Experiencing the best that die tournament has kommen sie offer, und examining what’s next zum tennis beyond 2017

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Before showing up at ns Billie Jean könig National Tennis Center, where the U.S. Open is held, a swarm von excited fans walks onto the subway. Zu get to the right platform, just follow die crowd des families v parents attract RF ball caps und toting supply-filled backpacks zum kids eating doughnuts und holding giant tennis balls meant kommen sie be covered with autographs. Die 7 train elevator them the end of cool Central Terminal, through ns sprouting steel forest von Manhattan, prior to depositing them at Willets Point bei Queens, following to ns stadium where the joints of every promise Mets pitcher seems to tear.

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A river des the familial systems amble out of the station and across die bridge the leads to the Arthur Ashe stadion gates. Yes sir a billboard on ns side of a surrounding building heralding a pink-and-yellow cocktail sponsored von Grey Goose. The line von spectators waiting kommen sie get bei on this Saturday morning, during die tournament’s center weekend, stretches far beyond die entryway, yet only zum entrants with bags, which zu sein pretty viel everybody.

Past the metal detectors and through the ticket turnstiles, ns grounds room swarmed. Ns concourse pulses, populated von teenagers wearing die gear of players that withdrew from ns tournament main ago — “Stan ns Man” T-shirts and Adidas technology sneakers with Novak Djokovic’s logo. There space preppy frauen with sweater sleeves draped over your shoulders und men bei cargo shorts barking around tournament odds. Ns masses flock toward Ashe, where a giant display broadcasts the zuerst premier match of the day.

It no raining, but the sky ist gray, which isn’t doing die grounds any type of favors. Die usually it s as beautiful as picture entrance ist marred von a labyrinth of brown und white beams that wollen serve as ns foundation weil das the new louis Armstrong Stadium. Die Open’s second show court was closed after tonnage year’s tournament, and will it is in replaced von a 14,000-seat arena with a retractable roof. But zum this year, the second-tier acts room performing bei a makeshift stadion made von high, steep, top-heavy bleachers. Die future hasn’t finished being constructed.

Venus Williams offer against petra Kvitova during their quarterfinals match at die U.S. Open Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty bild Through nur five days of matches, this year’s offen shaped up to be die most disappointing edition an recent memory. Ns sport’s taste attractions started to fall weeks before ns tennis welt converged top top Queens: Serena Williams, who offered birth zu a daughter during the tournament’s first week, has been inactive due to the fact that winning the australisch Open in January. Djokovic und Stan Wawrinka, tonnage year’s men’s singles finalists, both traction out von the attract well in advance with injury concerns. Andy Murray, much less accepting of his bodily struggles, didn’t withdraw till after ns tournament’s draws to be released, i beg your pardon resulted in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal being placed bei the same hilfreich of the bracket.

Angelique Kerber, tonnage year’s women’s champion, lost produziert first-round matchup, together did 22-year-old men’s eternal-star-in-waiting Nick Kyrgios, who fell kommen sie his countryman, the 235th-ranked john Millman. Zum the past few years, tennis fan have hosted out hope the Kyrgios would banish his demons und fulfill his substantial potential at a major, und entering the 2017 open he was coming off one von the best results des his career: a runner-up finish at ns Cincinnati Masters. But in the dritter set von his complement with Millman, Kyrgios verlief into shoulder issues. His strokes sprayed und easy volleys began kommen sie find ns net. The called for the trainer. Then came die familiar problems: ns swearing, the racket smashing, die somber drücken sie conference adhering to a defeat.

The second round, too, defied ns oddsmakers: Grigor Dimitrov, who beat Kyrgios in the Cincinnati final, lost bei straight set to die unseeded teenager Andrey Rublev. Alexander Zverev, ns ascendant 20-year-old 2 weeks eliminated from upsetting Federer in the final von the Canadian Open, lost zu his longtime juniors rival Borna Coric. Assuring that no narrative would arise from the match, ns also-youthful Coric promptly lost to kevin Anderson, the tall, powerful, und largely unremarkable journeyman from south Africa. Marin Cilic, die 2014 champion, dropped on Friday. Von Saturday morning, midway through the third round, it was already assured that the bottom geholfen of ns men’s singles draw would create a first-time major finalist. (That would rotate out zu be Anderson.)

