By Joseph Staszewski
It wasn’t the history we expected to see at the US Open, but let’s not lose sight of the amazing feats that happened before our eyes last weekend in Flushing.
We didn’t get to witness Serena Williams complete the first calendar slam since Steffi Graf in 1988 and tie Graf for the top spot with 22 major titles. Instead we watched arguably the biggest upset in tennis history when Roberta Vinci beat Williams in the semifinals. It was a feat not even she believed was possible when she woke up that morning.
“This is the best match that I played in my life,” Vinci said.
It set the stage for sixth-seeded Flavia Pennetta to become the oldest first-time Grand Slam champion before announcing she would retire from tennis at the end of the season. She was going to hang up her racket win or lose, but this made it that much sweeter.
“If I have to dream about how I want to finish, I want to stop playing, this is the perfect way,” Pennetta said.
Just as it looked like Williams was destined to win on the women’s side, Roger Federer rolled to the men’s final without losing a set. He had experts saying he was playing the best tennis of his illustrious career. Instead the watch begins to see if Novak Djokovic, the world’s top-play ranked player, can break Federer’s mark of 17 major singles titles.
Djokovic put himself in that position by beating Federer in four sets for the US Open crown. It makes him just the eighth player in history to bring home 10 or more Grand Slam titles. It also gives him three of the four major crowns for the year for the second time in five years. Djokovic again was missing just the French Open.
Federer knows this isn’t the last time we will see the 28-year-old Djokovic raising a trophy above his head.
“Clearly he can win many of them,” Federer said. “He already has a ton, so obviously he’s got to stay healthy and all that stuff and hungry, but obviously you would think he will win more after tonight.”
The magnitude of the moment wasn’t lost on Djokovic, who has now won five times in Flushing. His 10 Grand Slam wins put him in the ranks of such other greats as Federer, Pete Sampras, Rafael Nadal, Rod Laver and Bjorn Borg, all of whom won 10 or more Grand Slams.
“I’m so, you know, obviously flattered and honored to be a part of this elite group of players, legends of our sport, to manage to win this many Grand Slam trophies in their lives and careers,” Djokovic said.
Sure, it would have been great to see Williams and Federer add to their resumes last weekend. They are crowd favorites and all-time greats. Instead, we got plenty of other unforgettable historic moments, including a final match between men who could go down as arguably the two best to ever pick up a racket.
It wasn’t the history we expected, but it was history nonetheless.