US Open: The Winners & The Losers

After two dramatic weeks in the Big Apple, Rafael Nadal stormed to his 16th major title while Sloane Stephens upset the odds to claim the women’s crown. We have taken a quick look back and rounded up our stars and flops from what was anything but a conventional 2017 US Open.

Winners

Sloane Stephens

The American’s sensational comeback from injury was unquestionably the headline of Flushing Meadows as she became only the fifth unseeded woman to win a Grand Slam singles title in the Open era.

Her crushing victory over friend and 15th seed Madison Keys (6-3, 6-0) meant that she became the lowest ranked player (83rd) to ever lift the US Open title as well as the first American woman outside the Williams sisters to win a major since Jennifer Capriati 15 years ago.

This triumph came after returning from an 11-month injury lay-off and just six weeks since her ranking dropped to 957. Her new-found resolve was evident throughout her remarkable run in which she defeated three seeds in deciding sets alongside ejecting former finalist Roberta Vinci in the opening round.

Rafael Nadal

The Spaniard’s stunning 2017 continued as he marched to a third US Open crown and 16th major overall to once again kick-start the GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) debate. Nadal now sits just three slams behind his arch-nemesis Federer following their incredible renaissance which has seen the pair capture all four of their sport’s biggest titles between them this year.

The fiery left-hander proved that he isn’t just the ‘King of Clay’ as he dropped just three sets on his route to glory, brushing aside surprise finalist Kevin Anderson for the loss of just ten games. Every neutral’s dream of a first ever duel between Nadal and Federer in New York once again died a death following the Swiss star’s quarter-final exit to the brute force of Juan Martin Del Porto, but Nadal’s conquest restored order to what was an eccentric two weeks in the city that never sleeps.

This victory marked the first time that Nadal had captured two Grand Slam tournaments in a year since 2013, and the second time since 2010.

Maria Sharapova

The Russian made a stunning return to Grand Slam action by knocking out world number two Simona Halep in their first round encounter – this was Sharapova’s first Grand Slam match since serving a 15-month doping suspension.

Boosted by a lack of jeers, the wild-card entrant was welcomed back by the Flushing Meadows crowd with open arms. They inspired her to reach the fourth round before she blew a one-set lead on the way to defeat against 16th seed Anastasija Sevastova.

The five-time major winner had to endure some acerbic comments from some of her fellow players, notably Caroline Wozniacki’s criticism that the Russian had received preferential treatment over court scheduling for her matches, but her performances only served to remind us that she still has plenty to offer the sport.

Shapovalov

After battling through qualifying, the Canadian youngster set alight the men’s top half with a thrilling run to the last-16 before losing out in four sets to eventual semi-finalist Pablo Carreño Busta. The 18-year-old leftie thrives on the big stage and is an instinctive shot-maker with his outrageously angled backhands.

An efficient and professional straight-sets upset of No8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga illustrated the teenager’s growing maturity and proved that his stunning win over Nadal in Montreal was no fluke – a far cry from his shameful disqualification in the Davis Cup earlier in the year.

The future of Canadian tennis looks to be in safe hands.

Losers

Angelique Kerber

To say the German’s season has been disappointing would be quite the understatement. She became only the second defending U.S. Open champion in the professional era to lose in the first round and this showing only served to epitomise her wretched campaign after a stunning 2016.

The surprisingly lopsided 6-3, 6-1 loss to 45th-ranked Naomi Osaka was the latest blow in a string of below-par displays meaning the 29-year-old will fall out of the top ten for the first time since October 2015.

Kerber also suffered another first-round loss in May at the French Open, where she became that tournament’s first No. 1 seed to lose so early – she must rediscover her form and best tennis is she is to have any chance of qualifying for the season-ending WTA finals.

Roger Federer

The pre-tournament favourite once again came up short in the season’s final major as he was unable to resist the vigorous ball striking of Del Potro – the man who famously beat him in the 2009 final. You have to go back a year earlier for the last of Federer’s five straight US Open titles and his performances this time round were severely isolated from the old magic that has been so prevalent throughout the campaign.

He toiled through the opening two rounds, struggling through both in deciding sets and even admitted that he never felt comfortable at any stage in the tournament. He will regret his failure to covert the four set points he held to go up two sets to one against the giant Argentine, but it seems fate doesn’t want to cede the tennis sphere their fantasy match-up between Federer and Nadal under the lights of Arthur Ashe.

Despite this, 2017 has been an unheralded success for the Swiss legend as he and his great rival have enjoyed a resurgence that many felt was beyond the realms of possibility. It should also be noted that Federer once again rewrote the history books, as he extended his astounding record of Grand Slam quarter-finals contested to 51.

Venus Williams

Once again it will be the older sibling of the Williams sisters that will end the season without a major title despite reaching two finals and a semi-final – a tremendous achievement for any player, let alone a 37-year-old in the twilight of her career. So why has she fallen into this category?

The seven-time Grand Slam champion was the highest ranked player left in the semi-final draw and the sentimental favourite with the New York crowd – consequently she will feel a golden opportunity has gone begging to make it a hat-trick of US Open titles (previous victories in 2000 & 2001). Age continues to be no barrier for Venus, but for how much longer can she thwart the natural bearings of time?

Alexander Zverev

The long-limbed fourth seed failed to capitalise on a favourable draw at Flushing Meadows after a surprise 6-3 5-7 6-7 6-7 defeat to fellow 20-year-old Borna Coric in their second round clash.

High hopes surrounded the youngster going into event after he beat Federer to lift the Rogers Cup, but the jury still remains on his capacity to deal with the Grand Slam arena with his personal best result coming at Wimbledon in July when he made it to the fourth round.

Many view the German adolescent as a future world number one, but he will have to wait a little longer for his major breakthrough.

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