In one of the most unexpected US Opens of all time, Rafael Nadal triumphed at the Flushing Meadows to win his 16th Grand Slam and move to within 3 titles of Roger Federer’s record 19. The tournament began with an unprecedented number of withdrawals due to injuries. Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori and Milos Raonic all withdrew from the Open.
Andy Murray made a somewhat selfish decision of withdrawing at the 11th hour. Nadal was seeded 1st, Murray 2nd and Federer 3rd. Federer and Nadal were on course to meet in the semis but had Murray withdrawn earlier, Federer would’ve become the 2nd seed and that would’ve potentially set up a Fedal final. Because of Murray’s late withdrawal, the organizers couldn’t change the seedings so the number 2 seed fell vacant. As luck would have it, Federer lost in the Quarters to Juan Martin Del Potro, quashing all hopes of a Federer-Nadal match for the first time at the Flushing Meadows.
The first round saw a couple of upsets with David Ferrer and Jack Sock, the 21st and the 13th seeds respectively crashing out. The flow of upsets didn’t stem in the 2nd round either with the 7th seed Grigor Dimitrov and the 15th seed Tomas Berdych bowing out. 2014 champion Marin Cilic was ousted in the 3rd round and an unknown Canadian prodigy, Denis Shapovalov continued his giant killing spree with a win over the 8th seed Tsonga.
The 4th round paired arguably the best member of the “Generation next”, Dominic Thiem and the 2009 champion Juan Martin Del Potro. Del Potro put in a Herculean effort to come from 2 sets and a break behind to beat Thiem in 5 sets and set up a blockbuster quarter final with 5 time champion Roger Federer. Considering the Argentine’s recent injury record, not many were putting their money on him to beat arguably the best tennis player of all time but in a show of utmost strength and vehemence, Del Potro turned back the clock to beat Federer in 4 sets.
On the contrary, Federer’s great nemesis, Rafael Nadal kept flying under the radar and reached the semis without much of a hue or cry. His first real test came in the semi finals where he met Del Potro. But Del Potro had been drained of all his energy by playing 2 gruelling matches in the last 2 rounds and Nadal cruised into the final with a 4 set victory over Del Potro. In the other semi, South Africa’s Kevin Anderson beat Spain’s Carreno Busta to reach his first ever final.
The final was expected to be one sided. Murray’s late withdrawal had put the draws in a disarray. With all the top players being seeded in the top half of the draw, the bottom half saw a group of novices battling it out among themselves. And the final lived up to its billing to be one sided with Rafael Nadal cruising in straight sets to win his 3rd and overall 16th Grand Slam title. Nadal, who had spent the better half of the last 2 years sitting out due to injuries completed a dramatic turn of events by winning 2 Grand Slams this year and thus, completing his redemption.
This year also poured cold water on the much talked about “Generation next”. With Federer, 36, and Nadal, 32, in the twilights of their careers, they weren’t expected to win any Grand Slams this year. Especially considering the fact that Federer’s last title came way back at Wimbledon 2012 and Nadal’s last title being the French Open 2014. To top that, both were coming from long injury layoffs. But in complete pandemonium, Federer and Nadal both reached the final of the Australian open with Federer prevailing in a 5 set thriller to win his 5th Australian Open and 18th Grand Slam.
As if that wasn’t enough, Rafael Nadal won the French open for a record 10th time and he became the 1st person ever to win the same Grand Slam 10 times. The fairytale moved on from Paris to London where Roger Federer became the 1st man ever to win 8 Wimbledon titles and in doing so, he raised his grand slam tally to 19. This script, as many would say was written in the stars couldn’t get any better as Nadal won the US Open to end a tennis year completely dominated by 2 of the greatest players of all time.
Over the past decade or so, Federer and Nadal have not only dominated on the tennis court but they have taken tennis to these dizzy heights which is equally commendable. They’ve been perfect ambassadors for the sport of tennis, taking tennis to countries where no one believed tennis will flourish. The fanbase of tennis has grown manifold due to the popularity of these 2 legends. When Agassi and Sampras retired, people feared for the immediate future of tennis, but when Federer and Nadal retire, people will probably stop watching tennis altogether. Such is the influence they both have had on the tennis audience.
Federer and Nadal won’t be here for too long. They’ve dominated Tennis in the same way as the great West Indian team dominated cricket, like Jahangir Khan dominated squash, like the Spanish team dominated football from 2008-2014, like Real Madrid dominated Spain in General Franco’s era, like Manchester United have dominated the English Premier League ever since its inception. The tennis fans of this era have been truly blessed to have been born into an era where they saw Federer and Nadal at their absolute best. Let’s all cherish the little time they have left for players like these are born once in a blue moon.
Written By Sannaan Siddique.