5 Things We Learned From US Open
1) Nadal Sends Uncle Toni Out On A Winning Note
Having cemented his southpaw grip on the Emirates ATP No. 1 Ranking with his 16th Grand Slam title, Rafael Nadal also extended his lead atop the Emirates Race to London over his great rival Roger Federer. But for all the ticker-tape on-court celebrations, trophy biting and talk of year-end No. 1s, this US Open was also very much about the man in the stands, his coach who has been there every step of the way – Uncle Toni Nadal.
Early in the season, Toni announced the US Open would be his last Grand Slam as his nephew’s coach having travelled the globe for the best part of 15 years. His Spanish charge is in great hands with fellow Majorcan and former World No. 1 Carlos Moya taking the reins.
“He’s someone that was pushing me all along, he was great motivation to practise as a kid,” Nadal said at the trophy presentation. “Thank you very much to him because he’s for sure one of the most important people in my life.”
2) Del Potro A Force On The Biggest Stages Once More
Since his 2009 US Open breakthrough, the big Argentine has been to hell and back with a long list of wrist surgeries and subsequent lengthy rehabilitation stints on the sidelines. With a steady climb back into the Top 30 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, his season had been solid without taking the world by storm – until his US Open run.
Seeded 24th, he saw off No. 11 seed Roberto Bautista Agut and then fought back from two sets down, saving match points to deny No. 6 seed Dominic Thiem. It was his four-set triumph over No. 3 seed Roger Federer that catapulted him into his first Grand Slam semi-final since 2013 Wimbledon and despite coming up short against eventual champion Nadal in the semi-finals, this was the surest sign yet the 28 year old could once again be a Top 10 fixture.
3) Rublev Leads NextGen Charge
An open bottom half of the draw had many pundits pencilling in runaway #NextGenATP Emirates Race to Milan leader Alexander Zverev to reach his maiden Grand Slam final in New York, but fellow 20 year old, Borna Coric, had other ideas, taking down the German in the second round. Still searching for his first Slam quarter-final, the German will only have added motivation after 19 year old Andrey Rublev pipped him to the post.
The wiry Russian dismissed No. 7 seed Grigor Dimitrov and No. 9 seed David Goffin, both in straight sets, to reach the last eight before Nadal ended his run. Another teenager of Russian heritage was making big waves with Canada’s Denis Shapovalov backing up his surprise run to the Coupe Rogers semi-finals with a maiden fourth-round appearance at a Grand Slam. Cap backwards, fist-pumping and swinging from the hips, the 18 year old qualifier felled eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga en route before Pablo Carreno Busta had his number.
4) Perseverance Pays For Anderson
An injury-ravaged 2016 saw Kevin Anderson enter the season at No. 80 in the Emirates ATP Rankings. Few could have predicted the 31 year old South African powering through to his first Grand Slam final at Flushing Meadows just eight months later.
Hip, leg and right elbow injuries had plagued his season, while last year, ankle surgery, groin, left knee and right shoulders problems derailed him. The ever-affable Anderson’s greatest hope out of his surprise run was not of rankings boosts or future titles but of the spin-off effect back home.
“We definitely face a lot of challenges when it comes to producing tennis players,” he said of South Africa. “I have said this all along, my biggest hope is I'm able to inspire the kids to get out and play, because it can definitely feel like it's a long road being so far from everything.”
5) Rojer/Tecau The Team To Beat
The Dutch-Romanian duo found it tough going last season trying to replicate a breakthrough run from the year prior. Their 2015 included a maiden Grand Slam title at Wimbledon and the year-end Emirates ATP No. 1 Doubles Team Ranking, having claimed the Nitto ATP Finals in London.
A 10-match winning streak now has seen them capture back-to-back titles at the Winston-Salem Open and US Open and puts them in a strong position to again qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in November. They are set to move up to third in the Emirates ATP Doubles Race To London.
Rojer/Tecau took down a string of established pairings to bag their second Grand Slam title – No. 6 seeds Marcel Granollers and Ivan Dodig, defending champions and No. 4 seeds Bruno Soares and Jamie Murray, top seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers and No. 11 seeds Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez in a straight-sets final.