So this is a new section I am to bring in where I analyse and dissect a selection of the big sporting events from the past week. Heavy emphasis here on the word ‘selection’. I can’t cover every sport so please forgive me if your sport of choice is not there. So let’s see where this takes me. I’m going to start with the US Open tennis.
I’m a big tennis fan but I must admit the first week of the final major of the year bored me. The fact that so many big names were out was killing it. In the men’s there was no Novak Djokovic or Andy Murray. In the ladies, Serena Williams was missing and there was no Victoria Azarenka.
Also for me, in the men’s draw, while on the one hand it is great to see Federer and Nadal still at the top, the fact that they are still at the top for me, is a damning indictment on the men’s game. Where’s the new generation of superstars? This was compounded further by the fact that the so-called new stars, Alexander Zverev and Nick Kyrgios were both knocked out in the first round.
Federer and Nadal can’t go on forever. They will always draw the crowds but the game needs new blood. Players like Zverev and Kyrgios need to step up and make their mark. Kyrgios is perhaps THE most talented player out there but does he really want it? He can play like a genius at times but mentally the guy is all over the place.
Anyway, back to the tournament. Maria Sharapova, at her first major since her drugs ban, was the biggest story of the first week beating world no.2, Simona Halep in the first round before eventually bowing out in the 4th round. If I’m honest I was glad she got beat. I’m not a fan of hers.
Another first round disaster story was the exit of the British big hope, Johanna Konta. After her brilliant showing at Wimbledon where she reached the semis, I expected a great run from her here. For her to go out so early was a major disappointment for British tennis and of course for her. There were people talking about her as a possible winner. Maybe the pressure got to her. Who knows but she will need to bounce back.
Things got better in the second week especially in the ladies event but I’ll get to that. In the men’s it all got rather predictable once the great man, Federer, went out. It was the Argentine powerhouse, Juan Martin del Potro who got the better of him. I just love watching del Potro play. His forehand is probably the greatest single shot in tennis alongside the Stan Wawrinka backhand.
Federer never looked himself throughout his whole time at Flushing Meadow. Perhaps Father Time is catching up with him at last? Time will tell. You just knew that once he went out that it was Nadal’s title to lose and so it proved. He beat del Potro in the semi and then crushed South African surprise package, Kevin Anderson, in the final.
Nadal is amazing. I thought his career was over as recently as a year ago but he’s kept plugging away and got his just rewards. His 16th major title and now he is just 3 behind Federer. His cause has been helped by the demise of Djokovic but you cannot take away the mans skill and will to win. A true legend of the game.
Talking of legends of the game, how about Venus Williams? 37 years of age and still going strong. Was this going to be her year? Without a major in 9 years she reached the semi-finals after eclipsing Petra Kvitova in the match of the tournament in the quarters. In the semi-finals she would face fellow American, Sloane Stephens. In the other semi it was Madison Keys against Coco Vandeweghe. Again two Americans making it the first time in 36 years that all four US Open semi-finalists were homegrown. Huge achievement.
The WIlliams-Stephens semi was the first match this year that I actually stayed up for. It didn’t finish until 2am UK time but it was worth it. The Stephens story is an interesting one. She has been on the tour for a few years. It was always obvious she had talent but she was always getting beat early in tournaments and her attitude was all wrong. She then had a major foot injury which kept her out for several months. She only came back earlier this year.
Only 4 months ago she was ranked 930 in the world rankings. Since her comeback she has been a player reborn. She had reached two semi-finals in warm up events in the last month and here she was in the US Open last four. The first two sets against Venus were one-sided. Stephens blitzed the first 6-1 before Venus came roaring back in the second to take it to love.
It seemed inevitable that the extra experience of Venus was going to win out but somehow Stephens regrouped and went toe-to-toe in an epic final set. It got to 5-5 before Stephens got the vital break. She would show nerves of steel to serve it out to triumph 7-5 and reach her maiden Grand Slam final. Joining her in the final would be her close friend, Keys who made light work of Vandeweghe losing just three games.
I must admit going into the final I fancied Keys to win. She has probably the biggest game in the whole of the ladies tour but her problem has always been consistency of shot. She is often so erratic so for her to reach her first Slam was massive.
In the end the final was a bit of an anti-climax. Stephens was on her game right from the beginning and Keys just never got going. Stephens uncanny ability to get that extra ball back in play was telling on Keys. She was just too consistent for Keys and completed her amazing comeback to take her first Grand Slam title 6-3 6-0.
To summarise, I think the men’s game as a whole has got a little stagnant but the ladies game is in great shape especially with the rumour that Serena will be making a return in January. You add her with the return of Azarenka, Sharapova, the sudden rise of Stephens and you have some compelling times ahead.