Young Stars Burst into the Spotlight at the US Open

Staff Writer: Ramon Elortondo 

The 2017 US Open had glistening magnificence from the start. Story lines swarmed the atmosphere as one famous pregnancy and some assorted injuries fleeced the draw of past champions Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka, with finalists Victoria Azarenka and Kei Nishikori also unable to make the journey to Flushing.  

As the first round passed, more big names followed after astonishing losses in the first two rounds. No. 2 seed Simona Halep and No. 7 Johanna Konta were vanquished in the first round, and No. 5 Caroline Wozniacki, No. 6 Angelique Kerber and No. 8 Svetlana Kuznetsova all lost in the second. 

As for on the men’s side, nothing compared to the bottom half of the draw, which extinguished its full complement of Top 10 seeds and any former Grand Slam finalist as well as all but one past major semifinalist by the end of Round 3. 

But those early exits gave way for new and talented players that were the face of tennis for this generation. Naomi Osaka, Andrey Rublev and Denis Shapovalov, to name a few. Shapovalov, the new Canadian superstar made all the way to the round of 16 after his great performance in the tournament before in Montreal. Although the young guns might have stolen the spotlight, tennis vets still made some noise. Maria Sharapova played in her first slam after being suspended from tennis for performance enhancing drugs years ago. Knocking out Halep, the path to glory looked much better as she took over the number two seeds draw. The return to glory from injured fan favorites Juan Martin del Potro and Petra Kvitova, and a semifinal run by the beloved grand dame of the women’s game, Venus Williams. Amid all the madness, there was wonder, the kind that only the toughest two weeks in tennis can deliver. 

In the women’s draw, something we’ve never seen became a reality. The semi-final was made up of four Americans. Sloane Stephens vs. Venus Williams, and Coco Vandeweghe vs. Madison Keys. What a better way to experience such a rare thing than at America’s own grand slam. Sloane took Venus out in an exhilarating up and down three sets, while Madison Keys easily put Coco out in two sets.  

I asked my boss at the Bridgemill Tennis Courts what she thought, “I don’t think I have ever seen this. American tennis has struggled in the past years, especially on the men’s side so having an all-American semi in awesome.” 

Men’s semifinal was made up of world number one Rafael Nadal, and veterans that never quite were able to break through, until now. Juan Martin Del Potro from Argentina, coming back from multiple wrist surgeries has been here before but it’s been a while, Kevin Anderson, the South African with a big game, and the fellow Spaniard to Nadal, Pablo Correño Busta. The first match, Nadal and Del Potro, went four sets with Nadal coming out on top. Kevin Anderson topped the Spaniard in four after losing the first set. Kevin was into his first major final, with nothing to lose. All the pressure would be on Nadal to prove his glory.  

In the end, there were two deserving champions, one with years of experience, one who has been around the game dominating on all surfaces, especially clay, and another who had shown glimpses of what could be, but finally breaking out and becoming US Open Champion. Nadal, and Sloane Stephens who was coming in unranked.  

Men's Singles - F 

Rafael Nadal hugs the US Open trophy after winning his third title in flushing meadows. Photo courtesy of creativecommons.com, gathered by Nadia Jahoda. 

Unseeded Sloane Stephens emerged from an all-American women’s semifinal round, the last four in the women’s draw all hailed from the U.S. at the US Open for the first time since 1981, as a most appropriate champion for an upset-addled draw. Just six months ago, she was confined to a wheelchair, rehabbing a foot injury that required surgery and kept her off the tour for 11 months. 

“If you told someone this story, they’d be, like, ‘That’s insane’.” Sloane Stephens after winning the title. 

On Saturday, she hoisted the women’s singles trophy, a Grand Slam victor in her first major final, a player who survived four three-set matches, and two third-set tiebreaks, to prevail. 

Women's Singles - F

Sloane Stephens throws her arms up in relief after an unforced error from Keys on match point, winning her first major title. Photo courtesy of creativecommons.com, gathered by Nadia Jahoda.  

Rafael Nadal needed no such drama. The top seed claimed the championship in emphatic fashion, defeating surprise finalist Kevin Anderson in a one-sided final to win his third men’s singles title and further solidify his place as one of the Open’s all-time champions. There was, yet again, no match against Roger Federer, the Swiss was upset in the quarterfinals by del Potro, one round shy of facing Nadal for the first time in New York, but that made no matter to the Spaniard. He took on all rivals, new stars and former champs, and dismissed them all. 

 

 

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