Over the past two weeks, the best tennis players in the world descended upon Flushing Meadows for the biggest tournament of the year. Although the event was missing some notable figures, (Serena Williams, Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Victoria Azarenka, among others) the tournament did not disappoint and allowed for some of the future stars of the sport to make a name for themselves.
The Women’s Draw
This year’s US Open saw a living legend claim yet another Grand Slam, and a rising star fresh from injury burst back onto the scene to claim her first major title. With the absence of tournament mainstay and six-time champion Serena Williams, the women’s field was wide open. The most anticipated player in the tournament was Maria Sharapova, who entered the tournament as a wild card after coming off a 15-month suspension for using a banned substance. Spectators that came out to the first night at Arthur Ashe were treated to an epic match where Sharapova triumphed over #2 seed Simona Halep. Sharapova was one of the main draws of the tournament until she was finally eliminated in the Round of 16 by Anastasjia Sevastova.
The storyline that would evenutally overshadow Sharapova’s return was the all-American women’s semifinals, a feat that had not been done at the U.S. Open since 1981. The semifinalists included the veteran Venus Williams, making her 20th appearance in the U.S. Open, along with young up-and-comers Coco Vandeweghe, Madison Keys, and the eventual champion, Sloane Stephens.
In Saturday’s final, 24-year old Sloane Stephens defeated her good friend Madison Keys in straight sets to claim her first Grand Slam title. Throughout the tournament, it was well-documented that Stephens had previously suffered a foot injury that had sidelined her for 11 months prior to this year’s Wimbledon. Before the U.S. Open, Stephens was ranked #957 in the world and after her victory will be #17, an unprecedented jump in rankings. She is the lowest seeded woman to win the U.S. Open in the Open Era, and only the second unseeded woman to win the tournament.
The Men’s Draw
Prior to the U.S. Open, the tennis world was hoping to finally get to see a clash of titans between World #1 Rafael Nadal and #2 Roger Federer. If everything played out correctly, the two would meet in the semifinals for the first time ever at the U.S. Open. Federer struggled noticeably through the first few rounds of the tournament, having to endure multiple five-set matches to get to the quarterfinals. His inconsistent play eventually got the best of him as he was defeated in four sets by crowd favorite Juan Martin del Potro, who had previously come back from a two-set deficit to upset Dominic Thiem in the previous round.
On the other hand, Nadal held up his end of the deal by cruising through his half of the draw, never having to face any opponents in the top-20 world ranking. Nadal displayed amazing power with the forehand throughout the tournament, and eventually claimed his third U.S. Open title and 16th major championship by defeating veteran Kevin Anderson in straight sets.
In one of the best feel-good stories of the event, Tennis Hall of Famer Martina Hingis went on to win both the ladies doubles’ championship and mixed doubles championship. Hingis is making a great case to be one of the best doubles players of all time, with 13 ladies’ doubles titles, and 7 mixed doubles titles. She is also the 17th woman in history to have completed a career slam in doubles.
Look Ahead to Next Year
This year brought in a major milestone with the 20th anniversary of Arthur Ashe stadium, the biggest tennis stadium in the world. However, next year’s celebration should be even bigger as we look forward to the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open, and the opening of the much-anticipated Louis Armstrong Stadium.