Reem Abulleil wraps up week one at the US Open.
The past six days at the US Open felt like the most eventful opening weeks of a Grand Slam this year, with so much drama unfolding both on the court and off it.
The tournament is as wild as the city it’s located in and it’s been non-stop action since the first ball was served into play last Monday.
Here’s a look at some of the highlights – and lowlights – from week one at the Open.
This didn’t necessarily happen at the US Open but the comments made by French Tennis Federation president Bernard Giudicelli regarding Serena Williams’ catsuit were a hot topic during the first few days in New York. Giudicelli said Serena’s outfit at this year’s French Open disrespected the sport and he said it would be banned in the future. Roland Garros tournament director Guy Forget then said there might be a dress code at the event in the future. Here in the United States, it felt like every single news outlet, celebrity, and TV station came to the fore to defend Serena, her catsuit and women’s rights. Maybe that was Giudicelli’s goal all along? Probably not!
The weather hasn’t been kind in Queens, New York during opening week which meant that the US Open whipped up a last-minute Extreme Heat Policy for the men’s event for the first time in tournament history. The women always had a well-defined extreme heat rule but the men, for some reason, never did. With temperatures nearing 40 degrees, humidity close to 50 per cent, and on-court readings exceeding 50 degrees, the conditions were brutal which resulted in five heat-related retirements on Tuesday alone. Several players hit out at the tournament for forcing them to play in what they felt were dangerous conditions.
Other players complained about poor organisation surrounding the new rule as Cameron Norrie got a time violation because the watch on the referee who escorted him during the 10-minute break was not synchronised with the watch of the chair umpire and he was misled into believing he was on time when he was not. Timea Bacsinszky recounted a terrible experience where she was taken by the referee to a public bathroom and was mobbed by fans asking for autographs mid-match and was yelled at by a cleaning personnel for trying to find a place to change inside the bathroom.
Ice bath drama
The Extreme Heat Policy was in effect on Wednesday as well and the rules dictate that players are not allowed to speak to their coaches or members of their team when they take the 10-minute off-court break after the third set. Andy Murray was furious during his match against Fernando Verdasco because he claims he walked into the locker room and saw the Spaniard talking to his coach and another player who was sitting in his box. Murray went and told the umpire and supervisor and was angry for being put in the position to have to try and enforce rules in the middle of a Grand Slam match. Verdasco later denied Murray’s claims, saying he was talking to Marcos Baghdatis and his coach in the ice bath. Murray then posted on his Instagram a picture with the hash-tag ‘#liarliarpantsonfire’. Baghdatis added fuel to the fire by saying Verdasco was seen indeed talking to his coach in the locker room. The plot continues to thicken!
Alize Cornet returned from the 10-minute break during her first round against Johanna Larsson with her shirt accidentally worn the wrong way. On court, behind the baseline, with her back to the net, Cornet quickly took off her top – she was wearing a sports bra – turned it around and put it on the right way. She then received a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct from the umpire which outraged both the Frenchwoman and everyone else watching. Why can a man change his shirt on court but a woman can’t? The US Open released a statement the next day amending their Change of Attire policy.
Chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani raised many eyebrows when he got off his perch and went down to give Nick Kyrgios a pep talk during the Aussie’s second round against Pierre-Hugues Herbert. Kyrgios was down a set and 0-3 and Lahyani intended to warn him about tanking. Instead, the umpire was heard giving encouraging words to Kyrgios, who went on to win the match, raising his level considerably. Herbert understandably was unhappy with the umpire’s actions, Roger Federer agreed that it wasn’t the umpire’s role to do that and public opinion mostly concurred. Lahyani wasn’t sanctioned by the USTA due to his strong track record but the tournament referee admitted the Swede’s actions went beyond protocol. His matches will be monitored moving forward. Not sure how the players feel about this considering their track record is never taken into consideration if they make a mistake!
Muchova bt. Muguruza 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, second round
The 22-year-old Karolina Muchova took out 12th-seeded Garbine Muguruza in a late-night match on Louis Armstrong Stadium. The Czech qualifier, ranked 212 in the world, was playing a top-50 player for the just the second time in her entire career.
Kanepi bt. Halep 6-2, 6-4, first round
This is not necessarily a huge surprise considering Kaia Kanepi reached the quarter-finals twice at the US Open, including last year, but still, she took out the world No. 1 in straight sets, which is the first time in the Open Era that a women’s US Open top seed crashes out in the opening round.
Cilic bt. De Minaur 4-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 7-5, third round
In a match that ended at 2:22am, 2014 champion Marin Cilic made a gritty comeback from two-sets-to-love down against 19-year-old Alex de Minaur, who played his heart out before succumbing in five sets. With incredible speed, variety, and fighting spirit, De Minaur saved seven match points and broke back when Cilic was serving for the win but the No. 7 seed ultimately proved too strong. That fifth set was the most exciting stretch of tennis of the week, no doubt!
Nadal bt. Khachanov 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(7), 7-6(3), third round
This was arguably the best match of the opening week with some stunning display from both Karen Khachanov and Rafael Nadal. At some point, it looked like Nadal was about to go down two sets to love but the Spaniard pulled off his signature Houdini act to survive.
Venus Williams bt. Kuznetsova 6-3, 5-7, 6-3, first round
An opening round between two former US Open champions, the two veterans gave us an unforgettable showdown on day one of the tournament.
Federer v Kyrgios
Barty v Muchova
Anabel Medina Garrigues
The Spanish former world No. 16, who turned pro 20 years ago, played her final tournament here at the US Open, losing her doubles first round alongside Arantxa Parra Santonja. Medina Garrigues was ranked No. 3 in doubles, won two French Open doubles titles and an Olympic silver medal. The 36-year-old is Spain’s current Fed Cup captain, and coached Jelena Ostapenko to the Roland Garros crowd last year.
The Ukrainian hung up her racquets at the US Open following a 14-year-career, playing doubles with her compatriot Elina Svitolina in New York this fortnight. She is a three-time doubles titlist and represented Ukraine in both Fed Cup and the Olympics.
The Spanish ex-world No. 3 played the last Grand Slam of his career at the US Open, retiring from his first round against Rafael Nadal. The former Roland Garros runner-up will play his last tournament at either Barcelona or Madrid next year.
The Russian’s Grand Slam career came to an end in New York when he walked off the court with cramps, forced to retire in the fourth set of his opener against Marcos Baghdatis. The former world No. 8 is set to retire at the St. Petersburg tournament later this month.
The 36-year-old French veteran played the last match of his career against Jan-Lennard Struff in the second round at the US Open. Benneteau is an Olympic bronze medallist and Davis Cup champion with France. He won the French Open doubles title in 2014 and was ranked a career-high of 25 in singles and was No. 5 in doubles.
The 34-year-old German was sent into retirement by Borna Coric in the US Open first round. Mayer peaked at No. 18 in the world in 2011 and won two ATP titles in Bucharest in 2011 and Halle in 2016.
The Canadian doubles legend is set to retire after his nation’s Davis Cup tie with the Netherlands this month and bid farewell to his Grand Slam career with a first round doubles loss to the Harrison brothers in New York, alongside his partner Bradley Klahn. Nestor is the first doubles player on the men’s tour to reach 1,000 wins and the first in doubles to hold a sweep of all of the Grand Slams, Masters 1000 events and Olympic gold.