By Erin Bruehl, USTA.com
This year marked the 10th edition of the Emirates Airline US Open Series – and it did not disappoint. The women’s and men’s Bonus Challenge champions, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, each won the singles titles at the 2013 US Open and with them, record paychecks of $3.6 million in prize money ($2.6 million as US Open champions plus $1 million in bonus prize money as the Series winners).
But this year’s Series was about more than just its champions. It was a five-week celebration of tennis on the road to New York, with more than 200 players competing for more than $50 million – and lots of exciting matches and fun along the way.
Nadal won both Master series events, in Montreal and Cincinnati, in back-to-back weeks, running his record haul of Masters titles to 26 and making him tennis’ summer star on the men’s side. John Isner was not far behind, though. Isner won the title in Atlanta and reached the finals in Washington, D.C., and Cincinnati, pushing eventual champions Juan Martin del Potro and Nadal, respectively, and making the top-ranked American the only men’s player to reach three finals during the 2013 Series.
Also on the men’s side, Americans Mardy Fish and Brian Baker made returns to the court during the Series after months away due to health problems (Fish) and injury (Baker).
World No. 1 Serena wrapped up the women’s Bonus Challenge title with a title in Toronto and a runner-up showing in Cincinnati (where she fell in three sets to rival Victoria Azarenka). It was not the biggest news to come from Cincy, however, as 2013 Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli shocked the tennis world by announcing her retirement from professional tennis following her loss to Simona Halep.
Halep made a lot of noise in her own right during the Series, following up her quarterfinal showing in Cincinnati by defeating 2009 US Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki and 2011 Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova to capture the title in New Haven, one of her six titles on the year. Also, 2011 US Open champion Samantha Stosur lifted her first trophy since her title run in New York nearly two years before, with a win in Carlsbad, Calif.
There was a particular eye on a familiar face in doubles throughout the summer as well, as Hall of Famer Martina Hingis came out of retirement to partner Daniela Hantuchova. The two paired up to play Carlsbad, Toronto, Cincinnati and New Haven.
Everyone moved on to the year’s final Grand Slam at the US Open, where the fortnight in New York was a fitting close to a summer hard-court season filled with sizzle, excitement and intrigue.