Five Things We Learned From Flushing Meadows In 2018
10 September 2018 01:31
1. The Year-End No. 1 ATP Ranking Is No Longer A Foregone Conclusion
Little more than three months ago it seemed inconceivable. The No. 20 seed, Novak Djokovic, had just suffered a quarter-final defeat at Roland Garros to unheralded World No. 72 Marco Cecchinato. The Serbian’s confidence was battered and debate swirled whether he would ever be a force to be reckoned with again.
Now he stands halfway to completing his second non-calendar year Grand Slam at Roland Garros in 2019. Djokovic was at his brilliant best in this final, his brick-wall defence and court coverage out-manoevring Juan Martin Del Potro to clinch his 14th Grand Slam title, his second in a row and third in New York.
It is the third time he has clinched Wimbledon and the US Open in the same year and draws him level with American Pete Sampras on the all-time list, now just three behind Rafael Nadal and six behind Roger Federer. It also catapults him up to No. 2 in the ATP Race to London, only 1,035 points behind Nadal.
2. Juan Martin Del Potro Back In Slam Finals Fray
After years spent sidelined due to wrist injuries, Juan Martin Del Potro had struggled to come to grips with the possibility he may never be able to compete again. Wins over Nadal and Federer, back-to-back, to claim his first Grand Slam trophy at Flushing Meadows as a 20-year-old were meant to be the start of something bigger.
He admitted to bouts of depression in 2015, a low-point in his time away from the sport. But after reaching his second Grand Slam final nine years after his first this past fortnight, the Argentine has reason to believe he can seriously contend for the majors once more.
In a match that included a 95-minute second set, Del Potro could only praise the rock-solid consistency from his opponent. Time and again the Serbian had an answer to Del Potro’s bludgeoning blows. Tears flowed in defeat but this was one gracious runner-up. “He knows that he’s one of my friends on tour and one player I want to watch winning titles,” Del Potro said. “Of course I’m sad because I lose, but I’m happy for Novak.”
3. Dominic Thiem Shakes The Single-Surface Major Monkey From His Back
Twelve months ago, Dominic Thiem held match points in the fourth round of his 16th major only to lose in a nail-biting fifth set to Del Potro. To highlight the magnitude of what was riding on that match, victory would have sent him through to his first Grand Slam quarter-final outside Roland Garros.
On the clay in Paris, the Austrian has ground out his finest results on the big stages, reaching two semi-finals and this year’s final in his past three campaigns. Last Monday, the 25-year-old brought down the 2017 US Open runner-up, Kevin Anderson, to break his hoodoo. While his run at Flushing Meadows would again end in a harrowing five-set defeat – this time to Nadal – the Austrian had broken new ground outside Paris. Bigger prizes could be just around the corner.
4. Kei Nishikori Not Handing Over The Reins As Top Asian Any Time Soon
Coming off claiming the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals title in Milan in November last year, South Korea’s Hyeon Chung sent the hype surrounding him into overdrive with his feats Down Under in January. He stunned Alexander Zverev and his idol, Djokovic, en route to his maiden Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open.
At the time, Nishikori had been forced to miss his favourite major to continue rehabilitation for a right wrist injury, the same injury that ruled him out of the 2017 US Open. The 22-year-old Chung was hailed as Asia’s greatest hope of landing that elusive Grand Slam title and he went on to surpass Nishikori in the ATP Rankings in March.
Four straight hard-court quarter-finals followed his feat Down Under. Slowly but surely, though, Nishikori was building momentum of his own. The first real hint came when the Japanese 28-year-old reached the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters on clay, before a quarter-final at Wimbledon gave him the set of career Grand Slam quarter-finals.
Revenge over his 2014 US Open final conqueror, Marin Cilic, on Thursday sent him through to his first major semi-final since the 2016 US Open. Djokovic ended his run but Nishikori had re-affirmed he was far ready to relinquish his crown as the top-ranked Asian.
5. Fill-In Doubles Partners Do A Pretty Fine Job
For just the second Slam in his career, Mike Bryan competed without his twin brother, Bob Bryan, standing next to him on court. And for the second time in as many majors, Mike Bryan won the title – this time with Jack Sock.
The win saw Bryan break a tie with John Newcombe for the most Grand Slam doubles titles with 18. At 40 years, 4 months, he also passed India’s Leander Paes as the oldest men’s doubles champion at a major in the Open Era.
Until this US Open, the Bryan brothers had competed at Flushing Meadows every year since 1995. "I think Bob is maybe the frontrunner if he gets healthy," Bryan joked about which doubles partner he would choose once his brother was back. “I think Bob's got first dibs.” “I think he's earned it," Sock replied.
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