A Historic Open


The most recent US Open was one for the books, especially because of the crowd in the final matches. (Courtesy of Michael Hernandez)

What comes to mind when you think of tennis? Often it is the four grand slams, the biggest tournaments in the calendar year: the Australian Open, the French Open, Wimbledon and last but not least, the U.S. Open. The best players in tennis head to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens to play on the hard courts and win a grand slam. History was made in both of this year’s singles tournaments.

That was true of the women’s final even before a champion was crowned. The finalists were 18-year-old Emma Raducanu from Great Britain and 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez. This is the first major final between two teens since the 1999 U.S. Open where Serena Williams defeated Martina Hingis. 

As for the men, number one Novak Djokovic went against the second ranked player, Daniil Medvedev. Djokovic had the chance to complete the calendar grand slam, winning all four grand slam titles in the same year. The last time anyone had ever performed this remarkable feat was Steffi Graf back in 1988. In addition, winning the U.S. Open would give Djokovic 21 grand slam titles, a new record. He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for first with 20 grand slam titles.

The women played first on Saturday with Raducanu winning her first career title in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3. In addition to winning, Raducanu also set a few more records during her time in the Big Apple. She was one of the qualifiers for the U.S. Open, which meant that she had to play three more matches to even advance to the main draw. She became the first qualifier to both reach and win the final of a grand slam. She also became the first British woman to win a major singles title since Virginia Wade at Wimbledon in 1977, and the first to do so at the U.S. Open since Wade in 1968. She also won the entire tournament without dropping a single set. Before the main draw started, Raducanu was ranked 150 in the world. Expect that to change.

One day later, the pressure was on Djokovic, one match away from setting history. On the other hand, Medvedev was playing to win his first ever grand slam title. It was not meant to be for the number one player in the world, with Medvedev winning in straight sets 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 for his first grand slam. Djokovic was sloppy from the get-go, making countless unforced errors that cost him big time. 

I was fortunate to go to both events, and the atmosphere for the men’s final was unlike anything that I have ever seen before. The crowd was pulling for Djokovic with history being on the line. The crowd is silent during the run of play in normal tennis etiquette, which includes when the player faults the first serve or during their serve motion. 

However, in this match, all of that went out of the window. The crowd was making noise to try and throw Medvedev off rhythm during his serve so Djokovic could perform a comeback, especially in the final set. Every time Medevdev faulted, the crowd cheered and tried to get into his head, successfully at some points. I have never seen a crowd support one particular player to that capacity. 

Djokovic attempted a comeback in the third set, but it was too little, too late. With this defeat, Djokovic’s attempt for a calendar slam will have to wait until next year as he remains tied for the all-time lead in grand slams with Federer and Nadal. As the three reach the ends of their careers — Djokovic at 34 years old, Nadal, 35, and Federer, 40 — time is running out for the trio that has dominated tennis for the past decade. But as both Raducanu and Fernandez showed, the future is bright as fans already look forward to the Australian Open.