Ups and downs from U.S Open

Bradley Piros, Courier Staff

The U.S. Open is my favorite of the four tennis majors, above the French Open, Australian Open, and even Wimbledon. With its conclusion, I’m going to tell you why this was one of the most entertaining tennis tournaments to remember in the last decade.

First of all, how does the tournament work? I’d like to point out I’m only going to be focusing on singles competition. One-hundred-twenty-eight men and women qualify for the tournament and are seeded appropriately. The entire tournament is single game elimination, so, just like other tournaments, there can be major upsets. It’s essentially the March Madness of tennis.

Everything was typical through the first and second rounds heading into the third, but wow did the third round deliver. It kicked off with a four hour and 23-minute classic between the No. 1 seed Rafael Nadal (Spain) and No. 27 Karen Khachonov (Russia). To the surprise of many, the Russian went out and took the first set 7-5, leaving Nadal a little rattled. The Spaniard brushed it off, though, and went and won the second set 7-5, tying things at one a piece.

Khachonov would take the early lead in the third set, but Nadal was able to force the tie-break and win set three 7-6. He would do the same thing in the fourth set, as he put the final nail in the coffin for Khachonov. Words can’t describe this match. I encourage you to go find highlights, because this, in my opinion, was the most spectacular match in the entire tournament.

Everything else was normal, until the biggest upset of the tournament. The No. 2 seed Roger Federer (Switzerland) was eliminated by unranked John Millman (Australia) in the fourth round. Winner goes on to the quarterfinals to play No. 6 seed Novak Djokovic (Serbia), and it was expected to be easy work for Federer to get there.

However, that was not the case. Everything was going great as Federer took the first set 6-3. But it was Millman’s resilience that saw him through to the next round. He went and won three straight sets, all of them in dramatic fashion as he just eliminated debatably the greatest player of all time. Holding the status of most major singles wins by a man (20), most people, including myself, wanted Federer to go through to the finals to play Nadal in another one of those epic clashes.

As the competition came to a close, things were beginning to heat up. The fourth round was do or die as it was multiple ranked matches in a row. Nothing too spectacular happened and just like that, it was down to eight men.

Nadal won in five sets against No. 9 Dominic Thiem (Austria), while Djokovic made easy work of Millman, defeating him in three sets. The third quarterfinals match saw No. 7 Marin Cilic (Croatia) get upset by No. 27 Kei Nishikori (Japan) in three sets. The final round-of-eight match was heartbreaking to all Americans watching, as it saw No. 11 John Isner (United States) fall short to No. 3 Juan Martin del Potro (Argentina) in four sets. Isner had a standing ovation after his defeat as he and del Potro embraced after the match.

The tournament, now down to four men, still had a very long way to go. The semifinal matchups were Nadal vs. del Potro and Nishikori vs. Djokovic. Both set to be spectacular matches, all four men would fight tooth and nail to climb their way to the finals. Both matches ended after 3 sets, seeing the Serbian and Argentine through to the big game.

It eventually saw Djokovic win the U.S. Open three sets to none (6-3, 7-6, 6-3) and his 14th major singles title overall. A little bit of a lackluster finish, but it got the job done to cap off the tournament.

Now let’s move on to the women’s bracket. Same thing here; 128 initial competitors, who have to obviously qualify just to be in the tournament, and then are seeded accordingly. The only difference is that men play best of five sets while women only play best of three.

Anticipation wise, Federer was the biggest upset, but statistically, it came from the first women’s match to be played. Simona Halep (Romania) obtained the No. 1 seed in qualifying, while favorite Serena Williams (United States) was ranked an average No. 17. Halep was upset in the first round by unranked Kaia Kanepi (Estonia) in two sets. Halep had just won this year’s French Open and was expected to get at least to the semi-finals by many.

The second round went by smoothly, nothing too exciting happening, but once again, it was a third-round matchup that was captivating everyone’s attention. This time around it was the Williams sisters going at it. No. 17 Serena took on her slightly older sister Venus who was the No. 16 seed.

These two have been a dominant force since they first burst on to the scene back in 1999. 19 years later, they would go head to head. Not at all the first time this has happened, but every time it does come around, it gets better and better.

This one was insanely hyped up to be something special, but to be honest, it wasn’t. It was cool to see the sisters do battle under the lights on primetime ESPN, but Serena just made easy work of her sister, defeating her in two sets (6-1, 6-2) to move on to the fourth round.

The third round finished with a couple more upsets, like the No. 30 Carla Suarez Navarro (Spain) beating No. 6 Caroline Garcia (France). You also had No. 29 Dominika Cibulkova (Serbia) defeat No. 4 Angelique Kerber (Germany) and No. 26 Aryna Sabalenka (Belarus) beat No. 5 Petra Kvitova (Czech Republic).

Everything went normal in the fourth and fifth round, leading us to the semi-finals once again. Serena Williams went up against No. 19 Anastasija Sevestova (Latvia) while No. 14 Madison Keys (United States) took on No. 20 Naomi Osaka (Japan).

I myself, wanted an all-American final between Williams and Keys, but that didn’t happen. Williams and Osaka both won in two sets, meaning they would see each other in the finals. Osaka would win in a rather controversial U.S. Open final, defeating Williams in two sets 6-2 and 6-4 to get her first Grand Slam singles title.

Needless to say, this was a terrific tournament that did have its ups and downs along the way. It was fun for all viewers from the casual tennis fan like myself, to the hard-core fans that watch every single match week in and week out. It was all good fun in the end, and I especially can’t wait for the next majors’ tourney.