Lessons from Flushing Meadows

Covering their performances was our main mission. And who says return to the country, after having crossed the Adirondacks in a van and declared to the customs officers that we had had a lot of fun, also says balance sheet.

Before the start of the tournament, the legendary Toni Nadal told us in an interview that what differentiates young guns on the circuit from legends like his nephew Rafael is their inability to win on bad days.

In a period of 24 hours, Wednesday and Thursday, the premonitory analysis of Uncle Toni unfortunately came true with his new protege, Félix Auger-Aliassime, and his nephew.

Wednesday evening, the Quebecer was knocked out in three sets by the young Briton Jack Draper, a good player, but far from being untouchable. Without having been bad, Auger-Aliassime had all the cards in hand to win.

The following day, Nadal had a disastrous start to the game against Fabio Fognini. During the encounter, he even cut his nose with his racket. Despite everything, the Spaniard managed to control the situation and won in four rounds. The difference couldn’t be clearer.

This is partly what explains the consistency of Nadal, champion in Melbourne, at Roland-Garros and semi-finalist at Wimbledon until an injury forced him to retire on the eve of the match.

Tennis is ruthless. There’s no one to save you in the field or to help you when things don’t go your way. Even in training before the tournament, the Quebecer seemed to have trouble finding his feet.

He acknowledged some regrets after his defeat. The trade is learned. You have to be patient.

Félix Auger-Aliassime signs autographs in front of Jean-François Vachon’s camera.

Photo: Radio-Canada / Antoine Deshaies

This hasty defeat of Auger-Aliassime, 8th in the world, will take him out of the top 10. He will be 13th at best in the next ranking. He had a lot of points to defend after his semi-final last year.

His quick exit will perhaps open the doors to the Davis Cup, from September 13 to 18 in Spain, with his childhood friend Alexis Galarneau and his father’s protege, Gabriel Diallo, winner in Granby.

Auger-Aliassime was not on the roster announced by Tennis Canada, but said he was open to participating after his loss to Draper. Losing in the second round was not in his plans, but the situation eases his schedule.

The Quebecer is also involved in the Laver Cup, in London, at the end of September.

Denis Shapovalov found solutions in the first two rounds, although his impatience on the pitch is even more blatant in person than on television. The left-hander is a ball of emotion in a match, capable of the best and the worst, especially in his communications with his team.

His corner is obviously tough to suffer his wrath, error after error.

A tennis player takes his towel to wipe between two points.

Denis Shapovalov during a game at the US Open

Photo: Radio-Canada / Antoine Deshaies

At least when the pressure drops, Shapovalov says he has fun with his team. He admits he laughed with his coach Mikhail Youhzny, back in the clan, after his victory in the second round during which Shapovalov sent himself two solid racket shots in the middle of a tomato.

When he was playing, in 2018, Mikhail Youzhny also hit his face in the middle of a match (New window)with a bloodier result.

Still, after a summer of hell, marked by a single victory between the months of May and August, the Torontonian concluded his tournament with a great match against his friend Andrey Rublev. This duel in five rounds was a treat.

In the women’s draw, Rebecca Marino managed a very good operation with her first appearance in the third round of a grand slam tournament in 11 years!

Under the circumstances, it’s an excellent result. She misses more frequent matches against top 50 players, which she will get if she continues to climb the rankings. She hopes to finish the season among the top 100.

Leylah Annie Fernandez, for her part, was unresponsive to Liudmila Samsonova’s brilliance in the second round. The tall Russian was playing with confidence and the young Quebecer didn’t have what it took to respond that night.

After a summer marked by a stress fracture, expectations were subdued for Fernandez, despite her journey to the final in 2021. She will still have taken one more lap than outgoing champion Emma Raducanu, who slipped out as soon as her first game.

Sportingly speaking, Fernandez certainly has the merit of having better managed the 12 months following this exceptional course. However, her tournament is not over since she qualified for the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles with the American Jack Sock, a powerful puncher.

Bianca Andreescu, she bit the dust in front of Caroline Garcia, a player on an irresistible launch. Her third-round loss, only her second in three appearances in New York, won’t make an impression because it came at the same time as Serena Williams’ latest setback.

