Quiet atmosphere, empty stadiums, and top players absence were the realities at the just-concluded US Open.
It’s strange that in September, only two Grand Slams have been played- no thanks to a global pandemic. Shortly after the Australian Open- which now seem like a distant memory, Tennis and other sporting competitions were suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
The virus which originated from China shut down almost all activities worldwide. Masters competitions between February and April could not hold while the Wimbledon was postponed for a year.
But after almost five months, Tennis finally returned to our screens, but without fans. Before the sport made its return, there were doubts whether the US Open will follow Wimbledon’s lead by not holding this year.
However, that was not the case as they did not have insurance against a potential pandemic- something which Wimbledon leveraged on.
The tournament held from August 31- September 13 but fans were not present. The level of tennis remained the same, though.
After two weeks of high-quality tennis, Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem stood alone at the top in the Women and Men section, respectively.
Their victories and other stars made headlines. Freshsports give a lowdown of what we learned from the tournament.
Next-Gen Winner: Over time, questions have been asked whether the next generation has what it takes to win a Grand Slam. Since 2010, Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic and Andy Murray are the three slam winners outside the Big three.
The trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic have made it difficult for a player to win a slam due to their extraordinary quality.
However, with only Djokovic playing at this year’s tournament, it presented the next generation a huge opportunity, and it was one they took.
Among the next-gen stars, Dominic Thiem- although he’s 27- has been the one closest to winning the big one. The Austrian has been to the finals of a slam on three occasions, losing twice to Nadal at the French Open, and also to Djokovic at the Australian Open.
But luck finally shone on him at the US Open as he won his first grand slam title. It was however not easy as he had to come back from two sets down in the final against Alexander Zverev.
Zverev would be disappointed with the way he threw it away, but the German should be proud of what he has done in the two slams played so far this year.
He reached the semi-finals of the Australian Open where Thiem also stopped him. Still only 23, he will get more chances to win a slam one day finally.
Djokovic The Architect Of His Misfortune: With Federer and Nadal missing, the US Open presented Djokovic the chance to close the gap on his rivals in grand slam titles race.
Federer is currently on 20, while Nadal has won 19 majors. Djokovic, who is on 17, had the opportunity to win number 18 in Flushing Meadows, but he self-destructed.
The Serbian world number one had breezed through the opening three rounds and was the clear favourite for the title.
However, the 33-year-old found himself out of the competition in his fourth-round clash against Pablo Carreno Busta- no thanks to his anger.
Djokovic was frustrated with the way he lost his service in the 11th game and played a ball out in frustration, which then hit a line judge.
It was unintentional, but the Serbian was disqualified afterwards, and that denied him the chance to win his 18th major.
You Can Be A Mother And Still Be A Champion: Osaka won on the women’s side, but it was a tournament dominated by mothers.
The trio of Serena Williams, Victoria Azarenka and Tsvetana Pironkova all reached the latter stages of the competition.
What made their run special is that- they are all mothers. Pironkova, who was playing for the first time in three years, reached the quarterfinals, losing to Serena Williams.
The Bulgarian had been out of action since leaving the tour in 2017 to start a family. However, on her return, she showed strong determination and resilience to reach the quarterfinals, beating the likes of Gabrine Muguruza and Donna Vekic in the process.
She was not the only mother that had a fantastic run. Serena Williams also reached the Semi-final before losing to Azarenka, who is also a mother.
What these three amazing women showed is- you can be a mother and still excel in other areas.
Will Serena Reach No 24? Since returning from the birth of her child, Serena has been chasing a record-equalling grand slam number 24.
However, it’s always a case of too close yet so far. Serena has made the finals of a slam on many occasions since she returned, but she’s ended up on the losing side every time.
For every slam, she’s always among the favourites, but the US Open presented her with a massive opportunity as six of the top 10 players missed the competition.
Yet, the 38-year-old missed out on another chance as she was beaten in the semi-finals by Azarenka. When she won title no 23, Magaret Court’s record haul of 24 majors was under threat.
But right now, it’s a case of if and not when Serena will match the Aussie’s record.
Osaka A Champion On The Court, A Leader Off It: Naomi Osaka won her third major and her second title in New York with a three sets victory over Azarenka.
While it was a brilliant performance, Osaka’s role in the Black Lives Matters movement is more impressive. Her actions over the past few months show leadership does not have anything to do with age.
The 21-year-old has always lent her voice against racial injustice in the US. For each match she played in the last two weeks at Flushing Meadows, Osaka wore face masks with the names of black people that have been killed by the US police.
The Japanese star is already a great champion, but more importantly, she’s also a leader who is ready to lend her voices to racial injustice.