The first week of the U.S. Open, tennis’s final grand slam of the year is complete. The first seven days of the tournament have been exciting to watch, with good matches and quality play. With the women half way through the Round of 16 and the men just starting theirs it’s time to ask ourselves what conclusions we can draw about the tournament and the state of tennis itself based on what we’ve seen so far. Here are my top five conclusions.
There you have my top five conclusions from the first week of action at Flushing Meadow. I’m looking forward to the second week of the tournament. The match ups get tougher making for more interesting matches. With plenty of good players left it should be a good week of tennis. Enjoy it and let me know what your top conclusions are.
There are still feel good stories in tennis:
Croatian Mirjana Lučić-Baroni after a successful teen career in tennis that included a quarterfinal appearance at Wimbledon she took a seven year hiatus from the sport due to personal and financial problems. She returned to the court in 2010. In this tournament she was almost eliminated in the qualifying round but made it all the way to the round of 16 before being eliminated by Italian Sara Errani. With each match and victory it was clear to the public how much it meant for Lucic-Baroni to be on the court, her passion for the game is infectious making her the feel good story of the tournament and year in tennis.
There will be Four Different Grand Slam Champions on the Women’s Tour This Year
With all three winners of the other slams not making it to the second week, Australian Open Champion Li Na did not even play, it means all the slams will have different winners this year. That makes it a very interesting time in women’s tennis. With the lack of a dominating player in the slams it makes them more fun to watch because you cannot choose a favorite to win so easily. Serena Williams the tours most dominate player has not had a stellar year in the slams, failing to make it to the quarter finals of any of the previous three slams.
There is a lack of consistency on the women’s tour
Ever wonder why Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova are usually still in the draw in later rounds of slams despite the amount of talent on the WTA tour? While there is a lot of talent on the tour there is a lack of consistency. Young players like Petra Kvitova, the Wimbledon champion this year and in 2011, have trouble handling the pressure after winning a big tournament and frequently do not do well in subsequent tournaments. Petra was eliminated in the third round here. World number two Simona Halep runner up to Maria Sharapova in Paris this year has said in press conferences that she has trouble handling the pressure on court now that she is ranked higher and expected to win. She better learn how to handle it quickly if she expects to win because the pressure will not ease.
American tennis is in a dry spell
The only American player to make the second week among either the men or the women is Serena Williams. The bulk of the American players were eliminated in the first or second round. Two American men, Steve Johnson & Jack Sock retired in the first round as a result of cramps. Only two American men, Sam Querrey & John Isner made it to the third round. What this tells me is that tennis does not enjoy the popularity that other sports do in this country with not as much money devoted to centralized training facilities as there are in other countries. In recent years there has been an effort to create these types of facilities and get younger kids interested in the game. Hopefully this means in the coming years we will see more American’s in the later rounds of tournaments.
The young players on the men’s tour are continuing to impress
Two 23 year old talents, Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov and Canadian Milos Raonic, have impressed with their play this year. Both are in the top ten, Dimitrov is number eight and Raonic number six, and both reached the semifinals of Wimbledon. They have regularly challenged the big four of Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Andy Murray when they’ve played them and have on a couple of occasions beaten them. With their improving games I expect them to beat the big four more regularly in the near future. Add to these two young guns 24 year old Japanese Kei Nishikiori, and 20 year Austrian Dominic Thiem, both making their round of 16 debuts at Flushing Meadow, and there is clearly a strong younger generation in men’s tennis. True the big four may still rule the game for now but the younger generation is nipping at their heels and I’m sure will rule the game in a few years.