It has always been the unanswered question: what is the sound of a clapping hand? Is that what we experienced at the US Open, a zen moment that would have stretched even Orwell’s imagination, a surreal event of intense tennis set amid the echoing sound of balls being hit in cavernous stadiums, devoid of of spectators and atmosphere?
That the compelling sports drama produced is a tribute not only to the US who somehow managed to create the required bubble, but also to the players whose every breath you could hear, whose squeak of a shoe told about their speed and ability to turn and chase. hit that brutal ball harder and harder. From Naomi Osakas ‘endearing smile and developing wisdom to Dominic Thiems’ incredulous laugh as he slumped in his chair and battled cramps at the end of a four-hour plus duel, this unforgettable opportunity spoke to the greatness of the game. and the very dedicated ability of his athletes.
We learned so much from watching the most unusual Grand Slam tournament ever played and, thankfully, completed. Perhaps most of all it was proof that top players don’t need the incentive of crowds to bring out their best tennis, no matter how much they missed them and want them back. And that the big stars who chose not to play for completely legitimate reasons weren’t missed either. Chris Evert was not alone in taking the view that Osaka, VictoriaAzarenka, Serena Williams and Jennifer Brady played tennis at such a high level, especially in the later rounds, that they would go deep into the second week no matter who was playing.
That’s reassuring in its way because no one wants to talk about starlets when referring back to the 2020 US Open champions. There is every reason to believe that Osaka plays the best tennis in the world right now and, if it is the whim of Novak Djokovics needed disqualification for accidentally punching a lineman in the throat to make it happen, a change of guard at the top of the men’s game had been on the horizon for a while. And in Thiem and Alexander Zverev, the men’s draw had the right two players on deck when the final day arrived.
While the women’s draw was more exhausted than the men’s draw, it caused a lot of excitement with Jennifer Brady giving American fans a new face to admire. Supporters of World TeamTennis, which had been held at The Greenbrier a month earlier, are said to have noticed a sudden change in fortune for Brady halfway through the three-week event. I understand this had a lot to do with Brady finally listening to Rick Leach, the Orange County Breakers veteran coach, about the tension in her strings.
Brady had wanted more power and insisted on loosening the tension, but when too many shots started hitting the background, she took Leach’s advice and tightened the strings. Brady won her first WTA title in Lexington shortly after, putting the former UCLA star ready for a dazzling run on Flushing Meadows. She worked her way through the early rounds, pushing Caroline Garcia, 2016 US Open champion Angelique Kerber and Yulia Putintseva without losing a set. Although she lost, the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career was a match to remember, as she and Osaka exchanged pounding foundations, showcasing the ever-increasing strength and quality of women’s tennis. Osaka won 7-6 (1), 3-6, 6-3, but Brady left the impression that she will be back for more.
Will Serena? That question dangled after Azarenka defeated her 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the other equally compelling semi-final. Serena had had to fight her way through three consecutive setters against Sloane Stephens, Maria Sakkari and Tsvetana Pironkova and the physical exertion took its toll. Serena was completely dominant in the first set and had no response to Azarenkas’ incredible precision, and a left ankle that had to be heavily tied at the start of the third set only added to her misery.
So joining Margaret Court with 24 Grand Slam titles remains out of reach for Serena, but the ambition is still strong and it’s too early to say she will never reach her goal.
Azarenka was a revelation. After she was about to retire during an exhausting battle for custody of her son, the Belarusian moved from California to the East Coast, settling in Boca Raton, Fla. And threw herself back into the game she played so well. Winning the event in Cincinnati, New York played as a curtain riser at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center the week before the locker room was honestly warned that she was back at work and many felt she was playing well enough to win her two Australian Open titles. to increase.
But for a few missed opportunities in the third set of a pulsating finale, she could well have, although Osaka was growing before our eyes, as a person, as an activist with her masks and as a player with increasing confidence and strength. By winning her second US Open and her third Grand Slam, this fascinating personality has leaped through the tennis bubble of recognition to emerge on the world stage like a true superstar. Her fame can only grow and tennis, let alone her charities, will benefit.
Once again, the five-set format proved its worth in the men’s final. Dominic Thiem, so dominant in the earlier rounds, seemed nervous at the start and, despite Alexander Zverev’s first sign of hesitation at the end of the second set, a best of three would be over and soon forgotten. ninety minutes with the 23-year-old German a 6-1, 6-4 winner. Instead, we witnessed the wonder of the unfolding drama, with all its momentum shifts, as these two amazing athletes demanded more of the mind and body than anyone could expect.
By the time Zverev served 5-3 in the fifth for the game, Thiem, who was starting to have cramps, looked exhausted. The German, in search of his signature first serve and making a hash from a forehand volley, couldn’t get closer than two points before being broken. Double faults in the tie-break will haunt Zverev as the weakness of his second serve remains his worst nightmare. Despite the defeat, this was a big break for a young player who had struggled for so long to become a force in Grand Slams.
It’s impossible to believe that this triumph, which comes after defeat in three Slam finals, won’t set Thiem on the road to a career that, sometime in the future, could rival the trio of champions who suddenly got nowhere. seen on this strange final day.
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