For the first time since 2004 when The Age of Federer began in earnest, there was no clear-cut favorite for this year's US Open men's championship: Four-time defending champion Fed was mired in a season-long drought of major titles, world no. 1 Rafael Nadal was unproven in New York having never passed the quarterfinals, last year's finalist Novak Djokovic was playing sub-par ball and lacking confidence, and Andy Murray announced his arrival by winning Cincinnati but crashed out of Beijing in the first round.
So leave it to one of the game's greatest champions (if not the greatest) to give a master class in desire, self-belief, and perseverance on the biggest stage in tennis.
We're all well-versed at this point on the stories claiming the demise of Roger Federer - he's toast, he'll never win a major title again, he should be retired by now! But the 27-year old continues to defy the doubters, penning his own version of the story no one else could, or should, write. Fed brought the shine of his Olympic doubles gold medal with him to New York where he started off relatively well, struggled mightily in the middle, but finished in a flourish to capture a historic fifth consecutive US Open championship - the first baller in the Open Era to accomplish the feat and the first baller in history to win five consecutive titles at two different majors. Impressive, but par for the course with this supreme champion.
Andy Murray achieved a few career breakthroughs this fortnight reaching his first Grand Slam final, the first Brit baller since Greg Rusedski finished runner-up to Patrick Rafter in 1997 to reach a major final, and also securing a spot at the year-end Masters Cup for the first time. But, without a doubt, his best moment was in the semifinals when, for the first time in five career meetings, he completely outclassed top baller Rafael Nadal over two days showcasing an impressive arsenal of spins, slices, and lobs. Andy's first Grand Slam title is right around the bend, and it wouldn't surprise if it came as early as the Aussie Open.
The Spanish steamroller, Rafael Nadal, was running on fumes throughout the tourney but, in classic Rafa style (read: not his controversial new style), he continued to push his opponents to their limits. The world no. 1 reached a personal best in New York making it to the semifinals for the first time but the toll of his dream season was apparent in his two-day loss to Andy. He'll need to time to recover but he won't get much with the Davis Cup semifinal versus the US taking place in Spain on slow red clay next week. No worries for Rafa though - a moment this important won't pass him by and he'll surely be fit for the fight.
And what of Novak Djokovic? He simply had a disastrous US Open, and not for his play. The brash Serb was beset by numerous, niggling injuries and ailments but it was his public lashing of Andy Roddick and the fans after defeating the American in the quarterfinals that hurt the most. Nole turned an admiring New York crowd into an insulted one who showered the bitter baller with boos. Clearly the 21-year old was never the same as he struggled with his motivation in the semifinal Marquee Matchup and loss easily to a streaking Fed. Let's hope he can learn to keep his emotions and mouth in check or the ATP Tour won't be a pleasant place to live for Nole.
Speaking of Andy Roddick, the American is surely sliding down the backside of a fine career. A-Rod's mental demons wreaked havoc on his best hopes for a second major title: he hit consecutive double-faults while serving for the fourth set in his contentious quarterfinal meetup with Nole. And, in retrospect, his decision to skip Beijing to be rested and ready for a surge towards a second US Open title really had no bearing on the truth: his mental approach to the game is busted and he should get help, plain and simple.
Huge props to Juan Martin del Potro for wearing his heart on his missing Nike sleeves and showing the tennis world he's the real deal. Also, congrats to qualifier Gilles Muller for a tremendous effort reaching the quarterfinals and defeating Nikolay Davydenko along the way, and Kei Nishikori who took out last year's semifinalist David Ferrer en route to the fourth round.
(image via Getty)