As the dust begins to settle over Flushing Meadows and the tournament officials get an early start on their preparations for the 140th US Open, we have a look at who made a breakthrough at the 2019 edition.
The New Queen of New York
The women’s draw at the Slams always seems to throw a new name into the mix. Roland Garros saw Marketa Vondrousova and Amanda Anisimova rocket to stardom, before Cori Gauff took that mantle with a thrilling run to the third round at Wimbledon. But all the while another player was sitting back quietly. Recovering from an injury that, in retrospect, may have helped her cause by sparing her the travails of one of the most intense periods of the season.
Bianca Andreescu had already staked her claim to stardom in the first half of the season by winning spectacularly in Indian Wells, but when she returned at her home tournament in Toronto she was classed as one of the outsiders for the event. After her incredible victory, she was expected to do well in New York. But the nature of her victory in the final against Serena Williams, which saw her fight off a late rearguard action from the great American, had the tennis world falling over themselves to laud the talented teen. But can she go on to dominate the women’s game?
I’m sure I’ve seen you somewhere before
Belinda Bencic was a breakout star of the 2014 US Open at the tender age of 17. She had won the junior Wimbledon title the year before against Taylor Townsend, who also played her first US Open in 2014. Both players were top juniors and much was expected of both of them. But despite their considerable talent, both had struggled with serious injuries and had to deal with life outside of the world’s top 100 for a spell.
That’s why it was so inspiring to see Townsend make a thrilling run and Bencic have a second breakthrough US Open. Townsend’s swashbuckling win over Simona Halep was one of the highlights of the tournament, whilst Bencic pushed Bianca Andreescu as hard as anyone. Finally, there must be mention of Kristie Ahn. The American finally won her first main draw match in this tournament, and went on to reach the last 16. Her exploits will now see her make her top 100 debut.
Russian Around on Ashe
Daniil Medvedev may be an obvious choice for a breakout star, but the Russian has ample reason to look back on the 2019 US Open with a serious sense of pride. Early on he took on the Flushing Meadows crowd with some inspired post-match interviews. He looked down and out against Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals but dug deep to claim a straight-sets win. He the fought valiantly to extend the mighty Rafael Nadal to five sets in the final, but ultimately came up just short.
With the hard court season he has had, it would be a disappointment if this member of the lauded NextGen slipped back into mediocrity. Medvedev has enjoyed ruffling some feathers recently, he could go one better and find his way to the very top of the game in 2020.
The European Challenge continues in the 2019 US Open
Matteo Berrettini became the first Italian in 42 years to make the US Open semifinals to prove that the big game he has demonstrated in glimpses this season has a serious depth to it. Winning an epic against Gael Monfils in the quarterfinal may prove to be a big turning point in the young man’s career. Coming through a fifth set tiebreak could do wonders for his confidence.
The qualifier Dominik Koepfer, meanwhile, battled his way into the fourth round. He even briefly looked as though he had the beating of eventual finalist Medvedev, being a set and a break up against him before the Russian stepped up a gear. Similarly to Kristie Ahn Koepfer will next walk out on the court as a top 100 player, it will be interesting if he can maintain that ranking now.
2019 US Open Doubles
Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah enjoyed a breakthrough Wimbledon campaign, but there were doubts about whether they could capitalize on their breakthrough and win more Grand Slam titles. It didn’t take them to answer that question. The atmosphere on Arthur Ashe Stadium was probably at its absolute peak this year when the Colombians took on Marcel Granollers and Horacio Zeballos in front of thousands of passionate South Americans.
This may not have been a breakthrough in the sense of an unknown pair making a run, indeed Granollers and Zeballos fit that mould much better, but this final put Cabal and Farah on a new level. When the match point was taken the Colombian pair became superstars in their country and are the pair to beat in the world now.
Cori Gauff and Caty McNally
It would appear that we are in the midst of a resurgent era for doubles. A lot of top singles players are playing a lot more doubles. Andy Murray returning to action in the doubles helped to shed a bit more light on the doubles circuit and now, a couple of the very brightest prospects in US tennis have formed a partnership.
The combined age of the teenagers would make them younger than Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams, but a lack of experience didn’t seem to be a problem as they marched through the draw. Unfortunately, just as excitement was beginning to build, they crashed into an elite pair in Victoria Azarenka and Ash Barty and went out chastened having won just one game. Despite this, the Gauff/McNally partnership is going to be one to watch as they both transition into the senior game.
2019 US Open Boys
It was a fairly bizarre tournament in the boys’ singles this year. All of the top eight seeds were eliminated in the second round, except for the eventual finalists. Jonas Forejtek and Emilio Nava were the players able to survive that mass exit. The final itself was a strange affair with the first set going the way of the American Nava, before Forejtek of the Czech Republic dominated the second and third to win the title.
It was Nava’s second Grand Slam final of the year, having made the Australian Open final in January. Clearly, he is at his best on hard courts and it will be interesting to see how he manages the transition into the senior game moving forward. Forejtek, meanwhile, is already ranked inside the top 400 in the senior ranks. There are a lot of ITF level tournaments every week in central Europe and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see his name regularly featuring in the latter stages of those as the tennis year concludes.
2019 US Open Girls
The US Open Girls tournament probably includes the most incredible breakthrough story of them all. That may be a big claim in the wake of Andreescu and Medvedev’s tournaments, but as the 16-year-old American Alexandra Yepifanova took to the court in her opening qualifying match even she surely couldn’t have thought that she would win seven-in-a-row matches to make it to the final.
During that run, Yepifanova lost the first set on four occasions, every time coming back strongly to be victorious. It may well be that those travails affected her physically as when she dropped the first set in the final to Colombia’s Maria Camila Osario Serrano 6-1, she couldn’t find another comeback. Serrano didn’t concede another game in a merciless march to the title. When taken in tandem with the Farah/Cabal success, it is an exciting time for Colombian tennis and they will be hoping that Osario Serrano will be able to find some success on the WTA Tour at some point soon.
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