Dawn of a New Era?
Updated: Oct 11, 2020
In true 2020 style, this year’s US Open became the first major tournament in 21 years to feature neither Roger Federer nor Rafael Nadal. The iconic generational pair, remarkably, have won a joint 39 Grand Slam titles.
Several other big names, too, missed out on the 140th US Open — some due to the dynamics surrounding COVID-19 (particularly in New York).
Ahead of the tournament, defending champion Bianca Andreescu as well as Ashleigh Barty, Simona Halep and Stan Wawrinka all declared that they would not partake in the first Grand Slam post-lockdown.
Tennis fans got a glimpse of the future, regarding the sport beyond its prolific era of Federer, Nadal and Novak Djokovic.
With the veteran big dogs in absentia, more youthful players on tour had themselves a perfect platform to shine from.
Alexander Zverev, 23, showed admirable determination to come from two sets down versus Pablo Carreño Busta and go on to win their semi-final clash. German-born Zverev served 24 aces on his way to an inaugural major final.
Carreño Busta got a result over Djokovic two rounds prior; the Serb was defaulted from the tournament for, inadvertently, striking a line judge in frustration.
Meeting Zverev in the final was Dominic Thiem, 27, of Austria. Thiem overcame Daniil Medvedev in straight sets to reach a fourth Grand Slam final; his first at Flushing Meadows.
Since 2015, this was only the second major men’s final to be contested by none of Djokovic, Federer or Nadal; the legendary trio have won a combined 12 US Open titles.
Zverev came out firing right from the get-go. Standing close to two metres tall, he was both literally and figuratively head and shoulders above his opponent Thiem.
Zverev broke service as early as the third game in both the first and second sets. With his own services reaching top speeds ranging around 220 km/h, Zverev brushed aside Thiem to win the first set 6-2; Thiem broke back for the first time in the second set however Zverev claimed it as well, 6-4.
After snatching the third set 6-4, Thiem came to life in the fourth and took it 6-3 – making the final a five-set thriller.
The pair battled it out all the way into a tiebreaker, which Thiem won 8-6; he became the first player since 1949 to win the US Open final after trailing by two sets.
Thiem's sharp athleticism, rapid court coverage, and previous major final experience ultimately proved too much for the German to handle on this occasion.
Zverev served almost twice as many aces as Thiem did, but also served 14 double-faults compared to 8 from Thiem.
Thiem becomes the first men’s Slam winner born in the '90s; he is also the first player since Marin Čilić (2014) to win a maiden championship.
Unquestionably, both Thiem and Zverev will play in many more finals in years to come.
On the Ladies’ side, Serena Williams and countrywoman Jennifer Brady both crashed out in the semis at the hands of Victoria Azarenka and Naomi Osaka, respectively.
Unseeded Azarenka – of Belarus – played her first Grand Slam final since 2013. Azarenka was hoping for a third time lucky charm, having been a finalist at the tournament in 2012 and 2013; Osaka won the 2018 US Open.
Azarenka was stretched to her limits by her opposite number, who is nine years her junior.
In the opening set, Azarenka ousted two-time Grand Slam champion Osaka, 6-1. The Japanese star shifted some gears and rallied back in the second set, which she claimed 6-3.
In the deciding set, Osaka won it 6-3 to complete her turnaround and lift a third major title.
Both Osaka and Thiem bagged $3 million for their efforts; the runners-up both received half that amount. The total prize money for this year‘s tournament was reportedly in the region of $53M.
Next, we turn our attention from hard court to clay, as players have one week to prepare for the French Open. Action gets underway at Roland Garros on Monday 21 Sept.