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Five US Open ‘Winners’ Other than Novak Djokovic and Coco Gauff

Jelena Ostapenko US Open

From opposite ends of the age spectrum, 36-year-old Novak Djokovic and 19-year-old Coco Gauff have spent the past two weeks in New York demonstrating that age is just a number. It goes without saying that the 24-time Grand Slam champion and the one-time Grand Slam winner both had a highly successful fortnight at the US Open, so let’s take a look at some of the other players who made their mark on the Big Apple.

Sorana Cirstea (ROU)

We see underdog runs at every Grand Slam. Rarely, however, is the beneficiary a 33-year-old WTA Tour veteran. In unlikely fashion, Sorana Cirstea turned back the clock in New York, reaching her first major quarter-final in 14 years (she matched her best result at a Slam, dating back to the 2009 French Open).

To get to the quarters, Cirstea knocked off the likes of No. 4 seed Elena Rybakina and No. 15 Belinda Bencic before falling to No. 10 Karolina Muchova. By reaching the final eight, she moved up to No. 26 in the WTA rankings, nearing her career-high of No. 21 that she set almost exactly a decade ago.

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Ben Shelton (USA)

It was a banner hometown Slam for the American men, including the tournament’s first-ever all African-American quarter-final. With apologies to Francis Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz, it was 20-year-old Ben Shelton at the forefront of it all.

Shelton knocked off the likes of No. 14 seed Tommy Paul and 2020 US Open champ Dominic Thiem before ousting Tiafoe in four sets in the aforementioned historic quarter-final. It’s a remarkable spotlight for a player who was ranked No. 173 at this time last year (his Open performance propelled him to No. 19 in the world) and hadn’t even left the United States until early this year.

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Madison Keys (USA)

Shelton and the American men weren’t the only national success story in New York. After reaching the Wimbledon quarter-finals, Madison Keys continued her string of Slam success by advancing to the US Open semis. The 28-year-old knocked off No. 3 Jessica Pegula and No. 9 Marketa Vondrousova along the way, requiring just nine total games to oust the two top-10 seeds.

For the second major in a row, however, Keys saw her run come to an end at the hands of newly minted No. 1 Aryna Sabalenka. Curiously, she actually won more games in the semifinal than her Belarusian rival, falling 0-6, 7-6(1), 7-6(5). While surely disheartening, it should also serve as motivation in knowing she was that close to returning to the final.

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Dominic Stricker (SUI)

Dominic Stricker didn’t exactly look initially poised for big things in Flushing Meadows. The Swiss 21-year-old had lost in the opening round of back-to-back Challenger circuit events and then dropped the very first set of his US Open qualifying draw. But by rallying back to overcome Canadian Alexis Galarneau 3-6, 6-2, 6-0, we saw the first sign of a stubborn resiliency that would define the rest of his tournament.

Stricker would also lose the opening set of his second qualifying match to Spain’s Pablo Llamas Ruiz before surviving in a narrow 7-6 (11) third set. After clinching main draw entry with a third win in qualifying, he would reel off three more victories to reach the fourth round. Included in those victories were two five-set triumphs, most notably against No. 7 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round. He would ultimately fall in straight sets to Fritz, but not before securing his first career top-100 ranking and a tidy $284,000 in prize money.

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Jelena Ostapenko (LAT)

You knock off the best player in the world, you get included in this space. By rallying back to stun Iga Swiatek 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 in the round of 16, No. 20 seed Jelena Ostapenko capped off a string of four consecutive three-set victories. Unsurprisingly, she didn’t have much left to offer in a 6-0, 6-2 quarter-final defeat at the hands of Gauff, but she had already secured the best US Open result of her career.

The tournament capped off a strange year for Ostapenko in which the Latvian turned her perceived weaknesses into strengths. Prior to this season, her three best major finishes came at the French Open (2017 champion) and Wimbledon (2017 quarter-finalist, 2018 semifinalist). In 2023, however, she reached the final eight in Australia and New York at the two hard-court Slams and failed to advance past the second round in Paris or London.

Main Photo Credit: Geoff Burke – USA TODAY Sports


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