Courtesy of WikiMedia

In a strange, pandemic U..S. Open, tennis fans get a glimpse at the future of the sport.

As a result of the Wimbledon cancellation over the summer, the last Grand Slam tournament held was the Australian Open as far back as February. Since then, the Association of Tennis Professionals and Women’s Tennis Association have worked on an effective re-start of the season. This made the U..S.. Open momentous as the first Grand Slam tournament since the Australian Open. While usually essentially every player that can qualify plays in this tournament,many top stars in both the Men and Women’s division opted out due to COVID-19-19 concerns.

On the men’s side, the two most notable missing players were Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, which left Novak Djokovic to be the presumptive favorite with what looked to be one of his easiest paths to a Grand Slam victory ever. The trio of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic has dominated tennis since Federer’s first grand slam win in 2003, and has won 34 of the past 41 Grand Slams, going as far back as 2010. Without the presence of Federer and Nadal, the mmen’s division would be wide open.

It looked like Djokovic would cruise to the finals after winning two of his first three matches in straight sets. However, after hitting a ball towards the back of the court after losing a point, Djokovic accidentally hit a line judge and he was automatically defaulted. This meant that it would be the first Grand Slam quarterfinal since 2004 that would not have any member of the formidable trio. Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev were tthe remaining TTop 5 seeds still in the tournament;; Dominic Thiem, Daniil Medvedev and Alexander Zverev, all advanced to the semi-finals in Djokovic’s absence.

Pablo Correna Busta, Djokovic’s opponent in the match where he defaulted, was the fourth semi-finalist. Thiem won his semi-final match in straight sets against Medvedev, and Correna Busta was in the driver’s seat to meet up against him in the finals after winning the first two sets. However, Zverev won the final three sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-3 to secure his spot instead. EitherEither Thiem or Zverev wasas now guaranteed to get their first Grand Slam victory. Zverev won the first two sets, then Thiem took the next two to send the match into a crucial fifth set. The score was 6-6 near the end of the set, so the match entered a tiebreaker where Thiem eventually won a narrow 8-6 victory.

In the women’s division, the top-two ranked players, Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep and defending U.S. Open champion, Bianca Andrescu, all decided to not enter the U.S. Open. The runaway favorites going into the tournament were Naomi Osaka, who has an Australian Open win and a US Open win at just the age of 22, and Serena Williams, who is considered one of the greatest women’s tennis players of all time. Karolina Pliskova and Sofia Kenin were the one-seed and the two-seed, respectively, and as such were also considered possible favorites.

Pliskova was the first of the Top 4 to lose and Pliskova shockingly lost in the second round to the unseeded Carolina Garcia. Kenin then lost to 16th-seed Elise Mertens in the fourth round to become the next of the Top 4 to lose. Osaka and Williams, however, both made their way into the semi-finals, and they were one win away from a rematch of the 2018 US Open that gave Osaka her first Grand Slam win. Up against the 28-seed, Jennifer Brady, Osaka received a challenge for the first two sets. Brady barely lost the first set 6-7, then won the second set 6-3.
However, Osaka controlled the third set with a 6-3 win to secure a spot in the finals.
Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka competed in the other semi-final, and while Azarenka was unseeded, she was coming off a win at the Western & Southern Open. Williams dominated the first set 6-1, however Azarenka took over the rest of the match winning 6-3 in both of the final two sets. In the finals, Azarenka took the first set against Osaka with a 6-1 win, but Osaka came back and won the final two sets 6-3 and 6-3 to get her second US Open victory and her third Grand Slam victory.

The U.S. Open gave many tennis fans a glimpse into the future. Djokovic, Nadal and Federer can’t play forever, and their combined absence in late matches gave fans a look at the young players that could take over in the near future. As for the women’s Division, Naomi Osaka established herself as the future face of women’s tennis. While the men’s big three and Serena Williams could still play for a while, the future looks set in both divisions.

Post Author: Ethan Worley