This year’s thrilling US Open ended in dramatic fashion when a heavily favored Novak Djokovic saw the US Open title go to Swiss opponent Stan Wawrinka. A dominant semi-final victory had speculators almost certain that Djokovic was on his way to a second consecutive US Open title, but it is clear that many underestimated the raw talent he was up against.
The 12-time Grand Slam champion surrendered the championship in four rounds, with an apparent knee injury hampering his best effort. A native of Serbia, currently ranked the No.1 player in the world, downplayed his injury post game and congratulated Wawrinka on pulling of the upset. Rafael Nadal, the leader in French Open titles and tied for second-most career grand slam titles, lost in the 16th round to No. 25 Lucas Pouille of France. In the fifth set, Nadal went up an early break, with fans prematurely celebrating what seemed to be a guaranteed win.
However, Pouille fought back to break Nadal back at 2-4 later in the fifth, after an uncharacteristically bad forehand error by Nadal. Then, at 6-6 in the fifth set tiebreaker, after saving three match points, Nadal missed a very easy forehand, striking the ball into the net instead of ending the game as many expected he would.
Having not secured a major title in two years, many are starting to wonder if Nadal has lost his prime. The 30-year-old had to retire from the French Open and missed Wimbledon, also failing to make a quarterfinal this year after losing in the first round in the Australian Open.
Nadal has reached only two quarterfinals in the nine majors played since he last won. For the most part, he has lost to lower-ranked players, and his losses are looking more and more out of form, due in large part to numerous injuries. In last year’s US Open, he lost in the third round after leading by two sets.
With Nadal’s loss, it is the first time since 2003 that neither Nadal nor Federer have reached the US Open quarterfinal. Federer, arguably the greatest tennis player of all time, did not even play at the US Open because of lingering knee problems.
Frances Tiafoe, the 18-year-old who is considered the most promising of the up-and-coming U.S. men, lost to No. 20 John Isner in a five-set battle in the first round. Tiafoe, ranked No. 125 in the world and playing in only his third Grand Slam match, was up two sets to love and was serving for the match at 5-3 in the fifth set but failed to capitalize on the opportunity.
Isner went on to a disappointing loss in the third round to Kyle Edmund of Britain. Nonetheless, the young Americans have surged through the draw. Jack Sock, seeded No. 26, played tremendously on his way to a third-round upset of 2014 US Open Champion Marin Cilic in straight sets. After having a lot of success in doubles, winning two majors, Sock has started to focus on singles so that he can progress further in the grand slams.
He became the last U.S. man standing in the men’s draw after making it to the fourth round at the U.S. Open for the first time in his career. But his run ended with a four-set loss to the No. 9 seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Sock and Steve Johnson will move ahead of Isner, who had been the No. 1 ranked U.S. player for over four years.
Jared Donaldson, a 19-year-old who won three matches to qualify, had an excellent tournament after upsetting No. 12 seeded Belgian David Goffin in the first round and later beating No. 32 ranked Victor Troicki in straight sets.
Instead of taking the traditional developmental approach of the United States Tennis Association, Donaldson went to Argentina for a few years to perfect his game on the red clay surface not common in U.S. tennis.
Donaldson, a Rhode Island native, left for Argentina at 15 years old, saying that in his time there he “learned how to put spin and shape on the ball and develop longer point construction.” This, along with help on his serve from former players Tayler and Phil Dent, allowed Donaldson to pose a formidable challenge to his opponents.
The 2016 US Open was an exciting shift from the familiar faces fans have come to expect in major tournaments. New opponents are staking a claim for the top spot and in turn, fans are treated to thrilling back-and-forth matches.
Perhaps the American draw has the most to look forward to in the future, given their long slate of young prospects that have tremendous potential to become familiar faces in upcoming major tournaments. Nonetheless, fans still expect the legends like Djokavic to continue to dominate in the near future. As per his injury, Djokavic has insisted that there is no significant worry and that he is well on the way to recovery.
Many are buzzing about the upcoming Australian Open, scheduled for January; in hopes that it will replicate the high intensity, back-and-forth play which was common throughout the US Open.