter-finals of the last 18 Slams in a row. It was also a good fortnight for 33-year-old Feliciano Lopez, who reached his first Grand Slam quarter-final outside of Wimbledon, and American prodigy Donald Young, who survived two five setters to reach the last 16 at a Slam for only the second time in his career.
Flavia Pennetta Wins US Open as Serena’s Grand Slam Bid Derails
Since the start of the tournament, Serena Williams’ historic quest to win all the four Grand Slams in a single season since 1988 and tie Steffi Graf’s record of 22 Grand Slam singles titles was the talk of the event with the women’s final selling out before the men’s for the first time. Even though Williams denied that she was under any pressure to chase history, the hype and attention only increased as she won each round. By the time she took to the court against Grand Slam semi-final debutante Roberta Vinci for her semi-final with the winner being assured of facing an unfancied Flavia Pennetta in the final, the odds on Williams completing the milestone seemed as good as ever. But the American slipped when least expected as the weight of the chase finally got the better of her nerves. 32-year-old Vinci played what she called the match of her life to beat the American 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 in the semi-final to set up the most unexpected final in recent Grand Slam history against her countrywoman Pennetta. Pennetta had earlier knocked out Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep on her way the final and was a mild favorite for the title after the upset. In the end, it was Pennetta who walked away with the title beating her long-time friend 7-6, 6-2 and commented, “It’s amazing to have the chance to play with one of your friends. Before the match, we said it doesn’t matter … it’s going to be a really big win for both of us. I didn’t think to be here. She didn’t think to be here today, either. So it’s amazing for our country. It’s amazing for everyone.”
Equally surprising as the result was Pennetta’s announcement that she would be retiring at the end of the season, at the age of 33. “Before I started this tournament, one month ago, I made a big decision in my life. And this is why I would like to say goodbye to tennis. I’m really happy. It’s what all players want to do, go home with one of these big trophies. So this one was my last match at the US Open and I couldn’t think to finish a better way. I want to thank everyone who supported me during my career. All my coaches, my family, who aren’t here, but they’re going to be proud of me. I love you guys.”
The women’s tournament turned out to be riddled with upsets from Day 1 with seven of the Top 10 seeds being knocked out before the third round itself. Besides Serena, only Kvitova and Halep made it past and both fell at the crafty hands of Pennetta. Former World No. 1 Victoria Azarenka also put in a fine performance to reach the last eight where she was knocked out by Halep in a high-quality three-set match. Venus Williams reached the quarter-finals to cap her best season since 2010 and was beaten by sister Serena in three sets in a highly anticipated encounter which drew record TV ratings. And Frenchwoman Kristina Maldenovic made it to her first Grand Slam quarter-final where she lost to Vinci.
Herbert/ Mahut and Mirza/ Hingis Win Doubles Titles
The French pairing of Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut defeated Jamie Murray and John Peers 6-4, 6-4 to win the US Open men’s doubles title, their first Grand Slam title as a team and also becoming the first French team to win the title in New York. Herbert and Mahut are the ninth different team to win the last nine Grand Slam crowns. Sania Mirza and Martina Hingis won the women’s doubles title, winning their second Grand Slam title in a row – beating fourth seeds Casey Dellacqua and Yaroslava Shvedova, 6-3, 6-3. And Hingis also walked away with the mixed doubles title with Leander Paes, where they beat Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey 6-4, 3-6, [10-7] in the final – becoming the first team in 45 years to win three of the four mixed slams in the same season.
Novak Djokovic strengthened his stranglehold over the No. 1 ranking with his title in New York. The Serb now has a lead of more than 6,500 points over second-ranked Federer and not surprisingly has clinched the year-end World No. 1 ranking. As Murray stays put at No. 3, Stan Wawrinka climbs one spot to No. 4 and Tomas Berdych climbs one spot to No. 5 with last year’s finalist Kei Nishikori, dropping two spots to No. 6 after losing in the first round this time. Defending champion Marin Cilic drops five spots to No. 14 while Benoit Paire climbs 9 spots to No. 32 and Young climbs 17 spots to No. 51. In the doubles, the Bryan Brothers, without a Slam for the first time since 2004, hold on to the top spot while Horia Tecau and Jean-Julien Rojer climb 2 spots to No. 3 and No. 4. Peers and Murray climb 7 spots to No. 7 and 8 respectively while Herbert and Mahut climb 11 and 12 spots to No. 10 and No. 11 respectively.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams retains her World No. 1 ranking followed by Halep, Sharapova (who missed the US Open due to injury) and Kvitova. Czech Lucie Safarova, who lost in the first round, cracks the Top 5 for the first time in her career. Pennetta’s win sees her climb to a career-best No. 8 while Vinci jumps from No. 43 to No. 19 in the world and Mladenovic climbs from No. 40 to No. 28. In doubles, Mirza retains the top spot followed by Hingis. Dellacqua climbs 5 spots to No. 5 and Shvedova climbs 8 spots to No. 7.