US Open 2017 – ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’

AP Photo/Charles Krupa

US Open 2017 – ‘Curiouser and curiouser!’

The US Open, as the last slam of the season in New York, occupies a very special place for the players and the fans.

A long, unpredictable tennis season, and many times the challenging conditions in New York, can make the US Open very difficult, but very often players still refer to it as a great event.

As we are nearing the completion of the tournament, it would be interesting to recap who is in, who is out and who never competed!

The US Open 2017 started without the defending champion on the men’s side, Stan Wawrinka, and the 2016 finalist, Novak Djokovic. Incidentally, Djokovic was the 2015 Champion as well. Also missing in action were Andy Murray and Kei Nishikori. But the two most beloved male players of all times, former number ones, owners of many Grand Slam titles, Federer and Nadal were in, and we were all watching.

Predictions were for them to meet in the semifinals, spoiling the possibility of a replay of 2017 Australian Open Final, where two veterans squared off with Federer ultimately taking the prize. Expectations got higher as Rafa and Roger knocked down their opponents in the early rounds; Nadal more handily and Federer with higher number of five-set matches than desired. Still, they were on their way to the greatly anticipated semifinal meeting.

But something happened! Someone named Juan Martin Del Potro – the 6’6” Argentinian whose biggest achievement was winning the 2009 US Open by defeating Nadal in the semis and 5-time defending champion Federer in the final.

Del Potro with his consistent and huge forehand, had been tagged as the next member of the Big Four and maybe even a potential number one, but was forced out of the game for three years due to multiple left wrist operations.  He had to work his way up from a ranking of 1,045 in February of 2016 to 28 prior to US Open 2017. The wrist injuries affected his backhand in a major way, causing his shot to be a lot less effective than before and even a liability at time. As such, few expected him to be the king-slayer. But he was!

Supported by roars of the cheering crowd, under a closed roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Delpo defeated Roger Federer to book his spot against Rafa Nadal in the semis of the US Open. It was unusual to hear the crowd root for Del Potro against Federer, an all-time favorite of the crowd. The ESPN commentator rightfully exclaimed that ‘court-side seats’ are occupied by Federer’s supporters but Del Potro owns ‘the upper deck’!

Was it the support of the crowd? Was it Federer’s injuries flaring up? Was it a reminiscence of the 2009 defeat? Commentators will analyze and recount it for sure. But one thing is sure: it was the unmistakable sign that Delpo is back! Watch out ATP!

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