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What has this US Open taught us?

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TENNIS US OPEN – Our Giulio Gasparin analyses the results of the just-finished Us Open to find new angles for the reading of a surprising edition.

 

US Open: All the interviews, results, draws and OoP

For the second time this year, we have witnessed a new male grand slam champion, Serena Williams has joined Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova at 18 slams, the Bryan brothers have taken their 100th title and Martina Hingis has played her first doubles’ final in 12 years.

It has definitely been a surprising Open, with countless upsets and many unexpected results, but looking backwards it seems it all started even before the tournament started, when Rafael Nadal and Li Na announced their withdrawal from the event due to injuries.

But let’s put some order first and consider each of the events, starting from the biggest surprises, the men’s event.

Stan Wawrinka by Art Seitz

Stan Wawrinka by Art Seitz

The post-Wawrinka case

It has been said over and over by both journalists and players, but the victory of the “second” Swiss in Australia has completely changed the way players consider their chances at majors.

It is nothing new to the world of tennis and it resembles a lot what happened in the WTA tour in the past years, but one knows the substantial differences between the two tours and, before January 2014, it seemed unreal to consider any new slam champion, let alone two!

Wawrinka, in that, did a lot more than win a slam and upset two of the main favourites en-route. He was the St George and killed the dragon: so by doing that, he revealed the myth of the unbeatability of the top names at slams.

All players said that, his win gave a new attitude to all the players fighting from behind the “big four.” Beating them and dreaming of a slam were no more an unforgivable sin, it was possible, it was real.

Truth is that for two more slams this has not occurred. In Paris and London, the same old faces played the last act of both tournaments, but this did not mean all the others would forget what had happened in January.

It all resulted in what we all know: the first final without any of the big four involved since 2005.

On top of that, this result gives us another point of discussion and it is the indirect benefit for Cilic that the doping ban was.

This is no place to discuss the reasons of the suspension, even though I believe it was a case of negligence rather than malice, but after his first slam success, it almost seems a bless in disguise.

The time away from the tour allowed the Croat to concentrate on his flaws, on working to fix them and improving both physically and mentally.

Working on technique is very hard and it is even harder to squeeze it on a very short off-season, that is one of the reasons why changes on top are hardly ever as sudden. Cilic had a long break to exploit and do all the tweaks he needed to be successful, that and the “death of the dragon” came about nicely and it all came about right on time to rise the most important trophy of his career.

Shall we expect more upsets and new slam champions from now on?

Hard to tell, the class of the top names is undeniably great, but this 2014 proved that they are still human, the dragon can be killed, and now every player is aware of it.

Srena Williams by Ray Giubilo

Srena Williams by Ray Giubilo

Serena roars again, but not alone

In a way, Cilic’s success is a bit overshadowed by the great result of Serena Williams, who turned around an horrific season in slam tournaments by conquering her first of the year, the 18th of her career. It was a significant one because she beat Roger Federer on time and, in all time terms, she joined Navratilova and Evert.

Williams, we can say, overcame the women’s version of the Wawrinka-effect, for which she had been upset early in the previous three slams, so that she had never won fewer matches in slams when playing a full season in more than ten years.

The expectations on her to do well in her home slam were great, but she finally found her best form and game to win her third consecutive title in New York, this time without dropping a single set and never losing more than six games in a match.

Sadly, it will not be a final that will be remembered because of its quality, as Williams looked nervous and a little tentative, but, on the other side of the net, her close friend Caroline Wozniacki was probably even more.

The win of the America put an end to the perfectly-scripted story of the broken hearted girl that finds success after being dumped by her fiancé a few months away from the wedding.

But, as Williams whispered to the Dane at the net “you will win one too one day”, the former world number one has proved to be a contender if she can keep up this focus and intensity.

Wozniacki has lost four matches on hard courts this summer and, apart from a blip against Camila Giorgi in New Haven, all the other three losses were close matches against the current world number one.

The Dane has given a statement by beating Agnieszka Radwanska and Angelique Kerber before the Open and then by taking down a very positive Maria Sharapova in one of the best quality matches of the New York slam this year.

