The 2015 edition of The U. S. Open was chock-full of news. Here are the top-six takeaways, according to Down The Tee.
1. Serena Williams Fell Short of a Grand Slam
Whether the pressure got to the 21-time major champion, her game fell apart at the moment she needed it most, or the heavens didn’t align, Serena didn’t do what the tennis world had hoped. The disappointment from Serena was felt, rather than heard. She made sure ESPN did not even approach questions about disappointment on court, after her shocking semifinal loss to Roberta Vinci. Her press conference lasted about ten minutes; and, she called for last questions in the media center, which is not the player’s place in these situations. Finally, she got in a Mercedes tournament car and zoomed away from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center site within thirty minutes of her loss. She rode alone, which was not the case throughout the entire tournament. We have to wonder how many Wilson racquets met their demise that evening.
2. Roberta Vinci defeated Serena Williams in the women’s singles semifinal
With odds stacked against the unseeded Vinci — 300-1 — her victory was just that much sweeter. She praised Serena as a great champion, but made sure New York knew that Thursday was her day. That’s when the U. S. Open feel in love with Roberta. “I’m a little bit sad for Serena because she’s incredible player,” she told the press. “But what I have to say? I’m happy. It’s a magic moment for me.” Vinci played vintage tennis and dominated from an offensive position for much of the match. Her backhand slice, which Serena referred to as ‘wicked,’ in combination with a penetrating flat forehand, had the American off kilter and scrambling. Serena didn’t know what to do. She desperately tried to power Vinci off the court, but failed, leaving her frustration to mount as the match marched on. The upset sent shockwaves through the sporting world, many calling it one of the biggest in the history of sports. Vinci was ranked No. 43 at the outset of the Open. Yesterday she had moved up 24 spots to No. 19.
3. Two Italian Women Were Finalists
For the first time in the Open Era, since 1968, two Italian women — Flavia Pennetta and Roberta Vinci — played for the title in women’s singles at the U. S. Open. Pennetta walked away with the honors, defeating her friend, 7-6(3), 6-2. But everyone won. The match demonstrated to millions what the game looks like if most of the power is subtracted from all strategic equations. People were delighted with the difference and overwhelmed with the love these two women showed toward each other. They have been friends since childhood. It showed. Pennetta also became both the first Italian U. S. Open champion and the oldest woman U. S. Open champion. “It’s a dream come true,” she said in her on-court interview. And, to the surprise of almost everyone, she announced her retirement. “One month ago I made a big decision in my life,” she said. Pennetta will play out the year.
4. Sixteen Players Retired With Heat Exhaustion
High temperatures plus high humidity swept 14 men and 2 women off their best games and intentions, forcing them to retire from their matches. Jack Sock’s dramatic moments in his second-round match against Ruben Bemelmans will remain firmly fixed in viewers’ minds. The twenty-eight seed American Sock was up two sets to one, when he froze. He couldn’t move and knew he didn’t need a wheelchair, which was offered. His body was stiff. He could not walk; he just stood in one place. Luckily, several people surrounded the Nebraska native in time to ease him down to the court’s surface. His head lolled forward, as he fainted. They packed his body in ice, before dragging him to the locker room for treatment. Sock recovered, but he came close to what many would prefer not to mention: that heat exhaustion is dangerous where seconds could make the difference between life or death. The sixteen players made history, too. Never before had that many retired from weather-related conditions at a slam. Fit players sweat hard and easily. With so much humidity in the air and perspiration on their bodies, they could not cool down. That can only happen if sweat evaporates, which it couldn’t. The WTA has a heat rule, but the ATP does not. Perhaps it will take steps to create one. A ten minute break after the third set in a best-of-five format might just be what players needed during this Open. It’d be enough time to take an ice bath and get intravenous fluids.
5. Fabio Fognini ends Rafael Nadal’s Grand Slam Streak
Another Italian made history at this Open. In a night match, which many are calling the best of the fortnight, the No. 32 seed came from two sets down to defeat Nadal for the third time this season. The victory also put an end to Nadal’s hopes of winning at least one Grand Slam every year since 2004. “It was a match that I lost. So accept,” Nadal told the press, in his matter-of-fact manner. “He played better than me, no?” Nadal will recover, but may not reached the heights we’ve come to expect. You can be sure the Spaniard will keep fighting until he depletes every ounce of his soul.
6. ESPN Completes Inaugural U. S. Open
For 47 years, CBS held the rights to broadcast the Open. No more. ESPN will produce the event for the next 10 years. How good did the ‘Worldwide Leader in Sports’ fare? Knowing that the Open and New York do things in the biggest, best fashion and first, we’d have to say that it did try to make history with its on-court, mid-match player interview. Coco Vandeweghe will forever be the player remembered for the sneak attack by ESPN’s Pam Shriver who plunked down with the Californian at a changeover to ask a couple questions. Because viewers didn’t see many, if any, more of these attempts to bring players closer to fans, at least according to the USTA and ESPN, we’re going to presume the foray has been dropped. However, Pam did make her way into the stands frequently to speak with coaches, friends, family, and celebrities. This might have to sate viewers’ desires until more players agree to the mid-match interruption. Perhaps ESPN should remain on course and do what it’s supposedly does best … show tennis. And while it’s at it, how about some doubles?
7. Mardy Fish Retired, Lleyton Hewitt Played Last Open
Thirty-three year old American Mardy Fish fought his best to defeat eventual quarterfinalist Feliciano Lopez in their second-round match. Fish served for the win in the fourth set, but couldn’t keep his calm. Fighting cramps and nerves in the final set, he lost. Lopez said he didn’t deserve the win, but that’s tennis. Fish grew up with Andy Roddick and draws to a close that era of players. Be on the lookout for Fish to take a chair inside the commentator booths. He’ll have keen insights.
On a similar note, thirty-three year old Australian Lleyton Hewitt was all but in the locker room when he, too, failed. Fittingly, for a man known for prolonged matches and deep resolve to pull off a win, in the fifth set Hewitt let victory slip off his strings. Tomic stood tough, demonstrating in fine fashion what Hewitt had taught all the young Aussies … fight until the last ball. Hewitt won the U. S. Open on September 10, 2001, one day before the attacks on America. He defeated Pete Sampras in one of the most lopsided finals in tennis history, 7-6, 6-1, 6-1. Hewitt will be remembered for his baseline bashing, bringing that style to the foreground where it remain a steadfast diet for most pro players today. He formally retires after the 2016 Australian Open.