Ranking the 10 Best Story Lines of the 2012 US Open
The 2012 U.S. Open is written with the results already tallied and entered into the record books.
The tournament was remarkable in many respects, including stellar play, poignant good-byes and the rise of some apparent new stars.
The women's final was very competitive for the first time in years, as was the men's final held on Monday, once again in very windy conditions.
As the last major of the season, players will collect their gear and head out ready to focus on the Davis Cup, the indoor season and the year-end championships.
Here is what we will remember as the best stories coming out of the last Grand Slam of the season—the 2012 U.S. Open.
10. Enduring the Drama of a Turbulent Super Saturday
If it is not hurricanes, then it is a tornado or two to create chaos in the Big Apple during the late summer tournament at Flushing Meadows.
On “Super Saturday,” Mother Nature played the biggest point of the day, excusing all of the fans from the U.S. Tennis Center.
After enduring a gut-wrenching match, where Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych had to battle the wind, the ball toss, the noise and the debris flying across the court, Andy Murray finally closed out the match in four sets.
While the women’s match was postponed until Sunday, the next semifinal duo took the court in an attempt to play tennis inside a wind tunnel.
This state of affairs did not please the world No. 2 Novak Djokovic who felt, justifiably so, that these were not conditions under which any player should try to play tennis.
Djokovic and his opponent David Ferrer took on the wind and each other for seven games. The Serb, unable to stabilize his strokes and find his rhythm, was down 2-5 when the officials shut down the the action on court and sent everybody home until Sunday.
Djokovic was happy to oblige, but Ferrer, who was better able to manage the adverse conditions, hoped for one more game to seal the first set.
He would have to wait until Sunday to do that as Super Saturday blew to a close...
9. Watching Those Amazing Italian Ladies Keep Winning
There is an air of excitement surrounding the Italian ladies that propels them into the spotlight during majors. Their fire and enthusiasm shine through at Grand Slams.
Who will ever forget the astonishing run at the 2010 French Open when Italy's Francesca Schiavone plowed her way through the draw to get the final at Stade Roland Garros.
There, as the ultimate underdog, Schiavone hung tough to defeat Samantha Stosur in the final—winning her first and only Grand Slam title.
This year at the 2012 French Open, Sara Errani did the same thing—except she lost in the final to Maria Sharapova.
What is more, Errani did not fade after her fabulous French run. She came back to the U.S. Open, advancing to the quarterfinals where she battled with countrywoman Roberta Vinci for a chance to advance to the semifinals. Errani won that contest.
Her reward, however, was to play Serena Williams in the semifinals. It was too much for the Italian to overcome and she lost to Williams and her bid for a second Slam final in 2012.
With her partner, Roberta Vinci, however, the two Italians won the U.S. Open women's doubles title.
The Italian ladies have done very well, bringing athleticism and determination to their very entertaining matches.
8. The Bryan Brothers Do It Again, Winning No. 12
The Bryan Brothers, as the No. 2 seeds, entered the U.S. Open daring to dream about capturing their 12th Grand Slam title in doubles.
Winning it would finally put them ahead of the leaders, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde—the Aussies from Down Under.
True to form and seeding, the Bryans advanced to the finals to meet famed doubles player Leander Paes of India and his always dangerous partner Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, the No. 5 seeds.
But Paes/Stepanek fell easily 6-3, 6-4, allowing the Bryans to win Grand Slam title No. 12.
It was their fourth U.S. Open championship, having won it in 2005, 2008 and 2010.
Currently, at age 34, the twin brothers, recent winners of the gold medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics, show no signs of retiring.
In an interesting side bar to this doubles topic, we wonder if there is, perhaps, another U.S. brothers team in the development stage?
Christian and Ryan Harrison made quite an inroad at this year's U.S. Open. The young men advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to No. 9 Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands.
The future for U.S. men's doubles looks pretty bright at the moment.
7. Sharing the Excitement as New Stars Made Their Way Through the Draw
Wild-card entry Jack Sock of the United States is 19 years of age. He exhilarated fans by reaching the third round of this year's U.S. Open—finally losing to (11) Spaniard Nicolas Almagro in four sets. The teenager showed a great deal of potential, promising to be one of the future stars of tennis in the United States.
