Take Five: The top American stories from the 2022 US Open
Welcome to Take Five, a weekly series on USTA.com recapping five of the biggest stories from American tennis over the last week on the professional tennis circuit. We're reacapping the last fortnight here, as the final Grand Slam tournament of 2022 was one to remember for Team USA.
1. Frances Tiafoe becomes first American man to reach semifinals in 16 years
'Big Foe on the come up'? No. 'Big Foe' is here. Frances Tiafoe captivated sellout crowds for nearly two full weeks at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center as the first American man to reach the singles semifinals since Andy Roddick in 2006. Seeded No. 22, he didn't drop a set in his first three rounds, which included a win over No. 14 seed Diego Schwartzman, before popping the roof off Arthur Ashe Stadium in four-set wins over Rafael Nadal in Round 4 and Andrey Rublev in the quarterfinals.
It took an inspired effort from No. 3 seed Carlos Alcaraz—who'd go on to win the title—to stop Tiafoe, but if there was one thing the American learned from his underdog run, it was that he deserved to be there.
Read more on usopen.org: Tiafoe emerging from shadows of Nadal, Federer, Djokovic at the 2022 US Open
"I just proved that, honestly, I can play with the best obviously, and I'm capable of winning Grand Slams," Tiafoe reflected after losing to Alcaraz. "I think everyone knew when I play my best what I could do. But, you know, how close I can actually be to be one of those guys and to do this consistently.
"Obviously, through my career I've been pretty sporadic of playing well, veering off for a while. I've always backed myself against the best players in the world. I'm doing it on a consistent basis, starting to beat guys more readily. Ready to take the next step. I think rankings right now are honestly just a number. ... I feel like I can win any match."
As a result of his run to the semifinals, Tiafoe cracks the Top 20 for the first time this week at a career-high No. 19. He also was the first Black American man to reach the US Open semifinals since Arthur Ashe—for whom the Open's main stage, where Tiafoe thrilled fans in the last three rounds, is named—in 1972.
2. Coco Gauff, Jessica Pegula reach singles quarterfinals
On the women's side, both Coco Gauff and Jessica Pegula reached their first-ever US Open quarterfinal, and lost just one set combined along the way.
Seeded No. 12, Gauff reached the last eight with straight-sets wins over France's Leolia Jeanjean. Romania's Elena-Gabriela Ruse, fellow American and No. 20 seed Madison Keys and Zhang Shuai before losing to No. 17 seed Caroline Garcia of France. Pegula, who came into the US Open as the highest-seeded American at No. 8, beat Switzerland's Viktorija Golubic, Aliaksandra Sasnovich, Chinese qualifier Yuan Yue and No. 21 seed and two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova before falling to eventual champion and world No. 1 Iga Swiatek.
Pegula's loss to Swiatek was her third to the top-ranked player this year, and second at a Grand Slam; Swiatek also beat her in the quarterfinals en route to the title at Roland Garros, where she beat Gauff in the final. Nonetheless, in this week's WTA rankings, Pegula rises to a career-best world No. 5.
Though disappointed after her 6-3, 7-6(4) loss to Swiatek, Pegula said she was focusing on the positives of a strong year at Grand Slams. "I always like to play against the best in the world and challenge myself," she said. "That part I'll always be happy about. I wish it was a better omen than it ended up being."
As a result of her run to the quarterfinals, Gauff makes her Top 10 debut this week at No. 8. At 18 years, 183 days old, Gauff is the youngest player to break into the WTA Top 10 in 16 years, when a 17-year-old Nicole Vaidisova made her Top 10 debut in 2006.
Gauff also is the youngest American to make her Top 10 debut since Serena Williams in 1999.
3. Rajeev Ram wins second straight men's doubles title
Indiana's Rejeev Ram was one-half of the men's doubles champions, as he and British partner Joe Salisbury won the US Open title for the second straight year with a 7-6(4), 7-5 win over No. 2 seeds Wesley Koolhof and Neal Skupski. The pair, who came into the US Open as the No. 1 seeds, were the first men's doubles team to defend their title since Mark Woodforde and Todd Woodbridge in 1995-96.
After needing three sets to win both their quarterfinal and semifinal matches, Ram and Salisbury saved some of their best tennis for the final: They never lost serve in the first set, but came from a mini-break down in the tiebreak to take the lead, and came from an early break behind in the second set.
Road to the Championship - Ram/Salisbury
R1: def. Rodriguez/Coria 6-4, 6-4
R2: def. Saville/Karatsev 6-4, 6-3
R3: def. Fognini/Bolelli 6-1, 7-5
QF: def. Zielinski/Nys 6-4, 6-7(3), 6-4
SF: def. (13) Cabal/Farah 7-5, 4-6, 7-6(6)
F: def. (2) Koolhof/Skupski 7-6(4), 7-5
"Obviously if you can kind of emulate them anything in tennis," Ram said of matching the legendary 'Woodies' in their achievement, "it's pretty good company to keep."
4. Unseeded McNally, Townsend reach women's doubles final
There's no better way to start a new doubles partnership than by reaching a Grand Slam final. The all-American pair of Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend did just that at Flushing Meadows, knocking off three seeded teams in five matches to reach their first Grand Slam doubles final as a pair. They were two games away from a Cinderella-story championship, but fell to third-seeded Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 from 6-3, 4-1 up.
It was just the pair's second tournament together, and might not have come about had McNally not responded to Townsend's direct message on Instagram prior to August's Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
"I'm super thankful, you know, that Caty said yes, she responded to my DM," Townsend said. "But we were able to do this. Something this monumental is very uncommon to be able to play your second tournament and get to a Grand Slam final. I'm definitely not going to take that for granted, and I'm not going to minimize the accomplishment that we have made."
The US Open was only Townsend's eighth tournament back after giving birth to her son Adyn last year, and also marked McNally's second straight appearance in the US Open women's doubles final, having finished as runner-up a year ago alongside Gauff.
"This journey that I have been on has been amazing, honestly. I'm not going to say that I expected to be out on that stage this quickly. I envisioned it. I saw it. But to actually see it in your mind and for it to come true are two different things," Townsend said.
"It's amazing to have my son to be here with me and to be able to challenge myself, to juggle that life of being a mom while playing in a Slam. It was a challenge and I was a little bit nervous to kind of take that on, but it's been awesome, and I really enjoy myself out here.
"I'm just super motivated. I know that's really just shown me that I can do it like anything, even if it feels impossible at the time, like I can do it. That's kind of the space that I'm in right now. I'm just super motivated to continue on and show my son, like, we were so close ... When you look back, you're so close, it didn't happen this time, but that doesn't mean that you stop. So just try to extract the lessons out of this and move on and kind of look at the bigger picture."
5. Brandon Holt, Elizabeth Mandlik make their own names
The children of two former US Open champions made their mark in the first week: Brandon Holt, son of Tracy Austin, and Elizabeth Mandlik, daughter of Hana Mandlikova, each scored their first-ever Grand Slam wins.
Holt won three matches in qualifying as a wild card, all from a set down, in his first-ever Grand Slam appearance. In Round 1 of the main draw, he scored what might've been the upset of the tournament with a four-set win over No. 10 seed and fellow American Taylor Fritz. Mandlik, a main-draw wild card, defeated former Roland Garros semifinalist Tamara Zidansek in the opening round before giving eventual finalist and No. 5 seed Ons Jabeur a stern test in Round 2. She served for the first set before falling 7-5, 6-2.
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