EM – This year’s US Open is an antidote to sadness

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For at least a decade now, the tennis commentator has been wringing his hands over an inevitable future without three of the sport’s biggest stars and perennial Golden Geese: Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal. In their place, some regression in the market value and popularity of the sport seemed certain.

By the time each of them retired from this year’s US Open – Serena with a hamstring tear; Rafa with a foot injury; Federer with terminal back and knee pain – their faces were already plastered on subways and buses across New York City, promising their “big comeback” to Flushing Meadows. Instead, the banner ads have been a grim testament to Father Time, as this year’s US Open marked the first without at least one of the trios playing since 1997, before the Greek world number 3 and taker. long breaks in the bathroom, Stefanos Tsitsipas was not potty-trained.

But after a week and a half of some of the best and most competitive Grand Slam tennis players in recent memory, supported by raging crowds that were absent from last year’s event due to the pandemic, the future does not seem to look any longer. so dark. When the torch has passed, if it is not already, tennis will be fine.

Just take a look at the women’s draw, which was deliciously beaten by Britain’s Emma Raducanu, 18, the first qualifier to reach a major final, and Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, 19, who beat the second in the tournament. , seeded third and fifth to reach Saturday’s final. By coldly sending the best players in the world (Fernandez beat the tournament’s second, third and fifth seeds, each in three sets; Raducanu, ranked 150th in the world, didn’t lose a single set), each of them demonstrated the exact kind of courageous irreverence that sport needs. (And that Naomi Osaka and Bianca Andreescu, whose own coronations took place at that very event, had shown themselves in recent years before their respective struggles with mental health and injury.) When Raducanu and Fernandez face each other on Saturday , this will be the first teenage US Open all-final since 1999, when 17-year-old Serena Williams won her first Grand Slam. Hopefully in Saturday’s final, between two players completely freed from all odds, they’ll play the kind of fearless and composed tennis that got them there.

And on the men’s side there’s Carlos Alcaraz, a brave, baby-faced 18-year-old Spaniard with explosive power, who shocked Tsitsipas in five sets and became the youngest male quarterfinalist in a Major since 1990. bowed in this round, he has a natural swagger and ball-hitting ability that courted comparison with both Federer and Nadal, who along with Novak Djokovic managed to keep a whole generation of upstarts major titles.

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Needless to say, fans responded in kind. The New York crowd is savoring its underdogs and prodigies, and this year they are “foaming in the mouth,” to quote young American Frances Tiafoe, who burned midnight oil in a shaken five-set victory over Andrey Rublev which ended after 2 a.m., with Tiafoe ripping her shirt off at the seams in celebration. (An unlikely number of matches during the tournament ended until the early hours of the morning, justifying the loss of sleep they caused.)

The old guard is hardly absent in Flushing Meadows. Djokovic, who bills himself as the greatest player of all time, is in the semi-finals, two matches from the pinnacle of tennis, a one-calendar-year Grand Slam and with it a 21st major title that would shatter a hat-trick. tie with Federer and Nadal. This pursuit may still be the A1 story of the tournament – the weight of history weighing on a player with automatic efficiency, a man perhaps too skillful in his genius to inspire the same dedication as his two rivals. But it seemed like some kind of side show in the face of the new faces glove.

Neither Tiafoe nor any of his compatriots made it to the quarterfinals, but the state of American tennis looks rather promising. Jenson Brooksby, 20, whose disarming, almost squash-like style of play provided a refreshing nod to the glut of powerful grassroots players in the modern game, won the opener against Djokovic in of their fourth round match before his legs gave way. Large-serving human bean Reilly Opelka also reached the last 16 in a career best Grand Slam result. And South Carolina Shelby Rogers, who at 28 isn’t exactly a newcomer, took the biggest win of his career over world No.1 and Wimbledon champion Ash Barty, wanting to be the win in a game. decisive in front of an exuberant crowd from his hometown. the tournament’s signature juice, the exorbitantly priced Gray Goose cocktail.

“The crowd is at the next level this year,” Rogers said in his field interview after the upheaval. The quality of play and the number of close matches – 35 in five sets on the men’s side so far, tying a 1983 Open record – certainly has something to do with their comeback.

Writing about last year’s Open, I noted that the lack of fans at the 2020 event was making its own kind of theater, forcing athletes used to large crowds to indulge in the genre. of intimate confrontation that sets professional tennis apart from junior level competition, where players are primarily watched by their families and coach. Take last year’s final between Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, a clumsy war of attrition that didn’t herald the arrival of the sport’s next superstars so much as it heralded a future without any. Watching them nervously sink into the biggest game of either career, one wondered if they would have done better to seize the opportunity in front of a full house. In his semi-final match against Djokovic on Friday, where he looks to hand the Serbian their first major loss this year, Zverev will have the chance to partially rectify last year’s collapse.

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Tennis has been superb throughout – and it could get even better this weekend – but so have psychodrama, including, but not limited to, the little controversies over the aforementioned washroom break; catty handshakes; warning tweets; and a retractable roof that couldn’t prevent the remnants of Hurricane Ida, which flooded much of New York City but arrived after last Wednesday’s nighttime session, keeping the tournament on schedule. Yes, even the weather, usually very hot this time of year, worked in favor of the Open. All in all, these two weeks were a balm, however insignificant or fleeting, during a summer filled with more and more variants of contagion and natural disaster. They were also a welcome reminder of the special thrill of professional live tennis, a sight as captivating as any other sport.

Each product is independently selected by (obsessive) editors. The things you buy through our links may earn us a commission.

Senior U.S. health officials believe Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine could be cleared for children ages 5 to 11 by the end of October, two sources familiar with the matter said on Friday. The timeline is based on the expectation that Pfizer, which developed the shot with Germany’s BioNTech, will have enough clinical trial data to apply for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) for this age group. with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) towards the end. this month, the sources said.

They predict that the FDA could decide whether the vaccine is safe and effective in young children within three weeks of the EUA’s submission.

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