US Open 2019: Key Talking Points
The 2019 edition of the the US Open has come to an end. Champions were crowned: Rafael Nadal conquered the men’s side, Canadian Bianca Andreescu won her first ever women's singles.
But the official scores only tell one part of the story: who won the last match of the tournament.
Here are some key talking points from Flushing Meadows.
Serena Williams and her final frontier sputter
Serena Williams didn’t win her finals match against Canadian (and relative newcomer) Bianca Andreescu, which means she’ll need to play another six matches at another Grand Slam if she wants an opportunity to catch Margaret Court’s all-time record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles.
But down 6-3, 5-1 in the finals, Williams showed toughness and clawed back to 5-5. While she wasn’t on the top of her game, Williams treated fans to flashes of greatness, blitzing Andreescu and an array of aces, forehands, and power tennis that helped Williams win her 23 earlier Grand Slams.
Every point Williams scored was met with loud, goosebump-inducing applause. Fans were rooting for her to make good on her “comeback” — Williams hasn’t won a Grand Slam since giving birth to her daughter in 2017.
But it was not meant to be, as Andreescu would eventually win the match in two sets, 6-3, 7-5. Still, Williams showed that even on days when she isn’t the dominating force we’ve come to know as Serena Williams, she’s capable of immense fight and grit.
Gauff and Osaka's sportsmanship
It takes a star of immense wattage to stand among the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Serena Williams, who were all major forces at the 2019 US Open.
But that is exactly what 15-year-old Coco Gauff did. Gauff’s game is a splendid mix of power and grace, an electric backhand mixed with breezy footwork and movement, and a joy to watch.
In the third round of the tournament, she went up against world number one and 2018 US Open champion Naomi Osaka.
As Osaka hit rocket-like returns, Gauff became over-matched in the second set, losing it 6-0.
But before stepping off the court, the two shared a moment of great sportsmanship, with Osaka encouraging Gauff to stay on the court for the post-match interview, in which Osaka thanked the crowd and applauded Gauff’s effort.
It was the single best moment of sportsmanship at the US Open in recent memory.
One of the most cruel things about tennis is how under-appreciated and misunderstood Novak Djokovic is.
If he had ascended during a different era, he’d be considered the greatest player of all time. But in going up against Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, he has assumed the role of a villain somewhat.
Fresh off a dramatic championship win at Wimbledon, Djokovic was looking to add another Grand Slam title at the Open, which would have brought his total to 17 and put him on a path to catching up with Federer’s record of 20 titles.
But then he went up against perennial good guy, the beloved Stan Wawrinka, in the third round of the tournament.
Down 4-6, 5-7, 1-2, with the crowd on Wawrinka’s side, Djokovic ultimately retired from the match with a shoulder injury and was met with boos from the crowd.
Medvedev's topsy turvy affair with the NY crowd
It takes a lot to make tennis fans hate a player more than current tennis bad boy Nick Kyrgios, whose constant temper tantrums have defined his career more than his talent.
Enter Daniil Medvedev, a lanky 6-foot-6 Russian with a precise two-handed backhand who, in the span of three matches, became the tour’s most reviled villain.
Medvedev’s history already includes a $14,500 fine in 2017 at Wimbledon and a disqualification for racist remarks, but it was his behavior during his third-round match against Feliciano Lopez that most unnerved the New York City crowd.
In the first set, he threw a tantrum, and, in behavior reminiscent of a toddler having a meltdown, Medvedev violently snatched a towel from a ball person and then sneered at the chair umpire Damien Dumusois after he was reprimanded with a code violation.
Most shocking was when he went on to slyly flash a middle finger toward Dumusois during a changeover. And when he won the match, Medvedev told the crowd: “I want all of you to know when you sleep tonight, I won because of you.”
If there’s a silver lining to Medvedev’s fortnight, it’s that he showed grit, determination, and eventually humility in the men’s final after losing to Rafael Nadal in five sets — perhaps enough to make tennis fans forget about his awful antics earlier in the tournament.
Nadal and his pursuit of 20 Slams
While the women’s side of the field eclipsed the men’s, Rafael Nadal and Daniil Medvedev treated fans to an enduring and emotional five-set final.
While many players would keel over when down two sets against Nadal and his persistent, grinding style of tennis, Medvedev steeled himself and settled in.
Medvedev started changing his style, using all parts of the court to find brilliant angles and also outlasted Nadal during some of the match’s longest rallies.
Just when Medvedev had fought back and irritated Nadal (Nadal was cited multiple times for taking too long to serve between points), Nadal squeaked by for the win after four hours and 50 minutes of play.
It was the Spaniard's fourth US Open title and 19th ever Grand Slam title, putting him one behind Roger Federer's 20.