Steve Johnson began his professional career in earnest after finishing college at USC. Granted a wild-card entry in this year's U.S. Open, Johnson extended his stay at Flushing Meadows until the third round when he lost to (13) Frenchman Richard Gasquet. Johnson also promises to add new power to the tennis fortunes for the United States
Martin Klizan, age 23, hails from Slovakia, where he concentrates mainly on clay court tennis. But at this year's U.S. Open, he upset the No. 5-seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the second round. Klizan followed that win by defeating the No. 32-seed Jeremy Chardy of France to advance to the fourth round, where he finally lost to the No. 12-seed Marin Cilic of Croatia. Will this just be a one-time-wonder appearance or will Klizan be able to move on from his brilliant play at this year's Open?
Unseeded Anna Tatishvili of Georgia is 22 years of age. At the U.S. Open in 2012, the young woman from Georgia advanced to the fourth round where she met the No. 1-seed Victoria Azarenka. On her way to the fourth round, she defeated Stephanie Foretz Gacon of France, Sorana Cirstea of Romania and Mandy Minella of Luxembourg. Even though she did not win her match against Azarenka, Tatishvili had a great tournament.
Laura Robson of Great Britain made the most remarkable run, upsetting former world No. 1 and three-time U.S. Open champ Kim Clijsters in her final tournament. Robson turned Clijsters back 7-6, 7-6 in the second round, forever ending her singles career. Robson followed that by defeating the No. 9-seed Li Na of China to advance to the fourth round where the young Brit finally went down to defeat at the hands of the defending champion (7) Sam Stosur. Robson, indeed, is a rising star.
Mallory Burdette is another American, still in college, who won a wild-card entry into this year's U.S. Open. Trying out her pro legs, Burdette managed to advance to the third round. There, she lost to the No. 3-seed Maria Sharapova in straight sets. However, the Stanford senior advanced two rounds with good, solid play and showed definite promise.
Sloan Stephens entered the U.S. Open ranked No. 44, upsetting the No. 22-seed Francesca Schiavone in the first round. In the second round, she took out Tatjana Malek of Germany. That sent her into the third round where she would face another former French Open champion, Ana Ivanovic of Serbia. Stephens lost that match, ending her run at the 2012 U.S. Open. However, the advancement saw her rise in the rankings to No. 38. Great things are expected of Sloane Stephens as she moves forward in her career.
6. The Extended Run of the Talented, but Unlucky Thomas Berdych
Periodically, Thomas Berdych rises up to extraordinary heights beyond what we have grown to expect of the world No. 7.
The problem for Berdych has always been backing up a round of superlative play by winning the next match or two necessary to win the title.
In 2004, he upset the world No. 1 Roger Federer during the second round at the Summer Games in Athens. He was 19 years old at the time. However, his run ended at the quarterfinals.
In 2010, Berdych first defeated Federer at the Sony Ericsson Open in the round of 16 and then again during the quarterfinals at Wimbledon, advancing to his first Grand Slam semifinal. There the Czech defeated Novak Djokovic.
Berdych was propelled into his first Grand Slam final where he lost to Rafael Nadal.
This year at the U.S.Open, Berdych upset the No. 1-seed Roger Federer in the quarterfinals to advance to the semifinals where bad luck prevailed on Super Saturday. Gale-force winds took over, dictating play and Berdych fell to Andy Murray—unable to muster his serve and his game in time to defeat the No. 3 seed.
In order to win majors, you have to win more than one or two big matches—sometimes several before you capture the title and sometimes you must overcome major obstacles like the wind.
This was a match which favored the player who could best manage to survive ferocious wind gusts—regardless of the "fairness" of having to play in such conditions.
While Berdych has superior talent, he has not developed that winning mentality to bridge gaps when he is not playing his best or when conditions are not favorable.
Such was his fate at this year's U.S. Open.
