By: Alex Roth
The buzz surrounding the defeat of Novak Djokovic and the dethroning of Serena Williams is still ringing out across the tennis world. Many saw this day coming for the two, but no one expected for both to happen in the same weekend.
Novak seems to be becoming more human while Serena is finally showing signs of age. These two things may be the major takeaways from the U.S. Open, but there is no reason to ignore the many factors that caused them.
Stan Wawrinka defeated Novak in a lengthy four-hour match Sunday, beating him in four sets. In last year’s French Open, Stan also brought down Novak in a major final. From watching their previous matches against one another, one cannot help but notice how Wawrinka’s game matches up very well against Novak’s. He consistently hits the ball with pace, whether it is his forehand or backhand, he can hit the corners very often, and his well-placed serves keep the greatest returner of all time in check.
It is even more impressive that Wawrinka won due to the fact that Novak had never been so rested before a major tournament final. Leading up to the final match, Djokovic had only played a total of 13 sets. It is shocking that such a well-rested Djokovic lost such an important match.
The injuries that Novak sustained during the match were also a shock to many viewers. This man is seemingly invincible and rarely has an injury of any kind. Novak’s toes were his Achilles heel Sunday night as his medical timeouts consisted of outrageous amounts of toe tape. On the ESPN broadcast, the cameramen showed a close-up shot of his feet. His bandages were bloody and his feet were cramping up and shaking. Even with the pain he seemed to be enduring, Novak’s movement around the court was unchanged.
Even with Novak’s injuries, Stan needed to play some of his best tennis to win. He played with a lot of mental toughness, often showcasing his signature point to the head after winning a crucial game.
Wawrinka also used a variety of different serves to keep Novak on his toes and guessing. This made it difficult for Novak to utilize his legendary returning skills and neutralize Stan’s serve. Wawrinka, as always, hit his groundstroke with tremendous pace, another way for him to keep Djokovic from getting too comfortable. Although there may be many qualifiers to Wawrinka’s victory, it is still that: a victory. He will take any victory, though, especially when it gets him his third major title.
On the women’s side, results were even more jaw dropping. Serena Williams, who was chasing her record 23rd major title, lost in the semifinals to Karolína Plísková in just two sets. To Serena, this may not have been such a tragedy if it were not for Angelique Kerber winning the tournament. These two results were absolutely terrible for Serena because now Kerber is the number one player in the world. A change of the guard has now occurred on the women’s tour and now the biggest question on the minds of many fans is just how long Kerber can hold onto her new title as the queen of tennis.
There were many other notable and interesting stories in this action-packed major tournament such as Gael Monfils’ maturing, an early Murray exit, and an unexpected run by former number one Caroline Wozniacki. So much happened over these past few weeks and the landscape of both the men’s and women’s tours have been altered. We are surely inching our way towards a whole new era of tennis.
(Featured image: Kenneth Hong, Flickr)