“I’m going to treat this match as if it’s my last one because it’s arguably the most important of my career. I’ll be giving it all I have possibly got in the tank,” said Novak Djokovic before Sunday’s US Open final. Despite being overshadowed, unusually, by the Women’s Final, the Men’s Final was hugely significant.
Significant, because were he to have won, he would have been the first man since Australian “Rocket” Rod Laver to win the Calendar Slam, all four majors in the same year. “Rocket,” who achieved this in 1969 and is now 83, may live in Australia, but he flew in to New York to witness the occasion.
Last night, Emma Raducanu won the US Open Women’s singles title. The scoreline was 6-4, 6-3 which looks straightforward enough — except it was anything but.
At 18 years old, Raducanu is the youngest Grand Slam champion since Maria Sharapova in 2004. She is also the only qualifier, male or female, ever to win a Grand Slam.
In the final, she was pitted against another wunderkind, the Canadian Leylah Fernandez, who is just a few months older and has also enthralled the New York crowds over the past fortnight.
In the end, Radcucanu was the one who held her nerve, despite overwhelming support for her opponent. That must have been unnerving for a player who until then had been the darling of the mainly New York crowds.
You’d think these two youngsters in their maiden Grand Slam final would be riddled with nerves on this huge occasion. Instead, we had a match of scintillating quality, with long, gruelling rallies – a match of extreme tension and a consistently high level of tennis.
19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez versus the 18-year-old British player Emma Raducanu in the US Open Women’s singles final. To say it’s an unlikely scenario is an understatement. The Men’s final will be contested between Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, the number one versus the number two seed. Yet in the Women’s we are talking about Fernandez, world number 73 vs Emma Raducanu, the world number 150. It’s almost unimaginable.
Which means, on paper, Fernandez is the favourite. She’s also beaten four high seeds in consecutive matches. But they’ve each been three-set nailbiters and one would think she must be mentally exhausted. Raducanu, despite having had to qualify, hasn’t lost a single set throughout and will surely be the fresher of the two.
As complete underdogs they’ve both traded on the nerves of their far more experienced opponents. The second-seeded Aryna Sabalenka more or less imploded in her final service game with a couple of wild double faults and splayed groundshots, finally handing the semi-final to Fernandez. Against Raducanu in the other semis, Maria Sakkari repeatedly sent forehands sailing over the baseline, her elbow tight with nerves.
What on earth is going on with Emma Raducanu at the US Open?
The 18-year-old Brit was a wildcard at Wimbledon, ranked just 343 in the world.She got to the fourth round, where she finally dropped her first set of the tournament, before retiring against Ajla Tomljanovicwith what appeared to be a panic attack — hardly surprising after the intense press and public scrutiny. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end.
And now she’s doing the same at the US Open in Flushing Meadows — but even better. She not only got through three rounds of qualifying, but has now reached the semi-finals without dropping a set. This makes her the first female qualifier in American tennis history to get to the last four. In fact, the scores in those sets have mostly been a breeze – 6-1, 6-0, 6-2— and, like many people, I’ve been confused as to how this has all been happening.
One thing that seems to have helped her is that her opponents appear to have been riddled with nerves against what now seems to be a carefree youngster. She came out onto the main stadium for her match against the home favourite, Shelby Rogers, smiling and waving at the crowd. And then she breezed through in a 6-2, 6-1 whitewash. Rogers had beaten the number one seed, Ashleigh Barty, in the previous round — so this was pretty unexpected.Read More
So, Wimbledon 2021 bids farewell to Roger Federer. It was a sad spectacle, really: spraying ground shots, missing easy volleys, being constantly passed and completely outclassed by the Polish player, Hubert Hurkacz, a 6’5” powerhouse whose game belies his gentle and shy nature.
With Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer choosing not to play, Novak Djokovic decided to travel to New York for the US Open. Here was his golden opportunity to win another Slam and get closer to Federer’s record of 20.
He hadn’t lost a match this year. How could he not win this tournament?
The world of professional tennis is in chaos right now.
The US Open grand slam, held over two weeks, is due to start on August 31. It’s going to be a very strange affair. No player entourages, definitely no ballboys handling players’ towels and, most significantly, no spectators. Read More
There was some debate as to whether the tournament would actually take place this year. The air was thick with smog from the bushfires during the qualifying, causing problems with breathing and one player even withdrawing part way though her match.
Have you never heard of Claire Fahey? Well, that’s probably because she’s at the top of the somewhat obscure game of Real Tennis, the predecessor of the sport that we see today at Wimbledon.
Real Tennis was invented in around the 12th century by French monks and the rules are fiendishly complicated.
The balls are hand-made and heavy, rather like a cricket ball but covered in felt. The rackets are not entirely symmetrical and are made of wood. Graphite is banned since the game would simply be too dangerous with those heavy balls.
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