Rafael Nadal equals Roger Federer with second slam in 2017
In a tennis season where the clock has already been turned back multiple times, Rafael Nadal collected his second grand slam title of the year adding to his victory at Roland Garros. Nadal and Roger Federer finished the year with two grand slams each when last year it looked like both of their games were diminishing. It was Nadal’s third career US Open title, bringing him to 16 total, just three back of Federer’s 19. We were ‘oh so close’ to seeing the first ever Federer vs. Nadal meeting at the US Open, but the resurgent Juan Martin Del Potro eliminated Federer in the quarter-finals ending any hope of another classic between the longtime rivals. Nadal’s path to the final wasn’t a difficult one on paper, not having to face anyone inside the top-25. He dropped just three sets all tournament and routed big serving Kevin Anderson in the final.
It was Nadal’s first hardcourt title in 34 tournaments going all the way back to the 2013 U.S. Open, and with this victory he has definitely re-opened the greatest of all time argument between him and Federer.
Stephens defies the odds to win first grand slam title
Going back to the beginning of this past August, Sloane Stephens had yet to notch a victory in 2017, losing her first two matches after spending 11-months sidelined with a foot injury. It was her next tournament in Toronto, where she began an improbable run that ended with lifting the trophy in New York and collecting a whopping $3.7 million, matching almost all her entire career earnings.
Prior to Toronto, Stephens was ranked No. 957 in the world but made back-to-back semi-finals in Canada and Cincinnati improving her ranking significantly to No. 83. Those impressive runs were bettered at the US Open where she defeated five seeded players, including Venus Williams in the semi-finals and Madison Keys in the final, closing out one of the most unlikely hard court runs in the Open era. Stephens provided a mix of defense, solid court coverage and hidden power which had her opponents frustrated throughout the tournament. Five of her seven matches went the distance, bringing her record to an astonishing 9-0 in three-set matches this year.
Her ranking moved all the way up to No. 17 in the world after the US Open, and she’ll be in the mix at the Australian Open in a few months’ time, which had previously been her best career grand slam result when she reached the semi-finals in 2013.
Shapovalov’s incredible rise this summer capped off with memorable run in New York
At the beginning of 2017, Denis Shapovalov set a goal to reach the top-150 in the ATP rankings by the end of the season. He reached that goal by mid-summer after winning the Gatineau challenger event, bringing him from No. 250 in January all the way to No. 130. Little did he know that the next month would be where his tennis career took off.
A semi-final run in Montreal seemed like it would be the peak of his year, yet Shapovalov gave fans even more magic at the US Open. The 18-year old Canadian had to go through three rounds of qualifying just to get into the tournament despite being in the top-70 at the time (cut-off for main draw had closed off three weeks earlier). Shapovalov easily beat fellow ATP Next-Gen star Daniil Medvedev in the first round and then defeated No. 8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga under the lights on Arthur Ashe, the biggest tennis stadium in the world.
At this point, ‘Shapo-mania’ had officially arrived, catching the attention not only of Canadians but the entire tennis world. He was on everyone’s radar, with top tennis analysts even projecting him to reach the final four. He then went on to beat Kyle Edmund in the third round setting up a difficult fourth round match against the No. 12 seed Pablo Carreno Busta. It was his third straight match on Arthur Ashe stadium, and despite losing the match in straight sets, all went to tiebreakers and he gave a valiant effort in what really was a 50/50 matchup.
His attractive style of play, high movement one-handed backhand and likeable personality gathered the most attention in a tournament that had many story-lines during the first week. His ranking shot up to No. 51 at the conclusion of the U.S. Open and that number is only expected to rise further as the Asian swing begins.
Canadians struggle in final slam of 2017 outside of Shapovalov’s success
With Milos Raonic nursing a wrist injury, it was already a difficult tournament to expect results for the Canadian contingent at the US Open. Genie Bouchard was eliminated in the First round by No. 89 Evgeniya Rodina in straight sets adding to her struggles in 2017. She has yet to win consecutive matches since her quarter-final run in Madrid and now has a ranking of No. 79 in the world, her lowest since May 2013. Bouchard withdrew from the WTA international event in Quebec City this week with a virus and will look to salvage her season next month in Asia.
Vasek Pospisil was the third Canadian in the singles draw but was forced to retire during his first round match vs Fernando Verdasco. It was an ailing back injury that flared up pre-tournament and was just too much pain to play through. The defeat added to a run of first round losses, now at four consecutive, but his ranking didn’t take much of a hit due to not having many points to defend. His back is expected to be at 100% this week, where Pospisil representing Canada at the Davis Cup.
Despite many big names missing, US Open has a number of feel-good stories
Novak Djokovic, Serena Williams, Andy Murray, Milos Raonic, Stan Wawrinka were just some of the players who were absent from this year’s US Open, but the tournament still provided plenty of interest to tennis fans.
Maria Sharapova gathered much interest early on, being drawn against and then defeating the No. 2 seed Simona Halep in her Grand Slam return from a drug suspension. Juan Martin Del Potro came back to win from two sets down against Domenic Thiem in the fourth round, saying after that he was going to retire during the match but only continued because the always vibrant Argentine fans helped him believe. The 2009 Champion then upset Roger Federer in the quarter-finals which prevented the first Federer-Nadal meeting in New York.
Madison Keys was an unlikely finalist on the women’s side but did have the summer hardcourt result to sense she could do some damage in the women’s draw. The American won the WTA Premier event in Stanford just a few weeks prior and her run had some impressive wins over Elina Svitolina in the fourth round and a 6-1, 6-2 thumping of fellow American Coco Vandeweghe in the semi-finals. Keys ran out of steam in the final to Stephens but the 22-year old is currently in the best form of her career.
Venus Williams had another deep run at the grand slam this year, making the semi-finals and ended the season with the most Grand Slam match wins on the WTA tour (20). Despite her success on the biggest stage, Venus wasn’t able to win her first major since 2008 and ended with a disappointing final four defeat. Nevertheless, she’s still competing at the top of the women’s game and has now cracked the top-5 in the WTA rankings, her highest spot since 2010.
Kevin Anderson took advantage of a weaker bottom half of the draw, firing 124 aces in his seven matches and finally had a breakthrough at a grand slam after 10 years on the ATP tour. He reached the last two after never getting past the quarter-finals in 33 Grand Slams prior to the US Open. The usually quiet and reserved Anderson had become a fierce and vocal competitor during this unforgettable run, and gives hope to other big servers out there that the style of play can still get the job done.