Star-spangled banner yet waves
at the 2017 US Open
Arthur Kapetanakis | September 11, 2017
It was a banner year for the star-spangled banner at the 2017 US Open. The all-American women's semifinals rightfully stole the headlines, but the proud foursome was far from the only homegrown talent to make waves in New York.
All told, nine American women notched singles wins in the fortnight, while six U.S. men reached Round 2 or beyond. There was a another all-American final in the girls' singles event (for the third Slam in a row, this one won by rising star Amanda Anisimova), which saw four U.S. quarterfinalists, while two more Americans reached the boys' last eight. And Team USA also excelled in the wheelchair competition, winning two titles (quad singles and doubles for David Wagner) and reaching another final (women's doubles for Dana Mathewson).
The Bryan brothers also contributed with a run to the men's doubles semifinals as the No. 5 seeds, ultimately falling short in their bid to claim a first major title since the 2014 US Open.
Among all the success, the star of the show was undoubtedly Sloane Stephens. The leading lady defied the odds to win her first major title, just nine months removed from foot surgery. "Impossible," said an incredulous Stephens in describing the turnaround. "I was not thinking that I would be anywhere near a US Open title. Nor did I think I was going to be anywhere near the Top 100."
She emerged from the first all-American women's semifinals since 1981, when Tracy Austin, Martina Navratilova, Chris Evert and Barbara Potter made up the final four. Her final opponent, Madison Keys, was coming off two left wrist surgeries in the past year herself. It was an unlikely pairing, and no one was more surprised than the two women themselves.
The two friends shared a long, emotional embrace at the net after match point, followed by a few laughs during the trophy presentation. "We have known each other for so long, and we have been through so much that we wanted to share that moment with each other," Keys said of the post-match hug. "Hopefully we will have many more Slam finals against each other."
Venus Williams, who was turned back by Stephens in her third major semifinal of 2017, fought through a trio of three-set victories to reach the last four. Her quarterfinal nail-biter over No. 13 Petra Kvitova was one of the highlights of the Open, with a third-set tiebreak needed to seal the two-hour, 34-minute slugfest.
CoCo Vandeweghe, who made her second Slam semifinal of the year, could only be stopped by an impeccable performance from runner-up Keys. After dropping her opening set of the tournament to Alison Riske, Vandeweghe powered through to the semifinals, planting the top-seeded Karolina Pliskova along the way.
Jennifer Brady also impressed, reaching the fourth round in her maiden US Open before falling victim to Pliskova. Shelby Rogers matched her best Open run with a third-round showing, while Sofia Kenin scored her first career major victories in reaching the third round herself. Nicole Gibbs and Christina McHale rounded out the American women's success with a pair of opening round wins.
On the men's side, Sam Querrey backed up his semifinal run at Wimbledon with four more wins at his home Slam. The No. 17 seed was one of the form players of the tournament, winning 12 of 13 sets in advancing to the quarterfinals. After a 6-2, 6-2, 6-1 demolition of No. 23 Mischa Zverev in Round 4, Querrey found himself on the wrong side of one of the matches of the tournament. It took eventual finalist, No. 28 Kevin Anderson, three hours, 26 minutes to edge past Querrey, 7-6, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6, in an Arthur Ashe Stadium thriller on Day 8.
Despite the loss, Querrey was happy with his US Open run and enjoyed the marathon match with Anderson. "It was fun," he said of the late-night duel that ended just shy of 2 a.m. "The fans were in it, they were loud, they were fun to play in front of."
By reaching the quarterfinals, Querrey will usurp John Isner as the top-ranked American in the new ATP rankings. Isner was knocked out in Round 3 by Zverev and was not able to summon his best tennis against the German while struggling with a stiff neck.
Four other Americans notched victories in the men's draw: Donald Young, Bjorn Frantangelo, Taylor Fritz and Steve Johnson all scored opening-round wins before falling at the second hurdle. Nineteen-year-old Frances Tiafoe also provided a strong account of himself, pushing Roger Federer to five sets in a highlight-filled opening-round battle.
If the youth of Stephens, Keys and Vandeweghe is promising, there is even more to look forward to with the still-younger American juniors. Sixteen-year-old Amanda Anisimova, the US Open girls' champion, and 13-year-old Cori 'Coco' Gauff, the runner-up, are waiting in the wings, ready to usher in the newest wave of American talent.
In her press conference after the final loss to Stephens, Keys was asked if she would be joining her friend for her celebration. "Yeah, of course, I would 1,000 percent go," she smiled. "She can buy me drinks, all of the drinks!"
After this US Open, for American tennis, there is plenty to drink to – and even more to cheer.