Serena Williams’ moving farewell

It was obviously the great Serena’s farewell that marked the first week of the United States Open.

You had to see the rows of cameras around the stadium on the day of his matches. The major television networks were present at dawn on the site.

The atmosphere in the stadium on Friday evening was extraordinary for a match that will not be forgotten. From euphoria to amazement, from fear to disappointment, spectators and admirers of Serena Williams have had a no worse emotional ride.

Tennis fans watch Serena Williams' final match outside Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York City.

Tennis fans outside Arthur-Ashe Stadium in New York

Photo: Radio-Canada / Antoine Deshaies

Because it’s nearly impossible to leave tennis with a win, Williams put on a great, courageous performance light years away from the level she had shown at Wimbledon, Toronto and Cincinnati this summer.

She is leaving a sport that she has helped to change, through her qualities and her faults. His journey is remarkable. Just about every player interviewed over the week testified to the impact Serena has had on them.

In all this, we should also not forget to highlight the courage and composure of Ajla Tomljanovic, who managed to resist her rival and the 24,000 people who supported Williams, sometimes even beyond the standards and usual practices of tennis fans.

For the departure of an extraordinary player, that went without saying.

A new world No. 1 for men

The 2022 tennis season will have marked the end of Novak Djokovic’s monopoly on the 1st world rank which he has held, almost unchallenged, for four years.

His vaccination status will have made him lose the opportunity to earn valuable points in Australia, Canada and the United States. His victory at Wimbledon brought him money and prestige, but again, no points in the standings.

His absences will have opened the tables of recent tournaments, but his presence would certainly have filled the public. He would have tried, in New York, to catch up with Rafael Nadal, with a 22nd Grand Slam title.

In his absence at Flushing Meadows, and after Daniil Medvedev’s loss on Sunday to Nick Kyrgios, a new king will be crowned on Monday. The Australian, by his game and his casualness, has the personality to satisfy the New York public.

Nadal, Casper Ruud and Carlos Alcaraz are the three regents mathematically in the running for 1st place in the world. It would be the icing on the cake for Nadal if he wins a 23rd Grand Slam title.

For Ruud and Alcaraz, it would be their first presence at the top of the hierarchy. If the rise of Alcaraz, only 19 years old, was predictable, it remains extremely fast.

But Ruud 1st in the world, few would have dared to predict it just a few months ago. He must first master Matteo Berrettini, a player who had been told in advance to watch.

Behind the scenes at Arthur-Ashe

We didn’t want to talk about it, because there is nothing less interesting in life than a journalist talking about his working conditions. However, after his defeat, Daniil Medvedev mentioned that he felt a little sick.

He blamed the air conditioning, which consistently makes him sick at least once a year on the North American tour. On this, also having some tingling in the throat this morning, we understand it perfectly.

It is terribly hot on the site of Flushing Meadows, but under the bleachers of the Arthur-Ashe court, where the quarters of the players and the press center are, or in the means of transport, it is freezing, as the French say.

The alternation between very hot and cold is not ideal for organisms that are sometimes sleep deprived.

The atmosphere on the site was extraordinary. The tournament broke several daily attendance records, in part because Serena Williams played four days including her Thursday doubles with her sister Venus.

Due to the popularity of the tournament, access to the site by bus was particularly long and arduous on some mornings. On Friday, for example, your favorite scribe preferred to get off the bus to walk the last kilometer that separated him from the complex.

Three shirtless men cheer on a tennis player in the stands at the US Open.

Supporters of Rebecca Marino

Photo: Radio-Canada / Antoine Deshaies

Our cameraman friend, nicknamed the machinist, caught with his equipment, however, had to wait a good hour longer before the vehicle arrived at its destination.

The Canadian fans were numerous and noisy in the stands. Many, to our surprise in the current context, even wore the colors of Hockey Canada. Others sported red hats with a maple leaf.

A trio of Abitibis even dropped the shirt to cheer on Rebecca Marino in the third round, with the six letters of the surname MA-RI-NO separated and inscribed on three torsos.

In the right order, too. We congratulate them.

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