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With the first week of the 2021 US Open complete, it's time to take a look back at the best and less-than-best moments from New York City. Top Universal Tennis INSIGHTS tournament favorite Novak Djokovic (UTR Rating 16.24*) has moved relatively unscathed through the draw, while many more players have made big splashes—some for the very first time.
Since so much great tennis has been played by stars both new and old, most of these moments are on the positive side. Let's jump right in:
The biggest news going into the major was who was missing as Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Dominic Thiem, Venus Williams, Serena Williams, and Sofia Kenin were all not in New York. But quickly, headlines were being taken over by the next generation.
Youngsters have made the biggest statement in New York City this week with teens Carlos Alcaraz (UTR Rating 15.63) and Leylah Fernandez (UTR Rating 12.55) stunning the No. 3 seeds in their respective draws, and 20-year-old Jenson Brooksby (UTR Rating 15.35) making his Grand Slam Week 2 debut. British teenager Emma Raducanu (UTR Rating 12.38) backed up her stunning run as a Wimbledon wild card earlier this summer to qualify for the main draw and reach the fourth round again.
MOST SPIRITED CELEBRATION
UTR Rating 15.17) saves some of his best tennis for New York City and after missing a few opportunities in years past, the 23-year-old American came up big to upset No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev
UTR Rating 15.69) on Friday night. After the 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(5), 4-6, 6-1 win, Tiafoe soaked in the atmosphere and celebrated the best way he knows how: with the crowd.
Without question, Tiafoe is a star. pic.twitter.com/doT1n9yNlX— David Kane (@DKTNNS) September 4, 2021
He's the first American man since Mardy Fish in 2011-2012 to reach the fourth round of the US Open in back-to-back seasons.
One of the best matches of the tournament (so far) came very early and carried a lot of history. In a rematch of the 2017 US Open final, Sloane Stephens
UTR Rating 12.44) defeated Madison Keys
UTR Rating 12.43), 6-3, 1-6, 7-6(6). It was the very first match in Arthur Ashe Stadium on Day 1.
“I thought the level was really good,” Stephens said. “We were both looking to start winning some matches and get back to where we were. It's just unfortunate we both had to play each other here because I felt like we were both on the upswing a little bit. Where we are, both of us, the only place to really go is up.”
Stephens bounced back from a lopsided second set and fought back from a 3-5 deficit in the final-set tiebreak. In the second round, Stephens then took out another American compatriot, Coco Gauff
UTR Rating 12.80), in straight sets. Her run ended at the hands of Angelique Kerber (
UTR Rating 12.95) in the third round.
UTR Rating 13.07) stood out in a neon yellow fitted Nike dress with black detailing and a v-shaped back. The custom dress was flashy enough on its own, but the 23-year-old paired it with a pair of brightly colored Nike Air Zoom GP Turbo shoes. The shoes paid tribute to her four Grand Slam titles and her unique background, with flags of both Japan and Haiti.
The defending champion was stunned in the third round by 18-year-old Fernandez, 5-7, 7-6(2), 6-4. Along with
made the biggest statement in New York City this week with teens Alcaraz (UTR Rating 15.63), Fernandez was named one of the players to watch by INSIGHTS earlier in the week.
The bad news for Osaka fans is that they may not see her in a new on-court outfit anytime soon.
"Basically I feel like I'm kind of at this point where I'm trying to figure out what I want to do, and I honestly don't know when I'm going to play my next tennis match," Osaka said. "I think I'm going to take a break from playing for a while.”
UTR Rating 15.20) drew No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas
UTR Rating 16.04) in the first round, and it looked like an upset was in the cards for the 34-year-old Scot. He held a two sets to one lead when the Greek sought out a medical timeout for a foot injury. After winning the fourth set, Tsitsipas left the court for an eight-minute bathroom break.
After Tsitsipas won 2-6, 7-6(7), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, Murray didn’t shy away from sharing his candid thoughts in press.
"It's just disappointing because I feel it influenced the outcome of the match," Murray said. "I'm not saying I necessarily win that match, for sure, but it had influence on what was happening after those breaks.
"I rate him a lot. I think he's a brilliant player. I think he's great for the game, but I have zero time for that stuff at all, and I lost respect for him.”
Tsitsipas maintained that he had followed the rules.
"I don't know how my opponent feels when I'm out there playing the match. It's not really my priority,” Tsitsipas said. "As far as I'm playing by the rules and sticking to what the ATP says is fair, then the rest is fine. I have nothing against him. Absolutely nothing."
Like Fernandez, Alcaraz was dubbed a player to watch earlier in the week and he delivered the biggest upset of the major by ousting Tsitsipas on Friday. The battle went all the way with the 18-year-old Spaniard pulling out a fifth-set tiebreak, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(5). Alcaraz became the youngest man to reach the fourth round of the uS Open in over 30 years.
"Incredible. Incredible feeling for me," Alcaraz said. "This victory means a lot to me. It's the best match of my career, the best win. To beat Stefanos Tsitsipas is a dream come true and to win here is even more special for me."
Shelby Rogers (UTR Rating 12.49) deserves a special shoutout for knocking out top seed Ashleigh Barty (UTR Rating 13.34) on Saturday, 6-2, 1-6, 7-6(5). She's into the fourth round as she seeks her third Grand Slam quarterfinal appearance.
CUTEST FAN MOMENT
After beating Marie Bouzkova
UTR Rating 12.33) in her first round, Osaka ran over to a young fan and gave her a special gift, a pin from the Tokyo Olympics. Osaka later said she heard the youngster cheering and wanted to acknowledge her support.
The girl’s father Tim Blacksmith shared their gratitude on Twitter.
MOST CLUTCH PERFORMANCE
In the third round, No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova
UTR Rating 12.89) fought off a match point to get past American Amanda Anisimova
UTR Rating 12.58), 7-5, 6-7(5), 7-6(7). The Czech hit a record 24 aces in the encounter, surpassing Julie Goerges record of 19 set in 2019. Pliskova, a finalist in New York in 2016, was down 2-5 in the tiebreak before storming back.
The remnants of Hurricane Ida made a significant impact on everyone in New York on Wednesday night, causing damage, power outages, and over 40 deaths in the Northeast. Torrential rain, flash flooding, and high winds wreaked havoc around the US Open grounds and lingering problems for local transportation saw delays into the next day. The USTA stepped up to offer ticket exchanges for anyone who needed it for Thursday.
MOST LIKELY TO WIN
Ahead of the tournament, INSIGHTS predicted that Djokovic had a 25% chance of winning the US Open to complete the calendar-year Grand Slam. The top seed has yet to lose a set in four matches. In the women’s draw, INSIGHTS gave Barty the highest odds at 17% odds but her run ended in the third round. Final-set tiebreaks have been a part of all the biggest moments in New York making for heightened drama and unpredictability.
INSIGHTS Favorites Going into Week 2
Novak Djokovic — 35%
Daniil Medvedev — 26%
Alexander Zverev — 15%
Matteo Berrettini — 9%
Carlos Alcaraz — 7%
Aryna Sabalenka — 20%
Iga Swiatek — 12%
Simona Halep — 12%
Maria Sakkari — 10%
Angelique Kerber — 9%
There have been a lot more highs than lows at the US Open so far, and now everyone can now head into Week 2 better prepared for what’s coming next. It's guaranteed to be a great, if not historic, week.
*UTR Ratings and INSIGHTS probabilities as of 9 p.m. EST, Sept. 4, 2021.