What the tennis world learned from the 2019 U.S. Open

Bianca Andreescu captured her first Grand Slam title by defeating Serena Williams in straight sets on Saturday. Photo Credit: Newsday/J. Conrad Williams Jr.

Future bright for women’s tennis after Bianca Andreescu’s victory in Queens, but what does Serena Williams’ loss in the final mean for her?

Bianca Andreescu captured her first Grand Slam title by defeating Serena Williams in straight sets on Saturday.
Bianca Andreescu captured her first Grand Slam title by defeating Serena Williams in straight sets on Saturday. Photo Credit: Ethel’s Club

Two weeks of thrilling tennis in New York City concluded with Spain’s Rafael Nadal winning the 2019 U.S. Open men’s singles title and Canada’s Bianca Andreescu claiming the women’s singles crown. Here are some takeaways from the past two weeks at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Nadal by the numbers  

The  Spaniard survived a comeback from No. 5 seed Daniil Medvedev to win a marathon five-setter on Sunday in the third-longest U.S. Open men’s final in history.

No. 2 seed Nadal captured his 19th Grand Slam title, moving him one behind Roger Federer (20) for most ever. Known as the “King of Clay” for his 59 career titles on the surface, Nadal has found a summer home on the hardcourts in Queens. He joins Jimmy Connors, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and John McEnroe as the only players in the Open Era to win four or more U.S. Open titles. He’s also won more U.S. Open singles titles (four) in this decade than any other player, including modern legends Serena Williams (three), Novak Djovokic (three) and Federer (zero).

Andreescu leads youth movement

Entering the U.S. Open, the average age of title winners on the WTA Tour in 2019 was 23.7 years old, the lowest mark since 2008. No. 15 seed Andreescu, at 19 years old, lowered that number by defeating No. 8 seed Williams. The victory moved Andreescu to a remarkable 8-0 against top 10 opponents. Fittingly, Canadian sports fans retrofitted the Toronto Raptors’ “We The North” rallying cry and dubbed Andreescu “She The North.”

Medvedev makes amends

In a fortnight, 23-year-old Russian Daniil Medvedev went from virtually unknown to the casual tennis fan, to the infamous villain of the tournament, to a worthy finals challenge for Nadal and a new fan favorite. His on-court antics early in the tournament, including swiping a towel from a ballperson, throwing his racket and flipping his middle finger towards the crowd, and trolling fans in a post-match interview earned him a loud chorus of boos from the Flushing faithful. Unlike past bad boys of tennis, Medvedev was contrite and acknowledged that he learned his lesson. Pushing the final to an epic five sets certainly helped win over the New York crowd.

Is Serena’s title window closing?

Since returning from the 2017 birth of her daughter, Williams has made four Grand Slam finals appearances. She hasn’t won a set in any of them. Just two Grand Slam titles shy of surpassing Margaret Court’s record of 24, Williams is facing mounting pressure.

The reality is her age (she turns 38 later this month), nagging injuries, and a deep and young field of competitors all are working against her. Williams played brilliant tennis leading up to the final and looked explosive against Andreescu. Her major title window is far from closed, but it’s certainly narrowing.

Attendance record in Queens

The tournament set another all-time record in 2019 with 737,872 fans visiting the grounds throughout the two weeks of the main draw, surpassing last year’s mark by more than 5,000. Only the Australian Open, which set its own attendance record of 780,000 fans in 2019, drew more.

Chris Longo