The 2020 US Open campaign saw the light of the day, amid ruinations catalyzed by the global epidemic. Though, the hundred and fortieth edition of the second oldest Grand Slam was organized in an unaccustomed atmosphere but its looks promising- at its peak!
In the same vein, the Grand Slam taught a lesson that Grand Slam moved on great stride regardless of one’s status in the history of the tourney.
The American tennis contest ushered in a plethora of youngsters-in both the final four and the final eight of the Grand Slam.
In a stupefying manner, another lesson learnt in this year edition of the US Open was the fighting spirit imbibed by the winners of both categories to rise from their ruins to pick up a fight for the crown. Fascinating!
Moreover, some of tennis heavyweights declined their merited invitations- which gave hopes for some unseeded players. Inclusively, the defending champions, Rafael Nadal and Bianca Andreescu, also the 2019 Wimbledon winner, Simona Halep, former world number one, Roger Federer among others were not in action.
Sequel to the antecedents, many imagined the momentum of competition without these bigwigs, but it turned out to bring out some sensational moments. The tourney, ironically, brought a whole lot of historical significance.
However, the players who played at the 2020 event were relatively young, which presupposes a bright future in the coming years. The average age of seeded players at the male singles was 26.8 compared to the 27.7 average ages of seeded players in the last edition in 2019.
The youngest of these players was Canada’s Felix Auger Aliassime, 20, who could not advance beyond the fourth round of the contest, knocked out by Dominic Thiem. American tennis player, John Isner was the oldest seeded player in the tourney, 35, who could not exceed the first round, knocked down by his compatriot, Steve Johnson.
In tandem, the female singles (seeded players) were younger than their male counterpart as they had a moderate 25.4 per average age compared to 26.2- an average age of seeded female players in 2019 flushing Meadows event .
Serena Williams was the oldest seeded player in both present and previous campaigns (37) and (38) respectively. The youngest seeded player in the latest campaign of the American Grand Slam is Amanda Anisimova (19)
The Tennis Triumvirates
The dominance of the ‘Big Three’ will never be eluded of the world tennis, most especially, in the history of U.S Open. Their legacies in Grand Slams are indelible- Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. These tennis heavy weights had enigmatic records against each other which made the game more intriguing.
The rivalries prompted tennis game more crowd-pleasing!-propelling it to a novel phase But Nadal and Federer were absent, plus Djokovic was defaulted at the fourth round of the tourney for incidentally hitting a judge with a ball – first player to be defaulted since Stefan Koubek at the Roland Garros in 2000.What a huge miss!
In his twenty-one years of participation in the American tennis topflight, Federer, have been crowned five times on a row from 2004-2008. He has been to the US Open finals seven times, losing two to both Juan Martin del Porto (2009) and Djokovic (2015). Despite the all time forty ties with Nadal, Federer has never faced the Spaniard at the final of the New York event.
The Swiss player was not present in this year competition due to an injury he sustained at his right knee. In its 2019 edition, he bowed out at the quarter final Grigor Dimitrov 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 4-6, 2-6 it went. He has completed a brace of absence from the tourney first in three years since 2016.
Four-time winner, Nadal has caused an upset for Djokovic two times in three finals of the American Grand Slams both in 2010 and 2013.
However, the twelve-time French Open champion has battled Djokovic more than fifty times- an open era record- the Serbian retaliated once at the final of the 2011 edition, claiming his first title since 2005. He bagged a hatrick of absence, completing it at the recently concluded edition.
Nevertheless, the world’s tennis number one, Djokovic had a jostling challenge with Nadal and Federer in five editions while winning in 2011 and 2015.
Although, he has played in an octave of the tennis topflight finals, he bagged a triplet of the crown in fifteen years participation of the Grand Slam- which he completed in 2018. He was absent only in 2017.
The absences of Nadal and Federer in the American Grand Slam marks the first time in history since 1999 U.S Open, the ‘Big Three’ absence marks the first time since the final four of the U.S Open in 2004 and first since 2003 Wimbledon championship.