5. The Heroic March of David Ferrer to the U.S. Open Semifinals
The No. 4-seed David Ferrer was deemed the "Nadal" replacement throughout the tournament. His countryman, Rafael Nadal, was not able to play at this year's U.S. Open because of a recurring knee condition—tendinitis.
As the ATP No. 5-ranked player, Ferrer assumed his rightful place as the No. 4 seed at the 2012 U.S. Open.
As the stand-in for Nadal, Ferrer was overlooked, downgraded and generally discounted as a factor in this last Grand Slam of the season.
Early on, people assumed John Isner would come out of Ferrer's quarter of the draw, but the big American was upset in the third round by German Philipp Kohlschreiber.
While other stars were stealing the spotlight, Ferrer quietly, and well under the radar, advanced through his quarter.
Finally, the ever-bustling Ferrer defeated the No. 13-seed Richard Gasquet in straight sets to advance to the quarterfinals where he would meet the No. 8-seed Janko Tipsarevic for a chance to reach the U.S. Open semifinals.
Extended to five sets, Ferrer rallied to win the match in a fifth set tiebreaker, advancing to his second Grand Slam semifinal of 2012—the other one coming at the French Open.
In the semifinals, Ferrer faced the No. 2-seed Novak Djokovic. The two waited for most of Saturday afternoon as the wind and the match between Andy Murray and Thomas Berdych raged on for approximately four hours.
When they took the court for their match, it was difficult to stand up in some of the wind blasts, let alone serve effectively. But Ferrer dug down deep and took advantage of the conditions to shoot out to a 5-2 lead, ready to serve for the set. It was at that point when tennis officials, aware of tornadoes in the area, stopped the match, postponing it until Sunday—sending fans scurrying out ahead of the expected bad weather.
On Sunday, Djokovic found his game. After Ferrer took the first set, Djokovic came back to win in four. Ferrer was done, while the Serb moved on to the final.
Ferrer deserved better than the level of respect he received from fans and the media.
As usual, he never let that bother him. Ferrer just played on and let his tennis do his talking.
4. Kim Clijster's Last Match on Arthur Ashe
Coming into Week 1, everyone understood in advance that the 2012 U.S. Open was going to be Kim Clijsters' last tournament.
In 2007, Clijsters had retired once before, but returned to the game in 2009, where the Belgian enjoyed immediate success.
However, as time wore on, recent injuries and setbacks caused the former No. 1 to retire again.
Anticipating the best, Clijsters won her opening-round match over teenager Victoria Duval 6-3, 6-1. Her second-round match was against another teenager, up-and-coming Brit Laura Robson.
The match was scheduled on Arthur Ashe Stadium as part of the night session. Most anticipated that Clijsters, with her experience on the biggest stages in tennis, would win the match.
But that, however, did not happen.
Astounding everyone, Robson won in two tiebreaks in a cliff-hanger of a match. For her part, Clijsters battled tough, never relenting. However, the teenager held on to her nerves in her desire to win the contest.
As the match got underway, it appeared that Clijsters would dispatch the teenager easily as she rocketed to a 4-1 lead in the first set. Eventually, Robson caught fire, fought back and eventually forced a tiebreak.
Robson managed to fight off three set points, winning the set at her first opportunity.
In the second set, Clijsters again broke early but gave the break back in the second game. The two seesawed to another tiebreak with Robson taking the set and the match in another tight finish.
Clijsters' singles career ended after being on tour since 1997. She won three titles at the U.S. Open and one title at the Australian Open, playing exciting, athletic tennis.
Clijsters went on to play doubles and mixed doubles, finally bowing out at the end of the week.
Tennis will be a bit poorer in spirit without Clijsters in the field.
3. Andy Roddick Said Good-Bye to Tennis
On Thursday, Aug. 30—on his 30th birthday—Andy Roddick decided to call it a day.
He called a special press conference, announcing to all the world that the 2012 U.S. Open would be his last in professional tennis.
Roddick turned pro in the year 2000, playing constantly on tour for the past 12 years.
Since the very beginning, at age 18, Roddick has been blowing players off the court with his rocket serves—his signature stroke.
