The big stories of the US Open men’s draw in 2017

Del Potro was unsurprisingly a popular figure in New York this year (Zimbio.com)

Rafael Nadal and Kevin Anderson may have brought the year’s final Grand Slam to a close last night, but the men’s tournament itself had a number of underlying stories and runs that marked kept interest throughout.

Winners: Beyond Rafael Nadal’s 16th Grand Slam title, Kevin Anderson’s story should resonate amongst peers and fans. The tall South African struggled with knee and shoulder injuries in 2016 that nearly required surgery. This year he has made a Wimbledon quarter-final and a first semi-final and final at a Grand Slam. Anderson has realised with his injury spell just how fleeting a career can be and it seems to have focused the big-server all the more.

Sam Querrey: The tall American’s story is similar in many ways to that of Anderson. Reaching his first Slam semi-final at Wimbledon was followed up with just his 3rd quarter-final in reaching the last eight in Flushing Meadows. For the second Slam in a row Querrey was the last American standing, and he returned to the Top 20 after a long absence.

Diego Schwartzmann: Many have written off the diminutive Argentine as just a clay expert, yet Schwartzmann defied those tags to produce a stunning run to the quarter-finals. A tough draw compared to his quarter-final vanquisher Pablo Carreno Busta, Schwartzmann defeated former champion Marin Cilic in four sets, before defeating 2016 quarter-finalist and 16th seed Lucas Pouille.

Denis Shapovalov: A run of six wins at a Grand Slam is normally a final run. For Shapovalov though, it represented just a run to the fourth round. The Canadian who came to the public attention with a stunning win over World No.1 Rafael Nadal in Montreal continued his meteoric rise up the rankings by qualifying for the main draw. He then defeated Daniil Medvedev, 8th seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga before losing to Pablo Carreno Busta in three tiebreaks in round four.

Juan Martin del Potro: The tall Argentine and the 2009 champion is a beloved player in Flushing Meadows. Absence perhaps makes the heart grow fonder, as it was just his fifth appearance since winning the title eight years ago. Del Potro put together his best run since winning in 2009, and again beat Roger Federer in a rematch of that classic final in the quarters. Backed by a vociferous Latin American support throughout, the atmosphere at del Potro matches was second to none. His comeback from two sets down and two match points down against Dominic Thiem is surely the match of the tournament.

Where there are great success stories, there are inevitably players whose tournaments failed to get off the mark.

Alexander Zverev: Few would have though that the 4th seed would bow out to the inconsistent Borna Coric in the just the second round. Zverev may have now won two Masters 1000 titles this year, but questions still remain over his focus, fitness, and form in grand slam events. The World No.6 failed to reach a quarter-final in 2017, and three of his Grand Slam tournaments resulted in exits at the second round stage or earlier.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga: The Frenchman is a popular site in Flushing Meadows, but again Tsonga struggled at another Slam in 2017. Tsonga was an early straight sets victim of Denis Shapovalov. An unfortunate draw to be sure, but Tsonga made just one quarter-final in 2017 and with that coming at the Australian Open, will be under pressure at start of 2018.

Richard Gasquet: Like Tsonga, Gasquet is a former semi-finalist in New York.  Unfortunately, Gasquet’s 2017 form makes for even worse reading than Tsonga’s. Failing to make it beyond the third round, and now with two first round exits in a row, Gasquet’s ranking is sure to plummet. There can be few excuses for a tough draw, as he was soundly beaten by lucky loser Leonardo Mayer.

Marin Cilic: The 2014 winner is now a popular fixture in New York, and was on hand to help out with this year’s draw. Yet Cilic struggled against the United States’ Tennys Sandgren and then lost to Diego Schwartzmann before the quarter-finals.

Dominic Thiem: For the second year in a row Thiem found himself losing to Juan Martin del Potro. Yet the manner of this year’s defeat is what adds his name to this list. Having dropped just three games in the first two sets, and holding two match points, to go down to del Potro before the quarter-finals must be considered a disappointment.

 

 

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