The confetti has long since cleared on the ostentatiously expensive fireworks display, the funds of which could be better spent by the USTA (US Tennis Association) on producing higher quality home-grown talent. One stark fact remains, however: Novak Djokovic is the best male player in the world. The US Open at Flushing Meadows has thrown up several first-time winners in preceding years: Juan Martin Del Potro in 2009, Rafael Nadal in 2010, Djokovic in 2011, Andy Murray in 2012 and Marin ?ili? in 2014. However, this has been a year dominated by the old guard; Djokovic beating Roger Federer in the final for his tenth grand slam victory.
The media build up to this year’s final had a somewhat farcical tone to it. The fact that Federer is held in some media circles with reverence rendered the debate somewhat moot and void of realism. Since 2010, Federer has only won one grand slam, and has not beaten Djokovic on a hard court in a best of five sets match since 2009. The outcome, whilst exciting to behold, nonetheless produced an almost identical scoreline to that of their Wimbledon final a few months previously.
Federer’s ‘new’ technique of kamikaze returning, hitting off the opponent’s serve from inside the service line, garnered acclaim for its guile, but was never truly going to decide the victor. The almost blanket warmth towards Federer is not entirely unexpected, however, given his popularity around the world, and did not necessarily stifle his performance. The same cannot be said for the real headline act of this year’s championships.
Serena Williams’ losses in previous years have been characterised by players giving her different looks at the ball, slices, spins, volleys
Serena Williams entered the US Open as the overwhelming favourite to win the tournament and complete the calendar slam, a feat not achieved since 1988 by Steffi Graf. Her tournament was symptomatic of her slam year as a whole, clinical brutality interspersed with bizarre mental collapses and poor footwork when the pressure became intense. Aside from the first two full matches, she had been comfortable until the 33 year old Italian Roberta Vinci ended her valiant attempt at the toughest challenge in the sport.
Serena Williams’ losses in previous years have been characterised by players giving her different looks at the ball, slices, spins, volleys. It is a puzzle as to why more players are not at least attempting this style against her. Sharapova stated in an interview in 2013 that she would not drastically change her game style to try to overturn her lopsided record against Serena. After Vinci’s semi-final display she may want to rethink this assessment.
The Brit’s performances in general were varied, with Johanna Konta being the pick in the singles, in reaching the fourth round and coming within an hour or two of outlasting Andy Murray in the tournament, the rarest of rare feats. The omens are good for the hard-working 25 year old and it is hoped that the run will lead to slightly better results in the short term, in stark contrast to Heather Watson’s unfortunate drop-off post-Wimbledon. She and Laura Robson (who admittedly played one of her first matches since having a year off through injury) both lost in their respective first round matches.
This transpired to be a blessing in disguise with a thoroughly dominant display in the Davis Cup semi-final against Australia, which clearly motivated him to achieve a frankly ridiculous standard in his two singles matches, not losing a set
Andy Murray’s first exit before the quarter final stage of any slam in five years at the hands of Kevin Anderson was particularly disappointing, given his superb form in the warm-up series. He defeated Djokovic in the final of the Canadian masters and managing to haul himself into the semi-final the next week in Cincinnati despite those exertions. This transpired to be a blessing in disguise with a thoroughly dominant display in the Davis Cup semi-final against Australia, which clearly motivated him to achieve a frankly ridiculous standard in his two singles matches, not losing a set.
In reaching the final of the US Open men’s doubles, in similar fashion to his Wimbledon final, Jamie Murray’s run of form in the men’s doubles with his Australian partner John Peers no doubt helped in the decisive doubles rubber. The lightning-quick reactions honed over this period were crucial in beating the monstrous Sam Groth, holder of the fastest serve in tennis, and the legendary grafter Lleyton Hewitt, who retires after the 2016 Australian open to take over at the helm of the Davis Cup team.
However, Britain’s first Davis Cup final since 1978 will hold the intrigue of the nation when they play off against Belgium and barring injuries, will dare to dream about their first win since 1936
Martina Hingis added an intriguing ingredient to the narrative of this year’s championships, adding her fourth and fifth doubles slam titles of the year, moving level with Serena Williams on 10/12 total championships that an individual can win in the year. Alas she has always stated that she has no wish to return to the singles to win the remaining French open from her collection. Given her varied style, it would be refreshing for the women’s game if she were ever to consider a complete comeback.
With the slam tournaments over for another year, the narrative will shift to the Asian swing and the attempt to claim the number 2 for the year now Djokovic and Serena are the undisputed year-end number ones. With Murray, Federer and Stan Wawrinka soul-searching, and no women’s player truly stepping up to match the consistency of Serena, it may take some time before these seemingly unstoppable champions hit the buffers. However, Britain’s first Davis Cup final since 1978 will hold the intrigue of the nation when they play off against Belgium and barring injuries, will dare to dream about their first win since 1936.
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Image courtesy of The Guardian
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