The fourth and final Grand Slam tournament of the year, the U.S. Open, concluded last weekend with record-breaking and notable finishes in both the men’s and women’s singles competitions. More than 700,000 people flocked to the courts in Flushing Meadow in Queens, N.Y. for two weeks of the world’s best tennis players matched up against each other.
In the men’s singles finals, played on Sunday Sept. 8, Spaniard Rafael Nadal beat Daniil Medvedev from Russia in a five set, nail-biting match. The match lasted four hours and 49 minutes, at first looking like a runaway win for Nadal who clinched the first two sets 7-5, 6-3. Medvedev wasn’t taking a loss so easy, however, and rallied back for two straight sets 7-5, 6-4. In the crown-deciding fifth set, Nadal came out on top with a 6-4 set win.
This 2019 U.S. Open win not only puts Nadal’s name in the history books but in the record books as well. He sits in second place for most Grand Slam wins (19, one behind Roger Federer with 20) and ties John McEnroe for second place in U.S. Open title wins. Nadal is also the first player to win five Grand Slam titles after turning 30 years old.
“The way that the match became very dramatic at the end, that makes this day unforgettable, part of my history of this sport,” Nadal said, according to ATPTour.com. “I’m just very happy. This trophy means everything to me today.”
Nadal is still ranked second in the world for men’s singles, 600 points behind Novak Djokovic.
The biggest story of the U.S. Open manifested a day earlier on Saturday Sept. 7 when American tennis legend Serena Williams faced 19-year-old Canadian Bianca Andreescu.
Williams, now in her 10th U.S. Open finals appearance for women’s singles, was one year out from arguably the biggest controversy of her career.
At the 2018 U.S. Open’s women’s singles final, Williams engaged in a match-long argument with chair umpire Carlos Ramos that began when he issued a warning for Williams receiving coaching from the sidelines. In professional tennis games, players are not allowed to receive any kind of visual or verbal communication from their coaches during the course of play.
Williams disagreed with the call, calling out to Ramos multiple times that she didn’t and never has received coaching during a match. With Williams growing angrier as the match went on and not playing to her best ability against Japan’s 20-year-old Naomi Osaka, she broke her racket on the ground after losing another game.
For the outburst, Ramos awarded Osaka a free point to start the next game ahead 15-0. When Williams once again began to disagree with this call, Ramos bumped the penalty up to award Osaka a whole game.
The match concluded with Osaka’s first Grand Slam title, having won 6-2, 6-4. Williams had been chasing her record-breaking 24th Grand Slam title but instead finished in second place and with $17,000 in fines from the various code violations she had committed during the match.
With all of that behind her, Williams stepped into the 2019 finals against Andreescu still chasing that 24th title.
The chase continues as Williams fell to Andreescu in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5. Williams fought hard in the second set, but nothing worked to turn the game around. “I love Bianca; I think she’s a great girl, but I think this is the worst match I played all tournament,” Williams said, according to The New York Times. “It’s hard to know you could do better.”
This U.S. Open was the last Grand Slam of the decade, meaning the next round of major tournaments will set the mood for another ten years. Young players will get their chance to shine in the limelight, older players will retire from the game and maybe Williams’ 24th Grand Slam title will find itself in the headlines.