There is no tennis major that goes without having some interesting story lines, and this year’s U.S. Open was no exception.
The first thread is the obvious one. Serena Williams losing in the semi-finals to unseeded Roberta Vinci. Vinci robbed Williams of a calendar Grand Slam. This would have been the sport’s first Grand Slam since Steffi Graf won one in 1988. The fact that Williams lost the match in three sets proves the cliché, “In sports, anything can happen.” The crowd was firmly behind Williams, but that did not stop Vinci from showing emotion and talking to the crowd during the match. If Williams had to lose to anyone, Vinci was fitting, a relatively unknown unafraid of showing passion and playing without fear. As Vinci said in her on-court post-match interview with ESPN, “I am sorry that Williams lost, but today is my day.” And she was right. She played better than Williams and Serena deserved to lose. Plus, one can safely assume that Williams will be having nightmares about Vinci’s drop shots for months to come.
The second most prominent narrative is that Novak Djokovic won the men’s side, clinched the yearly number-one ranking for a fourth year, tied Roger Federer in their all-time head-to-head with 21 wins apiece, while winning his 10th major. Djokovic was simply amazing. After his massacre of 2014 champ, Marin Cilic, in the semi-finals, 6-0 6-1 6-2, he broke Federer six times in the finals (Federer had been broken only twice all tournament to that point) to take the championship in four sets. Djokovic is a player who could be truly great in an era of tennis. He has an effective serve, but that is far from his strength. His ability to move on the baseline, return of serve and shot placement might be all the best in today’s game. Give him a wooden racquet and he comes as close to being the same player than almost anyone else in the men’s game. Possibly, Federer could do the same, but he has changed his game in the last few years to one of more power and built on a bigger serve. Though several tournaments still remain this calendar year, Djokovic can call 2015 another success. He won three of four majors, which he did not win the French. He lost there in the finals, of course. He now ranks seventh all-time in majors won, and if he continues to stay healthy and focused (he is 28 years-old), it is not difficult to imagine him winning several more.
An under-the-radar story was that Martina Hingis, once the dominant female player who was ranked No.1 for 209 weeks and has won five major single tournaments, won both the mixed-doubles and women’s doubles. She won five major doubles titles this year, and now has a total of 14 Grand Slam doubles titles in her career. Including her five singles wins, that means she has won 19 major titles. That is a great career.
Rafael Nadal did not make the quarters at the U. S. Open, and therefore failed to reach the quarters in any major this year. It has always been assumed by people who watch tennis closely that Nadal would probably not have a long career because he is prone to injury. In 2015, though, his problems seem to come from lack of confidence. Or maybe it is something else: maybe he just does not care as much as he once did. Nadal is well-known to be a genuinely nice guy who is down-to-earth. If he truly is finished being the great player we all know him to be, it is a tennis fan’s loss. One wonders, however, if Nadal might not be happier just riding off into the sunset. And if that is the case, he deserves to leave as he wishes.
Finally, the ultimate career mic drop was performed by Flavia Pennetta. Pennetta not only won her first career major, as she defeated Vinci in the women’s final, but she decided at 33 years-old that that was the best that could be done and announced her retirement following the match. Most of us work for a living, and going out the way Pennetta did is something we all should wish for.