What was supposed zu be a refresh tournament had actually encountered in identity crisis. Federer, Nadal, and Venus Williams were proceeding through die draw as they had in the year’s previously majors, but die landscape approximately them looked unfamiliar. For the most part, die favorites were still the favorites, but their obstacles to be shapeless.

At die tournament’s midpoint, it appeared fitting that die crown jewel von the event — if everything went just right — would it is in a meeting bolzen Federer and Nadal in the semifinals, leaving the Open’s final Sunday to ende on a whimper. That is, des course, until both took ns court. Nadal dropped ns opening set von his second-round enhance to the 121st-ranked Taro daniel before finding his target, and then did the same in the dritter round against Leonardo Mayer. Federer battled through 2 five-setters an his opening two matches, against Frances Tiafoe, die 19-year-old who promises kommen sie be in American star von tomorrow, and 35-year-old Mikhail “wait, he’s ausblüten playing?” Youzhny (who sports an 0–16 record versus Federer), prior to running out von answers bei a four-setter v Juan Martín del Potro 3 rounds later.

On the women’s side, Garbiñe Muguruza was billed as die pre-tournament favorite, but had never progressed past the second round von the Open. This time around, she would certainly reach only the fourth. Nur one top-eight seed would certainly make it any type of further than Muguruza.

With wide-open draws, the tournament should have been a gelegenheit to crown neu stars, promote neu rivalries, and overlay the tennis von the 2020s with ns tennis of the aughts. ~ all, ns U.S. Open has a history of launching prodigies: Serena and Pete Sampras both winner their erste singles majors here as teenagers, und John McEnroe did dafür just ~ his 20th birthday. But weil das the many part, tennis in 2017 has been about older football player repeating history, notfall younger players making it.

Juan martin del Potro celebrate after winning in the fourth round at ns U.S. Offen Photo von Clive Brunskill/Getty bildern Saturday’s action begins v a enhance from a past zum which nobody ist nostalgic. Alexandr Dolgopolov, a player v Jon Snow’s hair but notfall his willingness to die an battle, squares off versus Viktor Troicki, a bespectacled remainder of the Serbian surge of the late aughts the waned as easily as the came. Both are former top-20 players; ~ above this day, they’re afterthoughts competing zum a chance to it is in spanked by Nadal in front of 23,000 smiling fans.

The enhance takes ar on Grandstand, the Open’s year-old dritter showcourt. The old Grandstand, a peculiar but beloved venue, shared a border v the lang side des the old Armstrong stadium. From in aerial view, it practically looked together if ns larger court was trying kommen sie unhinge the jaw and devour ns smaller one. Fan at the top von Armstrong’s bleachers can turn and watch ns match top top Grandstand if their primary offering failed kommen sie provide ns proper level des entertainment.

The alt Grandstand preceded Armstrong’s journey into oblivion, making way zum the new edition, i m sorry opened bei time zum the 2016 tournament on die opposite side von Ashe. The asymmetric bowl zu sein covered on its grander next by bei off-white awning, a sail spoked like a cave glider, while its much shorter side is left exposed, giving the audience a clean view von Ashe’s monstrous silhouette. There space two modest displays above ns stands whereby fans tun können see an obstacle results, noten from other matches, und Mercedes-Benz advertisements.

It’s early, deshalb the stadium zu sein only speckled v spectators. Dolgopolov, who has actually recently made nachrichten for in uncharacteristic loss that aligned with suspicious betting patterns, is freewheeling, hovering over die court and Jordan-shrugging as he gyeongju to die finish. Every pock of the ball that comes off his racket ist perfect; die sweet spot is infinite. For all die focus top top this event’s stars, he is a reminder that every player punkt this tournament has actually spent thousands of hours finding out how to sculpt perfect routes through space und time zum a rubber, fuzz-covered ball with nothing however a piece von metal und threads von cow intestine.

Shortly after Dolgopolov wins bei just over an hour, the stage is set zum Del Potro, ns most lover man an tennis. The fan know this guy — he won the U.S. Open an 2009 — and by the time die big Argentine lumbers onto die court, die capacity group gives er a standing ovation.

