Sunday, September 10, 2017

My U.S. Open top 10

Here are my top 10 U.S. Open occurrences, in ascending order:

10. I see you waving from up there!: While we were watching the action at the U.S. Open, something else happened--Garbine Muguruza became the world's number 1 player, succeeding Karolina Pliskova. Pliskova, last year's U.S. Open runner-up, went out in the quarterfinals, leading to an opening of that number 1 slot. There were several women with the potential to become number 1, but once the numbers were crunched, it turned out to be the two-time major champion from Spain who got the job, and it does "feel right" to have her there.

9. Saving the drama for the last act: So much attention has been lavished on the final four women all being USA players, it's easy to forget what happened in junior competition. Both finalists, CoCo Gauff and Amanda Anisimova, are also from the United States. Anisimova won the title in a match in which she cruised until it came time to close--it took her twelve match points to do it.

8. And Sveta wasn't even there: Shelby Rogers and Dasha Gavrilova played the longest women's match in the history of the U.S. Open. The second round match went on for three hours and 33 minutes (ten minutes longer than the one played by Johanna Konta and Garbine Muguruza in 2015), and the victory went to Rogers--7-6, 4-6, 7-6. Rogers is no stranger to big stage upsets, so the outcome wasn't really a surprise

7. A winning combination: Top seeds Martina Hingis and Jamie Murray won their second mixed doubles major title together; they also won Wimbledon this year. Hingis holds a total of seven mixed doubles titles.

6. Now that's more like it: Five-time major champion Maria Sharapova, who has had a terrible time with injuries since her return from a 15-month suspension, finally looked like herself at the U.S. Open, and it was a relief to see that. In one of those strange twists brought about the draw, the 2006 U.S. Open champion and 2nd seed Simona Halep met in the first round. Sharapova won the beautifully played match in three sets. She would go on to lose to the clever and on-fire Anastaija Sevastova in the round of 16, but with some more match play, who knows what the Russian star can do?

5. Many shelves required: Martina Hingis won her 24th and 25th major titles at this U.S. Open. She won the mixed doubles title with Jamie Murray, and the women's doubles title with Chan Yung-Jan. Counting her one Hopman Cup title, Hingis now has 119 professional tennis trophies, which is an amazing feat. It is especially amazing when we consider that it was hardly a smooth path she had to take to reach this level of achievement.

4. The miracle that keeps on giving: Petra is back. Not only is she back, Scary Petra played in Flushing Meadows, and she was a sight to behold. (And, given the cooler and drier conditions at this year's U.S. Open--her asthma didn't get triggered.) If we hadn't known better, we'd have thought we were watching Wimbledon. Having expertly knocked off Jelena Jankovic, Alize Cornet, Caroline Garcia, and world number 1 Muguruza, the Barking Czech's run ended when she was defeated in the quarterfinals by Venus Williams. It was a great match, and Kvitova had a great run. I wish it had gone on longer, but given the circumstances, it was amazing that it happened at all. And let's not forget that Kvitova still doesn't have all the feeling back in her left hand. Just imagine, when she does.

3. The natural order of things: Martina Hingis and Chan Yung-Jan had won six titles this year before they entered the doubles competition in Flushing Meadows as the second seeds. They have now won their first major together, and they made it look so easy. Top seeds Ekaterina Makarova were upset in the third round, which was a surprise, and which made it that much easier for Hingis and Chan to advance to the final and win the tournament.

2. Red, white and blue all over: It's been 36 years since the finalists in both women's singles and junior singles were all from the United States, but this year, that phenomenon was repeated. There were also five U.S. women in the round of 16, and four in the semifinals. And all this occurred even in the absence of Serena Williams. Fed Cup should be interesting in 2018.

1. Flashing that trophy smile: Sloane Stephens began the year ranked number 957 in the world. She'd been out for eleven months, rehabbing from foot surgery, doing commentary for Tennis Channel, collecting shoes for those in need, and conducting a personal restaurant tour of the country. When she returned to the tour, she didn't waste too much time. Stephens made it to the semifinals in both Toronto and Cincinnati. She entered the U.S. Open ranked number 83 in the world; that alone was quite an accomplishment.

Despite her considerable talent, Stephens, in her earlier days on the tour, developed a reputation as somewhat of a slacker. But little by little, she grew into that talent, winning the Washington tournament in 2015, and then, in 2016, elevating her status by winning Charleston (she also won Auckland and Acapulco that year). For those who are historically inclined, that should have been a clue, since Charleston has always tended to be a star-maker tournament.

Now, Stephens is the holder of one of the four most beloved trophies in the sport. Like Garbine Muguruza, the 24-year-old Floridian possesses a fluidity that can make winning look easier than it is. In the final, she defeated close friend Madison Keys, whose formidable forehand got her to the last round, and will undoubtedly take her to more very big stages. It will be interesting to see how the unguarded--and sometimes goofy--Stephens takes to celebrity; she may be too unaffected to let it bother her. One can hope.


Todd.Spiker said...

It's still funny to think that Hingis was actually inducted into the Hall of Fame ALMOST FIVE YEARS AGO (so she'd been out long enough to qualify and they didn't think she'd be back). :)

What she's done since coming back from her second retirement and suspension (Ha! She sounds like a boxer!) -- 9 slam titles, 25 overall WD wins, a Mixed Career Slam w/ Paes -- might be enough for her doubles-only career to have qualified her for the HoF even if her singles career didn't exist, or at least two more seasons of similar success might make it so.

I mean, she won multiple Legends titles at the slams while playing against the other "past" greats... in 2011-12. :D

Diane said...

She could have been inducted multiple times, imo. There are so many sports stories about how players overcame great difficulties, but Hingis is never mentioned in that conversation. Odd, because she is the ultimate survivor.