But beyond the two obvious storylines of the women’s draw, there have been many others: the first quarter-final of Belinda Bencic (the youngest since Martina Hingis to reach this stage in New York), the surprise runs of Lucic, Krunic and most of all Peng’s, ended by an horrific heat stroke.

As usual, the WTA does not lack unpredictability and the future looks pretty certain to remain alike, starting from the last battles to qualify for the Master of Singapore.

Bob and Mike Bryan by Art Seitz

Bob and Mike Bryan by Art Seitz

Bryan’s 100th

Bob and Mike Bryan lifted their 100th trophy, the 16th slam, the fifth US Open title. There is little to add to these number, they are the first team to ever reach three digits and it was simply amazing for them and the American crowd that all happened at the home slam, in front of their compatriots.

Martina Hingis by Art Seitz

Martina Hingis by Art Seitz

Hingis in another slam final

Many fans and experts were sceptical when the rumours of Martina Hingis’s comeback were confirmed, but after finally finding in Flavia Pennetta a doubles’ partner that fit her traits, the Swiss champion has reached her first slam final since 2002, when she was the double’s title with Anna Kournikova and lost in singles to Jennifer Capriati.

The experienced due crumbled from a set up in the decisive act against Makarova-Vesnina, but this looks to be a team that can improve a lot from here on.

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Diego Schwartzman Receives Threats On Social Media Following Shock Davis Cup Defeat

The world No.15 is the latest player to speak out about recieving abusive messages on social media.

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The weekend has been an emotional rollercoaster for Diego Schwartzman, who suffered ‘one of the worst’ losses of his career before helping secure victory for his country in their Davis Cup tie against Belarus.

 

On Saturday the world No.15 was stunned by unranked 18-year-old Daniil Ostapenkov who is yet to play a professional match on the pro Tour. Ostapenkov is currently ranked 63 in the world on the junior circuit. The comprehensive victory shocked the Argentinian team who was hosting the tie at the Buenos Aires Lawn Tennis Club.

Despite the shock upset, Schwartman managed to redeem himself the following day when he defeated Alexander Zgirovsky 6-1, 6-2. That victory handed his country an unassailable 3-1 lead in their tie and secured their place in the 2022 Davis Cup qualifiers which will take place next March.

Not only playing Davis, but in Buenos Aires, with a lot of people you don’t see, it’s not easy. My level can be and has to be much better. After the game on Saturday I had a difficult day in the spirit of being able to get up and enjoy with the group,” La Nacion quoted Schwartzman as saying.
“The most normal thing was that we won the series. It’s what everyone expected. But when you have a very difficult day at work like it was on Saturday and then you win, it excites you because you have some internal things withheld.”

Between those two matches, Schwartzman revealed that he was trolled on social media by some people unhappy about his loss in the tie. The 2020 French Open semi-finalist said he received criticism and even threats from some asking him to leave his home country. Something he admits affected him at times.

“It was one of the worst days of my career,” Schwartzman commented on his loss to Zgirovsky. “I lost to an unranked, inexperienced player. All that already affects (me) a lot. Although 80 or 90 percent of the people are always encouraging (me), there was a minority who criticized me with bad intentions.’
“I received threats, insults and requests not to return to Argentina. More or less, it affects (me)”.

Schwartzman is not the first player to speak out about online abuse. During the US Open Shelby Rogers said she was expecting to receive ‘death threats’ following her loss to Emma Raducanu who went on to win the title. Sloane Stephens has also previously spoken out about being the victim of racism online.

The 29-year-old says he has previously tried to interact with those who have trolled him on social media to find out why they are doing so.

Sometimes I start to answer some messages and I ask those people if they realize what they are sending,” Schwartzman said during his press conference. “The vast majority apologize and say they had not realized it. But at the moment it hurts. That very ill-intentioned criticism is the only bad thing about social networks.”

Schwartzman has won four ATP titles and earned more than $10M in prize money so far in his career.

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Spanish Veteran Feliciano Lopez Addresses Future On The Tour

23 years after he played his first main draw match on the ATP Tour, Lopez says his longevity in the sport has been achieved with the help of of some luck.

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Feliciano Lopez of Spain is pictured during the semi-final of ATP Fever-Tree Championships tennis tournament at Queen's Club in west London on June 20, 2019.

