A “Slamtastic” U.S. Open

     Desolate stands were a common sight at last year’s sporting events due to COVID-19 restrictions, but fans were back in the stands and cheering loudly at the 2021 US Open for the first time in two years. 

     The first round started off with many historic moments. Naomi Osaka, the defending women’s champion, took out Marie Bouzkova in straight sets. Maxime Cressy became the first American man to knock off a Top-10 seed at the US Open since 2016. Pablo Carreno Busta, who was seeded No. 9, did not make it to the second round. After the first round, Novak Djokovic was six matches away from becoming the first male to win the Grand Slam Title since Rod Laver in 1969. History continued to be written as eight teenagers made it to the second round: Carlos Alcaraz, Lorenzo Musetti, and Zachary Svajda on the men’s side, and Maria Camila Osorio Serrano, Clara Tauson, Emma Raducanu, Leylah Fernandez, and Coco Gauff on the women’s side. The last woman to win a US Open Single Championship was Bianca Andreescu in 2019. 

     Sophomore Marisa Parco attended the US Open. She described her time there with great enthusiasm: “My experience was amazing. All the workers there were so nice, and seeing a sport I love so much in-person was so cool. Also, the fans and the atmosphere were great.”

     Parco got to see Djokovic in action, which she described as an “incredible” match. “He was the first seed [in the tournament], so being able to see him was something I will never forget,” Parco said. “He was playing an 18-year-old, [Holger Rune], so everyone thought that Djokovic was going to win easily, but Rune actually won a set, so to see that was crazy,” added Parco.

     In the second round, Djokovic became one step closer to winning a Grand Slam. Moreover, Jack Sock, the lowest ranked player remaining in the US Open Single Draw, moved on to the third round. On the men’s side, Casper Ruud, seeded No. 8; Busta, seeded No. 9; and Hubert Hurkacz, seeded No. 10, were all eliminated. On the women’s side, the lowest seed to fall was Coco Gauff, who was seeded No. 21. Three teenagers advanced to the third round: Alcaraz, Raducanu, and Fernandez. In an exciting match in the second round, Karolina Pliskova defeated Amanda Anisimova in a third-set tiebreaker. 

     In the third round, Djokovic continued climbing towards the top. At the same time, Andreescu, the only player to have won the US Open on her main draw debut, finished with 10 US Open victories. In an article on the US Open’s official website, Alcaraz stated, “Without this crowd, I haven’t the possibility to win this match [Carlos Alcaraz vs. Stefanos Tsitsipas].” 

     The last time there was at least one 18-year-old from both the men’s side and women’s single draws in only the second week at the US Open was in 1998. Shockingly, reigning champion Osaka was defeated by Fernandez in the third round. In a Fox Sports article, Osaka commented, “I honestly don’t know when I’m going to play tennis again…I think I am going to take a break from playing for a while.” Osaka withdrew from press conferences and from the Roland-Garros French Tournament earlier in the year. After opening up about mental health struggles, she also withdrew from Wimbledon. 

     Djokovic was only two victories away from winning the Grand Slam. Alexander Zverev increased his winning streak to face Djokovic in the semifinals; however, Djokovic managed to hold on and defeat Zverev to compete in the finals. 

     Raducanu and Fernandez also continued on to the semifinals. The last time multiple teenage women reached the semifinals for women’s singles was in 2009. Prior to Wimbledon, Raducanu was ranked 338th; however, after the quarterfinals, she was projected to reach the top 50, a major jump in the right direction. She was also the lowest ranked singles player left competing. Only one player in US Open history has won a US Open on his/her main draw debut, and that was Andreescu in 2019. It was safe to say that Raducanu was on her way to becoming the second. 

     Both Raducanu and Fernandez advanced to the finals to compete for the women’s singles  title. This was the first time that two unseeded women faced each other in a US Open final. Ultimately, it was Raducanu who was victorious. Although not walking away with a victory, Fernandez became the youngest player to earn three Top-5 victories at a Grand Slam since Serena Williams in the 1999 US Open. 

     Two veteran players, in particular, were missing from the spectacle: Roger Federer and Serena Williams. Freshman and tennis player Cooper Schorr commented, “A tennis player that has inspired me and [that] I like to watch is Roger Federer.” Federer missed the US Open due to knee surgery, and Williams was unable to compete due to a torn hamstring.

Raducanu joins Andreescu on the list of players who have won a US Open title on their main draw debut. The 18-year-old also broke the record for the least Majors played before winning a Major singles title. She also became the eighth British woman to be in a Grand Slam final.

     In the Men’s finals, Daniil Medvedev won an upset match over Djokovic in three sets to earn the Maiden Grand Slam title. Medvedev is the first Russian to win this title since Marat Safin in 2000. However, Djokovic has played in 31 career major finals, tying Federer for the all-time lead. American Desirae Krawczyk became the seventh player to win three mixed titles in a single Grand Slam season, winning the Mixed Double title with Joe Salisbury, who became the first player to win three consecutive Mixed Doubles since Mahesh Bhupathi in 2006. 

     Junior Ava Schwam, a regular attendee of the US Open, described the tournament as unforgettable. “Seeing all of the crowded stands and loud cheers is a feeling like no other,” she said. “The tennis players always have such high energy and motivation; the matches are intense and always keep you on the edge of your seat,” added Schwam. Out of all the matches Schwam witnessed, she said the highlight was sitting courtside for Anisimova’s match. 

     After a multitude of sports events had to be livestreamed on television rather than viewed live, fans are excited to be back in the stadium. “It felt so normal and good just to not have to think about coronavirus for a while,” Parco said. “Being in a crowd with so many people who love the same thing as you is so great. I can’t describe it.”