2023 was a scorcher both on the court and off the tennis court in New York this summer. New York has been under a heat wave with temperatures as high as 93F and the tennis has not been that far behind that. The US Open is one of my favorite tournaments of the year, New York is a buzzy city at the best of times but the US Open gives it a new dimension.
Play kicked off this year on the 28th of August, The stage was set at the iconic USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, and it did not disappoint. I was at the championships this year having not been for a few years and was reminded how good the facilities are, with meticulously maintained courts and a buzzing atmosphere that only New York City can provide. The passionate crowd brought their A-game, creating an ambiance that added to the drama on the court.
The first week saw wall-to-wall action of top-class tennis. On the Men’s side, Carlos Alcaraz came into the tournament as the man to beat. He recently won Wimbledon, his second major title, and as world number 1, all eyes were on him. On the other side of the draw, Novak Djokovic, the ever-present legend of the game, was looking to capture his 24th Grand Slam and further extend his lead on the Grand Slam leaderboard for men.
Notable performances from Ben Shelton, Frances Tiafoe, and Taylor Fritz for all making it through to the Quarter Finals. Men’s US tennis is having some form of resurgence with Tommy Paul the other name to add to this list. All in the top 20.
It was also good to see some of the older names in tennis still making waves. Andy Murray continues with his miraculous comeback after having a metal hip installed, he fell in the second round to Gregor Dimitrov. This was John Isner and Jack Sock’s last tournament before retirement. What an incredible career for both players and the send-offs were emotional. How great it was that they were able to do it together playing doubles.
On the women’s side, it was great to have Caroline Wozniacki return to grand slam tennis, and at one point it looked like she would storm through the draw, Her run was halted at the Round of 16, losing to Coco Gauff. All the big names were here, Aryna Sabalenka recently crowned number 1 in the world stormed through the first week with power and precision. Iga Swietek who lost the world no.1 to Arya, couldn’t handle the power of Jelena Ostapenka in the Round of 16. Coco Gauff was quietly progressing through the draw also, as was Madison Keys. Could this be the year for an American victory?!
Week 2 is the sharp end of the business. Ben Shelton made his first semi-finals only to be stopped in 3 by an in-form Novak and probably the biggest surprise saw the ever-lively Daniil Medvedev beat Carlos Alcaraz in straight sets. It is fair to say he played as well as I have ever seen him.
Sabalenka had a real fight with Madison Keys in the semi-final with Sabalenka coming through in the third set. Coco Gauff had an easier semi-final against the talented Muchova.
The second week saw new faces and old progress in both tournaments. This is the point when the competition moves onto the Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium—for Sunday’s fourth-round play. Around the grounds, the doubles competitions also raged on, while the junior events began.
Ben Shelton, a future star in the making, made his first semi-final appearance only to be stopped in three sets by an in-form Novak Djokovic and probably the biggest surprise saw the talented Daniil Medvedev beat Carlos Alcaraz in straight sets. It is fair to say he played as well as I have ever seen him. As always Alcaraz was incredibly gracious in defeat.
Sabalenka had a real fight with the incredibly consistent Madison Keys in the semi-final with Sabalenka coming through in the third set. Coco Gauff had an easier semi-final against the talented Muchova.
Coco Gauff won her first title 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 against Aryna Sabalenka. A mix of styles saw an incredible final. Sabalenka as she so often does, came out of the blocks firing on all cylinders. Her big-hitting game was working well and there was little Gauff could do.
Gauff absorbed the pace and started to find weaknesses in Sabalenka’s game. it almost looked like her strategy was to try and stay in the game, absorb the punches, and force her opponent to make errors. The final set saw Gauff up her game and prevail to a rapturous crowd. A win for the ages and at 19 Gauff is only getting started.
The men’s final was an extraordinary affair. Djokovic secured the first set only to look down and out in the second. His movement was slow and he looked exhausted under the humid conditions. At any point, it looked like Medvedev was going to accelerate past him, but Djokovic kept finding new gears to stay in the rallies. This was a long and gruelling game with rallies going over 20 shots many times.
Novak secured a challenging second set and then a third, going on to secure his fourth US Open, winning 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. In the end, Medvedev almost looked a little lost as to how he had not done better. But as we know, Djokovic has this ability to find new levels. At 36 and with 24 majors to his name, the question is how long will the body keep going?
The US Open men’s doubles final was won by Joe Salisbury and Rajiv Rahm, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 giving them their third straight US Open win. These guys play so well together and seem to read each other’s minds.
The US Open women’s doubles was won by Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe, the 16th seeds, who were playing together for the first time this year. They came through 7-6, 6-3 against Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva.
The US Open mixed doubles final was won by Anna Danilina of Kazakhstan and Haari Haliovaara of Finland who beat top seeds Jessica Pegula and Austin Krajicek 6-3, 6-4.
As the sun sets on another fantastic US Open, we can look on with hope for the future of tennis. History came calling again on the men’s side with Novak winning his 24 major, and in contrast, the 19-year-old Coco Gauff won her first grand slam.
It is great to see so many new names coming through the ranks. US tennis is having a resurgence with the likes of Jessica Pegula, Ben Shelton, Tommy Paul, and Frances Tiafoe. And let’s not forget the rise and rise of Chris Eubanks.
I was privileged to witness some fantastic matches this year, the play seems to get better and better each year. The players have a ‘rest’ now until the attention is turned to the end-of-year finals and the next major, the Australian Open in 2024. The game never stops and this is just the way we like it : )