2017 US Open: The tournament that was

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    Sloane Stephens's road to recovery has ended with her maiden grand slam title. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

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    The US Open, and the 2017 Grand Slam season, is over for another year, with Rafael Nadal and Sloane Stephens taking out the men’s and women’s singles titles respectively with embarrassingly easy victories over their opposition.

    We start on the men’s side, where Nadal never faced a break point in his straight-sets victory over Kevin Anderson, securing his third US Open title, 16th Grand Slam title and second this year.

    It is the culmination of a year of domination on the circuit for the Spaniard, who had endured a lean period plagued by injuries and inconsistent form over the past few years.

    After failing to reach a Grand Slam final since winning his ninth French Open title in 2014, the 31-year-old hit back in the only way he knows best, reaching the Australian Open final where he lost a five-set thriller to his career rival, Roger Federer.

    roger-federer-rafael-nadal-tennis-australian-open-2017

    (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

    That followed his equally-as-thrilling five-set win over Grigor Dimitrov in the semi-finals in a match that has been hailed one of the best Grand Slam non-finals matches of 2017.

    His revival continued when he claimed an unprecedented tenth French Open title, blitzing Stan Wawrinka in the final in straight sets and going through the whole tournament without dropping a single set.

    It was the third tournament where he achieved ‘La Decima’, after doing so in Monte Carlo and Barcelona, tournaments he has dominated for a long time.

    Just as it was thought he would continue on his winning ways at Wimbledon, he was stopped in his tracks by Gilles Muller in the fourth round, losing another five-set thriller in which the deciding set lasted 28 games.

    He then reclaimed the world number one ranking in the week before the US Open, and entered the year’s final Grand Slam tournament as one of the favourites to land the title.

    He was placed in the same half as Roger Federer, and after second seed Andy Murray withdrew after the draw had been conducted, but before the order of play for Day 1 had been released, the fixturing rules in regards to withdrawn players meant both players remained in the same half of the draw.

    It was then many anticipated that the two rivals would meet in New York for the first time, only for a man called Juan Martin del Potro to once again spoil the party by defeating Federer in the quarter-finals.

    A repeat of the straight-sets thrashing the Argentine dealt to Nadal in the 2009 semi-finals then appeared likely after he took the opening set against the Spaniard in this year’s semi-final without facing a break point.

    However, from that point on the 31-year-old would show no mercy, sweeping the next three sets to progress to his fourth US Open final, where he faced Kevin Anderson, who was appearing in his first major final at 31 years of age.

    Anderson came from the half of the draw which was decimated not only by Murray’s aforementioned withdrawal, but also the early exits of David Ferrer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Marin Cilic, which guaranteed that there would be a first-time major finalist.

    He ultimately proved to be no match for Nadal, claiming just ten games across three sets, but just to get to the biggest final of his career was an achievement in itself considering all the adversities he has endured.

    As for the Spaniard, his 16th Grand Slam title sees him close to within three of the all-time men’s record held by Roger Federer, whose bid for a 20th major title was ended by Juan Martin del Potro in the final eight stage.

    Nadal beats Anderson US Open.

    (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

    And so, the men’s Grand Slam season ends with only Federer or Nadal winning any of the four major titles on offer for the first time since 2010 (that year, Nadal won all bar the Australian Open, which was won by Federer).

    Federer reigned at the Australian Open and Wimbledon, the former won by defeating Nadal in a five-set final, while Nadal claimed the French and US Open titles.

    Men’s final result
    [1] Rafael Nadal (ESP) defeated [28] Kevin Anderson (RSA) 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.

    On the women’s side of things, the continued absence of Serena Williams and the unpredictable nature of the season so far left the field open for anyone to claim the title.

    But this year’s champion wasn’t who you expected it to be at the start of the tournament if you thought it was going to be one of Karolina Pliskova, Simona Halep or Garbine Muguruza to name a few.

    Three months after Jelena Ostapenko came from the back of the field to claim her first Grand Slam title at the French Open, world number 83 Sloane Stephens rose above the rest to claim her first Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows, only two months after launching her comeback ranked in the 900s.

    She had sat out eleven months due to a foot injury that required surgery, which she underwent on January 23, the second Monday of this year’s Australian Open.

    She was confined to a wheelchair and was thus unable to train, let alone walk, for a prolonged period of time. During this time, she provided commentary for the Tennis Channel during the Indian Wells/Miami swing.

    The 24-year-old then launched her playing comeback at Wimbledon, and after a slow start she would reach the semi-finals at both Toronto and Cincinnati, defeating Petra Kvitova at both events.

    She then arrived at Flushing Meadows with a protected ranking, and after every upset she caused, her confidence grew.

    Her victims en route to her first major final include, among others, 2015 finalist Roberta Vinci, former Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova, and seven-time Grand Slam champion Venus Williams.

    In the final against Madison Keys, she played extraordinarily well, breaking twice in the opening set and claiming the last eight games of the match to break through for a well-deserved maiden major title.

    Sloane Stephens raises her arms in celebration after defeating Madison Keys in straight sets in the 2017 US Open final

    (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

    She has now become the first American woman not named Williams to win a major title since Jennifer Capriati at the 2002 Australian Open, and first at the US Open since Lindsay Davenport in 1998.

    Her run to the title has also seen her break back into the world’s top 20, capping off an amazing rise back up the rankings considering where she was when she returned to action at the All England Club back in July.

    As for Keys, her nerves, which contributed to a large number of unforced errors, failed her in the end.

    Still, she was gracious in defeat, saying that “obviously I didn’t play my best tennis today and I was really disappointed, but Sloane was very supportive and if there was someone I had to lose to today I’m glad it’s her.”

    Like Stephens, Keys had also endured a lean period plagued by injury, most notably a wrist problem which forced her to sit out the Australian Open this year and subsequently saw her ranking suffer.

    The question now remains whether she will ever get another shot at a major title, with Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka both likely to be present at next year’s Australian Open.

    As for Sloane Stephens, it will now remain to be seen whether she can adapt to the pressure of being a major champion in the years to come.

    Women’s final result
    Sloane Stephens (USA) defeated [15] Madison Keys (USA) 6-3, 6-0.

    And that’s all she wrote for this year’s US Open, and the Grand Slam season.