The men’s final concluded this year’s US Open of Tennis on September 8 with two players making their first Grand Slam appearances—Marin Cilic of Croatia and Kei Nishikori of Japan. They both played with incredible aggression and composure, but Cilic lifted the trophy, defeating the Japanese sensation Nishikori in straight sets (6-3, 6-3, 6-3). I consider these to be the biggest surprises throughout the tournament. The two young finalists defeated world-renowned Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Roger Federer of Switzerland, making it the first men’s Grand Slam final without any of the “big four” players (the other two being Rafael Nadal of Spain and Andy Murray of Great Britain) in years. To me, it was definitely surprising to see both Marin Cilic and Kei Nishikori in the final, considering Cilic’s past doping problem and Nishikori’s foot injury going into this year’s U.S. Open. More remarkably, Nishikori became the first Asian male tennis player to enter any Grand Slam final. What is interesting to see is that Nishikori is currently coached by former French Open champion, Chinese-American player Michael (Depei) Zhang. In my opinion, their success will become a milestone in Asian tennis history.
I would say it is hard to deny that some of the amazingly talented young male players are becoming a true threat to the “big four” players, who, in the last few years, have made the predication of match results a relatively easy task. Newcomers such as Canada’s Milos Raonic, Bulgaria’s Grigor Dimitrov and the two finalists here at the U.S. Open have all presented the skills and courage that make them ready to challenge some of the sport’s active legends. Tennis is a very physically demanding sport after all, and youth gives these players a huge advantage going into a five set game. Some of these newcomers have already made the ATP’s top 10 ranking, and it will be exciting to see how the tennis world will change in the next few seasons.
On the women’s side, Serena Williams was crowned the champion for the third year in a row after defeating the Danish sweetheart Caroline Wozniacki 6-3, 6-3. After being uncharacteristically knocked out in the first few rounds in all three Grand Slams earlier in the season, it was exciting to see Serena Williams finally leave victorious on her home soil.
If Williams holding the trophy is more or less becoming a U.S. Open tradition, Caroline Wozniacki’s second trip to the US Open final after five years must be a pleasant surprise to all of her fans. Constantly being questioned, the former world No.1 once again proved herself, beating Russian superstar Maria Sharapova in three sets and winning over former top 10 player Sara Errani with an impressive 6-0,6-1. What I was so delighted to see from Wozniacki was her display of great offensive power while maintaining her advantage on the defensive side, preventing many would be points with her quick and organized footwork and effortless running.
The two other players that impressed me the most on the women’s side were Peng Shuai of China and Ekateria Makarova of Russia. No one expected Peng to go anywhere far in the draw, and the Chinese media were already delighted when she went through to the second week. However, Peng Shuai, known for her doubles Grand Slam titles with Taiwan’s Heish Su-Wei, became the third Chinese women to earn a ticket to a Grand Slam semifinal after Li Na and Zheng Jie. Although she had to retire from the semifinal against Caroline Wozniacki due to heat illness, the confidence and perseverance that she demonstrated throughout the tournament was such a delight to see after China’s tennis superstar, Li Na, unfortunately had to withdraw from the U.S. open weeks before the start.
Ekaterina Makarova of Russia is also known as a phenomenal doubles player with her partner Elena Vesnina. Not only did Makarova lift the doubles trophy once again, she also played well against Serena Williams in the semifinal in singles. It is incredible the way she could balance her schedule and energy between singles and doubles and her results this year at the US Open were extraordinary.
On the other hand, there were also players that disappointed. The fact that Rafael Nadal failed to make it to this year’s U.S. open because of injury wouldn’t have probably been my pick for the tournament’s upset as no one could ever count him out in men’s draw. On the women’s side, I was anticipating seeing newcomer Eugenie Bouchard’s performance after her first run to a Grand Slam final this year at the All-England Club. Considered the second “Maria Sharapova,” she is powerful as an offensive player and agile as a defensive player. Unfortunately, she lost to Makarova in the fourth round, breaking her streak of at least playing in the semifinal in the first three Grand Slams of the year. However, the Canadian sensation has so many years ahead of her and if she continues to progress, she could very well be the next Maria Sharapova, or even better.
This year’s U.S. Open was exciting to watch, as spectators saw some fresh faces trying to end an era of dominating power in men’s singles. Equally exhilarating to see were a few female players reaching new heights in the last Grand Slam of the year.