Feliciano Lopez has dismissed any speculation that he could retire in the coming weeks after saying he is taking life on the Tour in his stride.

 

The 39-year-old Spaniard is currently the second oldest player in the world’s top 200 after Roger Federer, who is a year older than him. Lopez made his ATP Tour debut at the 1998 Barcelona Open which was before the birth of Jannik Sinner and Carlos Alcaraz. In June he became the 10th active player to record his 500th win on the Tour.

Currently ranked 111th in the world, some are starting to wonder how much longer Lopez will continue playing. So far this season he has achieved a win-loss record of 9-19 with his best performance being a run to the quarter-finals of the Mallorca Open which was held on the grass. It was in Mallorca where he defeated Karen Khachanov who is the only top 30 player he has beaten so far in 2021.

I play year-by-year, the last 6-7 years have been like this, a tennis player at that age cannot think about extending his career. After turning 30 I have been lucky, I have obtained the best results of my career,” Lopez told reporters on Friday.
It is not very common for players my age, at (almost) 40 years to continue playing in the best tournaments.” He added.

Throughout his career, Lopez has impressively played in a record 78 consecutive Grand Slam tournaments dating back to the 2002 French Open. During that period he has reached the quarter-finals of a major tournament on four occasions.

“I don’t play to break records, what makes me most excited is to continue playing Grand Slams. For me, maintaining that record (78 consecutive Grand Slams played) is very nice, but more to follow. Being competitive,” he commented on the milestone.
“It is difficult for someone to overcome it because it is 20 years in a row without missing a great one. I have had continuity and enormous luck. Those of my generation are practically all retired.”

Away from the court, the former world No.12 is the current tournament director of the Madrid Open. Making him one of a few players historically to both be playing on the Tour and managing a tournament at the same time. Recently it was confirmed that Madrid will continue hosting it’s combined event until at least 2030 following a renewed agreement between the city council and the Madrid trophy promotion.

Lopez has won a total of seven ATP titles so far in his career and has earned more than $18M in prize money.

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ATP Moves Closer To Staging Five More 12-Day Masters 1000 Events After Board Approval

Changes are coming to the men’s Tour which includes a brand new ‘profit-sharing formular’ for players.

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Masters tournaments in North America, Europe and Asia are set to be expanded over the coming months after the ATP Board recently approved some ‘key aspects’ of their strategic plan.

 

In a letter issued to players, ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said an agreement has been reached concerning a variety of topics, which include the expansion of various Masters 1000 events. It is understood that the plan is for Rome, Madrid, Canada, Cincinnati and Shanghai to be increased to 12-day events instead of just one week. Putting them more in line with Indian Wells and Miami. Tennis.com reports that under the new structure, ATP 250 events will also take place during the second week of those tournaments and they could receive a subsidy from the ATP Tour, provided by extra fees paid by the Masters tournaments.

Masters 1000 events are the third highest-ranked category events in men’s tennis after Grand Slams and the ATP Finals in terms of prize money and ranking points on offer. The series was first introduced back in 1990 but it wasn’t until 2009 that the name ‘Masters 1000’ was born. The number represents how many ranking points the winner receives.

Besides the proposed changes to the Masters series, the Board has also given a green light to “a new Profit-Sharing formula” and “long-term prize money levels.” The prize money increase is reportedly said to be 2.5 percent of a base level, plus a bonus pool with a 50 percent share of the collective profit of the Masters events.

“This represents significant progress for our sport and the way our player and tournament members operate under the equal partnership of the ATP Tour. It is only through the spirit of this partnership, transparency, and alignment of interests that we can truly maximise your potential and switch our focus to the competition we face in the border sports and entertainment landscape,” Gaudenzi wrote in his letter to players.

Part of the plan also include making changes to ATP Media, who are in charge of broadcasting the events. At present it is currently jointly owned by the Tour and each of the Masters 1000 events. However, in the future it has been proposed that those tournaments trade in their ownership rights for shares in ATP media. Exact details about this process have not been publicly disclosed and it is unclear if all of the tournaments would agree to such a move.

The ATP also wants to create a ‘Tennis Data Innovations’ which will be an independent entity.

All of these proposed changes are still subject to further agreement around additional matters. The ATP have been working on details of their strategic plan for the past 18 months.

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