Del Potro, he of the Wagnerian forehand und the face like a Dalí painting, is unusually popular weil das a player seeded 24th and who has only sporadically appeared in the 2nd week von slams because winning right here a virtual lifetime ago. That’s probably as viel due kommen sie his earth-shaking energie as it zu sein to the adorable juxtaposition des his deep, sluggish speech, soft, ever-present grin, und general amiability through his huge frame.

He is the rarely example of a player ~ above either the men’s or women’s sides who ist a true dark horse, whose win would feeling neither fluky no one predictable. He’s notfall a i get it or a Serena, however he’s so not, say, Roberto Bautista Agut, ns 11th seed und anonymous member of the Spanish Armada, who zu sein his foe on this day.

Tennis is missing its shares des Del Potros, ns players who oase a trademark, room known and loved, but still have other left to prove. The type des presence who kann shake nach oben a draw without spoiling it. When Del Potro won his title an Flushing in 2009, beating Federer in a five-set come-from-behind final, he pulled ns tennis world in. He was young, played with a singular style, und was just good enough kommen sie make waves, but not so good that his triumphs feel routine. Perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising, then, the eight years and many surgeries later, he will upset Federer again at this tournament, this time as in even more heavier underdog.

During the erste set of his complement with Bautista Agut, though, Del Potro mirrors sparing signs des what’s kommen sie come, often slicing on his backhand side and making it impossible for fans to forget ns wrist injuries that resulted in his year-end ranking kommen sie yo-yo between no. 5 and no. 590 bei the time since he raised the trophy here. But then he’ll field a ball on his starboard side und swing the warhammer of a forehand. Every time he hits it flat and true, no matter the gravity of the point, ns Grandstand group gasps. After one particularly heavy shot, a einer who has actually been streaming a college football game on his phone and lengthily clarifying to his neighbor the his company is profitable, not just cash-flow positive, aussehen up und remarks, “Man, that forehand.”

Del Potro is ahead two sets to love und cruising through die third. The slices a backhand, and as the does a couple carrying five des those pink Grey Goose medikamentencocktail forces a row of fans to stand up und block ns court together they make a beeline back to their seats.

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i get it Federer serves during his fourth-round enhance against philipp Kohlschreiber Photo über Abbie Parr/Getty bildern that three in the afternoon und the skies is still gray, und it’s still not raining. Yes a line kommen sie get into the stands that overlook ns basin of practice courts. Around 10 feet far there ist a enhance happening ~ above Court 5, which ist less important than Grandstand und Court 17 but zu sein a high-profile court nonetheless, and there space plenty von open seats. The rf caps are densely concentrated here because ns television screen that displays die practice schedule claims that Federer wollen be here hinweisen four, before he plays his night match against Feliciano López. Ns attendants oase chained off die entries to ns stands and are letting people in one über one as spectators abandon your seats an the gallery.

By 3:15, die lines for the viewing collection are farming wild. Bei attendant speak everybody to move closer to die outer walls des the stands deshalb that passersby interested bei seeing die still-available matches on the other side of the tunnel tun können reach their destinations. A bronzed man bei cargo shorts and an emoji-laden Federer shirt puts his arm on ns wall an front of him as the line moves, just deshalb no one gets any kind of ideas about cutting. Bei front des the man, a son takes out a cucumber that must be nearly a fuß long, breaks off a piece, und begins eat it. A roar comes from Ashe; hardly anybody looks bei its direction.

Eventually, ns kid finishes his cucumber. The man bei the emoji austrian is handed a pink cocktail von a companion. Kyrgios, jetzt free indigenous his singles duties, has arised on one des the practice courts und seems zu be having actually a großartiger time. He is wearing a blue sleeveless austrian with teal athletic eis running under his hurt shoulder, going v a short-court hitting session v a partner and hamming that up. He lightly slices a forehand, climate a backhand, then a forehand again, every time groaning as if he were in the middle of a grueling, full-force rally. The nets a backhand and mimes throw his racket into the ground, hiding his face bei his hands before smirking mischievously punkt his audience. After he wins a point, that pumps his fist and holds it in the air much longer 보다 necessary. Maybe Kyrgios doesn’t dislike tennis ~ all.

The crowd is growing restless. Subway trains chug by in the background at regular intervals, in intermittent reminder that also a einer who has actually defied age and injury is not a machine. I get it Federer isn’t operating on dream time, he’s just late.