The highest point of his very successful career came in 2003 when Roddick captured the U.S. Open, defeating Spaniard Juan Carlos Ferrero in the final.
By the end of the year, that win helped catapult him to the No. 1 ranking at the age of 21.
Once Sampras retired in 2002 and with the aging of superstar Andre Agassi, the American public immediately looked to Roddick to become the next great American tennis star.
Starting in 2003, Roddick became the symbol of U.S. tennis.
Accepting this role as the standard bearer of men’s tennis in the United States, Roddick did everything in his power to succeed.
In his last tournament, Roddick upended fellow American Rhyne Williams 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 in the first round of this year's Open.
After that match, Roddick prepared to face teenager Bernard Tomic of Australian on Friday night at Arthur Ashe. Friends, family and fans prepared for the inevitable last match but Roddick was not ready to leave.
Roddick defeated Tomic in straight sets to move on to the third round, played on Sunday. There, Roddick defeated Italian Fabio Fognini in four sets, winning 7-5, 7-6, 4-6, 6-4.
Enjoying his final moments in the sun, in the fourth round, Roddick faced Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, the No. 7 seed. It was Roddick's final match which he lost 7-6, 6-7, 2-6, 4-6.
The applause thundered as Roddick left Arthur Ashe for the last time as a professional tennis player.
2. Amazing Sunday Final: The Ladies
At last, a Grand Slam final that lived up to its billing, that went the distance with the outcome in doubt until the very end.
The No. 1-seed Victoria Azarenka, who came into her own in 2012, battled with the No. 4-seed Serena Williams, winner at Wimbledon and the London Summer Olympics in 2012.
There had not been a three-set final for the ladies in 17 years, when Monica Seles battled her arch rival Steffi Graf. Graf would win 7-6, 0-6, 6-3.
The match seesawed back and forth with tremendous swings of momentum.
Williams captured the first set routinely 6-2 and everyone assumed it would be an easy day at the office for the three-time U.S. Open champ.
But that was not to be the case.
Azarenka came back strong and did her own version of easy, winning the second set 6-2 by dominating play through out set No. 2.
That took the match to a third and final set where Azarkena, in a late surge, mounted a 5-3 lead only to have Williams break back, taking the last four games and winning the last set 7-5.
It was Williams' fourth U.S. Open title and her 15th Grand Slam title.
The level of play throughout match was superlative.
Each player brought out her best tennis on Sunday, making it one of the most memorable finals in recent history.
1. Men's Final on Monday: One for the Ages
For the fifth year in a row, the men's final was moved to Monday. Perhaps, it is time for the USTA to consider adding a roof over Arthur Ashe or offering some similar remedy to Mother Nature.
Even Monday's final was buffeted by high winds, making the early going tough on court.
The No. 2-seed Novak Djokovic was to do battle with the No. 3-seed Andy Murray to decide which man would hoist the trophy, winning the 2012 U.S. Open.
For Djokovic, it would have marked his second consecutive win at Flushing Meadows. For Murray, a win would give him his first U.S. Open title—in fact, his first win ever at a Grand Slam.
The first set was tight, going to a tiebreak with Murray eking out a win after holding six set points. Finally, the first set went to the Brit 7-6.
Then, it appeared that Djokovic would just fade away as Murray shot out to a 4-0 lead in the second set.
However, the Serb willed his way back, leveling the second set at 5-5. Murray held to go up 6-5 with Djokovic serving, hoping for a second-set tiebreak.
With some errors and some bad luck, Djokovic lost his serve and the second set to Murray 7-5.
Down two sets, he began the arduous task of climbing back into the match. Djokovic went for shots, was aggressive, employing great strategy and pinpoint accuracy to win the next two sets.
The match came down to the fifth and final set. Murray found his game once again and broke the Serb in his opening game. What is more, the Brit never lost his edge, serving it out to capture that elusive Grand Slam title.
The match lasted four hours and 54 minutes—every minute of it filled with tense action. The men's final tied for the longest match in U.S. Open history.
Murray became the first Brit to win a major title since 1936.
This final was one for the ages.
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