Moms at their own bests
The absence of many well-known stars at the female singles, made energetic moms in the tournament held their fort. The defending champion of the American Grand Slam, Bianca Andreescu was inactive at its latest edition- first time a defending champion withdrew from the contest.
Ashleigh Barty and Simona Halep (world number one and number two) were not in action- first since 2004; Kim Clijister and Justine Henin-Hardenne were the first to break the ice in Grand Slam history.
Regardless, America’s Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and U.S Open first timer, Tsvetana Pironkova, in their motherhoods, dazzled in the presence of onlookers. Obviously, the rivalries of both Williams and Azarenka continued, having met each other twenty-two (22) times before their semi-final tie at Ashe.
After two U.S Open final defeats spearheaded by the Serena 2012 and 2013, the Belarusian had her ample and only fight back on the American to meet Naomi Osaka at the 2020 U.S Open final.
Azarenka’s hope of become the first mother to be crowned since 2011 was dashed, when she suffered yet another heartbreak in the hands of Osaka at the final of the American Grand Slam.
The three-time U.S Open finalist has never held the Grand slam for past six years, of which her arch rival, Serena has had a quintet of the American prize, even though the American was at the verge of winning her 24th Grand Slam. Serena is the first athlete to have reached the final four of a Grand Slam in four decades,(1990s,2000s,2010s and 2020s)
Thus the semi final match between the two tennis greats was the first semi-final match in Grand Slam history, as mothers.Still in all, in the position of motherhood, Williams, Azarenka and Pironkova advancement to the final eight of the U.S Open marks the first in the annals of Grand Slams.
Osaka’s activism: An impetus for her resurgence
In 2019, Naomi Osaka’s dream to defend the her title she previously won in 2018 vanished. She bowed out to Switzerland’s Belinda Bencic on a straight set 5-7, 4-6 at the fourth round of the campaign. Nonetheless, she had bigger dreams at 2020 edition of the Grand Slam.
She came in another new dimension, which took her to another stage.Osaka came with forms of agitations about social justice. She wore seven masks with the name of some blacks murdered in the US, during the tourney.
Some of these blacks killed were Tamir Rice, Elijah McClain, the controversial killing of George Floyd among others.Osaka powerful demonstrations empowered her all through the matches she played.The Japanese played Azarenka at the final of the women singles, won her first title in twenty-one months coming from a set down, 1-6, 6-3, and 6-3 it weighed.
This makes her the first player to win the American Grand Slam from set down since 1994. Osaka is the first Asian player to win three Grand Slams since Jennifer Capriati (won three titles in three attempts). She took the accolade of the youngest player to win a triplet since Maria Sharapova (22).
Young Ones can make exploits without the Tennis Greats
Due to the absence of the ‘Big Three’, there were some breakouts at this year Flushing Meadows, which made the tournament looks more enthralling. After six attempts, Austria’s Dominic Thiem won his first Grand Slam on the American soil. – First Austrian since Thomas Muster 1995 at the French Open.
Just as Osaka, He is the first player to win the American Grand Slam from two sets deficit.
An initial scare spearheaded by his German counterpart, Alex Zverev, who was winning at two straight sets up made him the youngest male finalist in such a Grand Slam since Novak Djokovic in 2010. But through the fighting spirits of Thiem, he pulled against the two set deficit, 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 it ended for his ever US Open and Grand Slam title win.
At the women singles, Jennifer Brady pulled up a fine form at the American tennis contest. The world number forty-one broke through to the final four of the contest without dropping a set- her first in any Grand Slam. Her game with former champion, Angelique Kerber and Yulia Putintseva made her come to the spotlight.
Evenly, America’s Shelby Rogers was among the rising stars in the 2020 edition. She advanced to the final eight of the contest- her first quarter final – beating her compatriot and two times quarter finalist, Petra Kvitova.
Prior to this feat, she could not exceed to the third round of the Grand Slam. The last time she made it quarter final of a Grand Slam was at the French Open in 2016.