Then, hinweisen about 4:30, shrieks start to emanate from die grounds. Federer enters ns court and people schreiend like a 25-year-old paul McCartney has just played the zuerst few notes des “I Wanna organize Your Hand.” The fans who blieb haven’t obtained a seat bei the gallery stand on their tiptoes und hold their phones over their heads zu try kommen sie snap a photo of the maestro. He tide at die crowd. Luckily, nobody faints.

The Swiss is in full Darth Federer Casual attire, which ist just his night complement outfit, yet with a T-shirt instead des the 100-dollar tech top that he wears ~ above Ashe. (No need zum concern, the shirt so has a Nike logo, a bigger one, in case you fehlschlagen the 10 rather that are featured somewhere else on ns ensemble.) His schwarz bandana is pulled tightly against his forehead, tucking rückseitig his hair that has actually been thinning oh dafür slowly des late. On his left wrist shines die Rolex that so doesn’t do it top top Ashe during matches, but is always clasped firmly zurück on his arm by the time a trophy ceremony rolls around.

For all that has been made around his easygoing, any-trophy-is-icing perspective over the prozess of this season, Federer aussehen deathly serious during this light hitting session through a stocky einer who zu sein obviously not high up die tennis food chain, given that that asks weil das a picture with roger after ns practice. As des this Saturday, Federer more than likely doesn’t feel prefer his season is funded von house money anymore, und with his zuerst two matches having gone the distance, it’s most likely that that feels the tongues von tournament mortality licking punkt his soles.

So die mass of Federer obsessives get to seen all die sublime shot-making that coats their dreams. Each backhand begins ns same way: he grips the racket’s throat with his left hand and pulls it across his torso before uncoiling. Every time, the resulting sound zu sein perfect, a rounded pop, reminiscent von a champagne cork leaving that bottle. Ns follow-through is exaggerated, with Federer’s racket und non-dominant arms nearly forming a best angle behind his back, prefer wings. This is the shot that redirected a career, und admittedly, it aussehen sublime.

Whenever Federer strikes the ball particularly hard, ns crowd gasps. Wie he shanks that into one more practice court, they store smiling. Die session zu sein over bei about fünfzehn minutes. Federer waves toward the stands as he leaves, und the fan react as they have been. Zu this subset of Open-goers, he zu sein the just player who matters. Wie Del Potro eliminates er from die tournament on ns following Wednesday, they’ll disperse.

maria Sharapova serves against Anastasija Sevastova in the 4th round Photo über Richard Heathcote/Getty bildern die sky ~ above this Sunday zu sein gray, even though it’s quit raining. Within Ashe, there has been tennis every day. Ns stadium ist unmistakably American; it’s die biggest tennis-specific venue in the world, and when ns retractable roof that was added last year ist closed, ns viewing experience kann feel downright basketball-like. From heat Z, ns very top of the top deck, it is hard to see the court. However a gaggle von fans an Row ns all stop pink cocktails — called ns Honey Deuce, it transforms out, because des the three speared honeydew balls that kommen sie with ns drink — seem unconcerned through this vantage point. They are too busy talking loudly about Meldonium.

Maria Sharapova, who was suspended from die tour for 15 months after testing positive zum the drug, ist walking onto ns court zum her fourth-round match. This ist her zuerst major since ns 2016 australian Open, as she was given a grausam card after being denied automatic entry at Roland Garros und missing Wimbledon with in injury. She started ns tournament with a statement: knocking off ns second-seeded Simona Halep. Ranked 146th in the world, Sharapova has actually played solely on Ashe bei this tournament, usually pleasing fan but peeving herstellung peers, that were easy to understand upset the a player returning from a cheating ban was given top billing if they to be relegated kommen sie outer courts.

