Aces, Surprises and Shocks: US Open 2015

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Djoker’s delight Novak Djokovic had the last laugh when he beat Roger Federer in the final. Photo: AFP
Djoker’s delight Novak Djokovic had the last laugh when he beat Roger Federer in the final. Photo: AFP

The US Open 2015 was truly an astonishing one. The tournament generated a lot of hype as it was seen as a likely venue where Serena Williams would complete her calendar Grand Slam. However, Italian Roberta Vinci had other plans. It was also seen as a probable venue where Swiss legend Roger Federer, 34, would finally win his 18th Grand Slam singles title, which has been eluding him for a while. That too did not happen.

Instead, Novak Djokovic proved yet again why he is currently the World No. 1. He warded off a stiff challenge from Federer to clinch his 10th Grand Slam in four intense sets (6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4) of the final. It was a fitting end to a phenomenal year for Djokovic, who reached all four Grand Slam finals this year. Djokovic’s only loss this year was at the French Open to Swiss Stan Wawrinka. Coached by German tennis icon Boris Becker, Djokovic is only getting better day by day. Djokovic’s win marked the end of a spectacular event in Flushing Meadows, a venue that over the years has had a distinct aura of its own.

It was quite a departure from the other Grand Slams. The Australian Open, in early part of the year, falls in the brutal Aussie summer, the French Open in Paris, on the red clay courts, is also played during the European summer and Wimbledon comes at a time in London when the rain gods are keen to make their presence felt. Last but not the least comes the US Open at the Flushing Meadows, New York. So, what is so unique about the US Open?

Players have over the years considered the US Open as one of the toughest, given the atmosphere that surrounds it. The hard courts of the United States Tennis Association (USTA), the intense heat, the continuous buzz of planes flying overhead while players are in the court and flight landings at the famous JFK International Airport are some of the major distractions. Then there is the customary presence of Hollywood superstars, supermodels and other celebrities at the VIP box to add more glamour to the event. This year, it was no different with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, super model Kim Kardashian, model Kendall Jenner and daughter of Boxing legend Muhammad Ali, Laila Ali, all gracing the occasion with their presence.

The US Open, if one looks at it closely over the years, has been producing unknown champions and giant-killers. Not many thought that Croatian Marin Cilic would win the US Open 2014, his first Grand Slam. Even this year a virtually unknown Italian Roberta Vinci, ranked 43rd and playing her first Grand Slam semi-final, accomplished the mission impossible of beating Serena in the semi-finals.

Vinci’s stunning win over Serena (2-6, 6-4, 6-4) came at a time when it was believed that the Grand Slam was truly Serena’s, given her imperious form. It was a stunning as well as a shocking result. A win would have put Serena at par with German tennis icon Steffi Graf, who holds 22 Grand Slam singles titles.

Graf, during her heydays, had one of the most destructive forehands, which earned her the nickname “Fräulein Forehand”. She was very close to completing the calendar Grand Slam in the year 1989, when she won the Australian Open, the Wimbledon and the US Open. However, a gutsy and gritty performance by Spaniard Arantxa Sanchez Vicario denied Graf the French Open. Graf held the number one ranking for a record 377 weeks and Serena held that position for 257 weeks. So, Serena was on course to overtake Graf. But, destiny had other plans.

For Serena, it was a classic case of so near and yet so far. She has reasons to feel devastated. After all it was a year where she had hardly put a wrong foot forward. She outclassed her rivals with relative ease. All her rivals, be it the Russian superstar Maria Sharapova (who gave the US Open 2015 a miss due to leg injury) or Serbian Ana Ivanovic or Czech Republic’s Petra Kvitova, had no answer to Serena’s magical display.

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