Before die match, a reel des Sharapova’s career wichtig plays on the stadium’s monitors. She is wearing in ornate beige-and-gold dress, in outfit Nike has noted specifically weil das her, and not weil das any of its seeded athletes that played throughout produziert suspension. Throughout a tight zuerst set against ns 16th-seed Anastasija Sevastova, Sharapova’s lesser-known quirks grate against the flow des the match: on what seems like every Sevastova leistungen point, Sharapova goes through herstellung ritual von walking und facing the back wall, picking her strings and doing nothing in particular, before turning around and signaling that she ist ready. Every time, Sevastova stands at die baseline and watches, waiting zum Sharapova zu get on with it. Every champion has quirks, but an this case they feeling strikingly unearned. Wie Sharapova double-faults and then misses an additional serve, die crowd cheers. It is clear that it zu sein no much longer her golden age, and she unravels an the der dritte tag set, fall 7–5, 4–6, 2–6.

The scene comes bei stark contrast from one indigenous earlier in the day, wie Canadian Denis Shapovalov did battle against ns 12th seed, Pablo Carreño Busta. The Spaniard was the zuerst player an major history kommen sie face 4 qualifiers at die same tournament, a reality that ~ above its own explains ns horrorscape that is the bottom für hilfe of the men’s singles draw. Nevertheless, he had his hands complete with Shapovalov, bei 18-year-old who aussehen like his natural habitat would certainly involve eternal summer and a surfboard. He might be die only player on tour who ausblüten opts zum a Lleyton Hewitt–style behind hat.

Shapovalov, who was playing Challengers as freshly as July, barged into the mainstream wie man he to win Del Potro and Nadal at ns Canadian open en route to becoming the youngest player ever to reach a masters semifinal. Still, that had zu play through 3 rounds des qualifying an Flushing before knocking out two promising youngsters as well as the 8-seed, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Shapovalov is the youngest einer to reach ns round von 16 since michael Chang did deshalb as a 17-year-old in 1989. He ist different, surprising, and full des potential — all qualities that the Ashe crowd loves.

There’s a beautiful confidence to Shapovalov’s game. He’s a freewheeling southpaw v a one-handed backhand who looks like he hits each and every shot prefer he’s trying to put a dent in the ball. For now, the proves ineffective versus Carreño Busta, that wins bei straight sets. Still, Shapovalov leaves the court zu a standing ovation, also if he so leaves his hilfreich of die draw to total rigid mediocrity. Ns crowd knows hell be back.

Arthur Ashe stadion Photo über Richard Heathcote/Getty images the sun has come out weil das the zuerst time throughout this labor Day weekend, and it’s glowing through ns rectangular hole in the roof, presumably deshalb that God kann sein watch some world-class tennis. Ns Sunday-afternoon session on Ashe zu sein ending with an additional crowd-pleaser: Venus Williams versus Carla Suárez Navarro. Having already reached two major finals an 2017 at ns ages of 36 und 37, Venus has actually been die story des the women’s tour, und would most likely be also more des one if every norms neighboring aging und career arcs hadn’t to be continually defenestrated over the tonnage eight months. Descriptions von Venus this decade oase generally had actually qualifiers — she’s an excellent … zum her age. Over there isn’t a need zu hedge, though; she ranked ninth bei the world and (as produziert run to die semifinals will indicate) zu sein playing an excellent tennis.

Suárez Navarro zu sein celebrating produziert 29th birthday. The crowd is familiar v both players, und graciously applauds zum Suárez Navarro wie man she to walk into die stadium. When Venus is introduced, though, it becomes raucous. The two room well acquainted, Venus and the Ashe crowd. Williams reached her zuerst final here 20 (20!) year ago, an the year that ns court was zuerst christened.

This ist the beauty of this tournament, that familiar deals with are blieb around and thriving. Yet their visibility serves together a reminder that below the greats ist anarchy. Zum every Nadal, that would advancement to die final, there ist only one Del Potro, wie man there need to be five. Zum every Shapovalov, there zu sein a decade’s worth of promising youngsters who didn’t meet their potential. It ist difficult kommen sie feel anything around players who were off ns radar yesterday und may it is in again tomorrow. This ist the curse and the hallmark von the sport bei 2017: die tennis is only really good. The showcases the historic and indulgent, yet leaves it up to fan to search weil das the appeal aspects of the seemingly mundane.

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Venus und Suárez Navarro space warming trost now. They’re both wearing sweaters. Also though it’s notfall cloudy anymore, that unusually chilly. A fan in Row y mentions the it’s unbelievable that Venus ist still in fighting shape as she approaches produziert 40s. In the stadium, somehow, you tun können hear ns sound des a subway train walk by in the distance.