2013 US Open Tennis: Biggest Winners and Losers from Flushing Meadows
New York City certainly knows how to put on a show.
This U.S. Open was entertaining from start to finish. It started with the birth of a star in Victoria Duval. Then we said goodbye to a much-beloved American in James Blake. Finally, the tournament ended with two of the greatest champions ever—Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams—walking away victorious.
Along the way we saw one-handed backhands steal the show, defending champions brought back to earth and the Bryan brothers' quest for a career Slam fall three sets short.
It was a scintillating way to end a wonderful summer of tennis, and with the No. 1 vs. No. 2 battling it out in both singles finals, it was a great exclamation point on the 2013 Slam season.
Take a look back at a few of the winners and losers from a fabulous two weeks of tennis.
Winner: Rafael Nadal
It's mid-September, and Nadal has not lost on hard courts this year. He has four titles on his formerly worst surface—three Masters, and now his second U.S. Open.
That is downright scary.
This was one of the most dominant displays in a non-clay tournament that Nadal has ever shown. He didn't drop serve until the semifinals against Richard Gasquet, and he survived a barrage from the world No. 1 to win his second major of the year 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1.
He's up to 13 major titles, and it feels like he's just getting started. We might as well just sit back and admire.
Loser: The Rest of the ATP Big Four
Nadal's dominance since coming back from injury has left little room for any of the other Big Four to take home any prizes.
Novak Djokovic is still No. 1 as of right now, but he only has one major and one Masters event this year, a disappointing haul by his lofty standards. He's now lost in the finals of the U.S. Open in three of the past four years.
Murray ran into roadblocks trying to follow up his phenomenal Wimbledon run, losing to Stanislas Wawrinka in the quarterfinals. He, too, has one Masters win and one Slam on the year.
Roger Federer's well-documented slide continued here at the U.S. Open—he has only one title all year, and it didn't come at a big event. He lost in the fourth round to Tommy Robredo here.
Right now, it's Nadal's tour. There's no doubt about it.
Winner: Women's Tennis
From start to finish, the women at the U.S. Open put on a great show, highlighted of course by the three-set thriller played by Williams and Victoria Azarenka in the final.
Serena walked away with 17 Grand Slam titles and is now that much closer to being the clear-cut favorite for the best-ever title. The most impressive part? She's nearly 32 and shows no sign of slowing down.
Azarenka, meanwhile, earned a lot of fans and proved to be a worthy rival to Serena when she fought back from two breaks down in the second set to force a third set. There seems to be no fear in her.
Overall, it was a great way to finish off the Slam season for the women in 2013, a year that marked the 40th anniversary of the WTA and of equal prize money at the U.S. Open.
Whoever thinks that scheduling one of the biggest tennis matches of the year at 5 p.m. ET on a Monday afternoon is a good thing needs to seriously get their critical thinking skills checked out.
While a match between Nadal and Djokovic will certainly be must-see TV no matter when it is, it almost feels like an afterthought on Monday evening. Plus, it's tough on the players who have to play Davis Cup later in the week.
The ending of the U.S. Open always feels crowded due to their insistence on playing the opening round over three days instead of two like all of the other Slams, a practice that desperately needs to change.
Luckily, the Monday finals are coming to an end in a couple of years, and with the roof coming on Ashe, crazy rain delays will be a thing of the past. Let's hope the U.S. Open organizers start putting players' interests further up the considerations list when it comes to scheduling.
Winner: Stanislas Wawrinka
A man from Switzerland nearly stole the show from all the big names at the U.S. Open, but it wasn't the man you thought it would be.
While Federer crashed out in the fourth round to Robredo, his Swiss underling Wawrinka, the No. 9 seed, had the tournament of his life.
In the fourth round, Wawrinka upset No. 5 Tomas Berdych to make the third major quarterfinal in his career. But he wasn't done yet. In the quarterfinals, he took out defending champion Andy Murray in straight sets.
Then he kicked off the final weekend of the U.S. Open in style, pushing No. 1 Djokovic to five sets in a thriller that lasted four hours and nine minutes.
It's nice to see a guy who has always had potential reach it at age 28—the next challenge for Wawrinka is to try to finish the year in the Top Eight so that he can go to the World Tour Finals in London for the first time in his career. With his form, he has a great shot.
Winner: American Women
The adorable 17-year-old kicked off the tournament and had everyone buzzing on the first Tuesday when the qualifier took out 2011 U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur in three sets.
And from there, the American women continued to impress, just as they have done all year long.
Jamie Hampton and Christina McHale made great runs to the third round. Wild card Allison Riske surprised everyone when she took out an under-the-weather Petra Kvitova and made the fourth round.
Even Sloane Stephens held her own, after making it to the fourth round and playing Serena tough for a set. And, of course, it helped that Serena went on to win the event.
Overall, this Slam capped off a great season for the American women—one that they will hopefully be able to build on for next year.
Loser: American Men
On the other side of the coin, the American men had yet another major to forget.
I'm beginning to sound like a broken record here, but there seems to be no hope on the horizon for American men's tennis.
Sam Querrey went away meekly in the second round to Adrian Mannarino. John Isner, who showed great form this summer, once again crashed out in the third round to Philipp Kohlschreiber.
The only bright spot was wild card Tim Smyczek, who was a couple of points away from making the fourth round before falling to Marcel Granollers in five sets.
With youngsters such as Jack Sock and Ryan Harrison failing to show a lot of promise, things could get worse before they get better. That's a scary thought.
It was a good U.S. Open to be over 30.
Robredo made the quarterfinals. Lleyton Hewitt upset No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro and made the fourth round. He finally lost to 31-year-old Mikhail Youzhny.
On the women's side, three out of four of the women's semifinalists were in their 30s—Daniela Hantuchova, Flavia Pennetta and, of course, the ageless Serena Williams.
As the young guns continue to disappoint on the big stages, it leaves the door open for the guys with experience under their belts to shine. It's certainly nice to see some guys and girls in the twilight of their careers playing sensational tennis.
Loser: Juan Martin Del Potro
Del Potro came into the U.S. Open looking like he was poised to make a deep run. A title at the Citi Open earlier this summer and a run to the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open made it seem like he was ready to threaten the top guys on a consistent basis.
Instead, it was yet another tennis mirage from the Argentinian. Oh, Delpo.
The 2009 champion fell in five sets to Hewitt in the second round and marked the four-year anniversary of his championship with a whimper.
It would be good for tennis for del Potro to find some consistency. Let's hope he does so before it's too late.
Winner: Andrea Hlavackova
Someone is walking away from Flushing Meadows with not one, but two doubles trophies.
The 27-year-old Czech had the weekend of a lifetime. On Friday afternoon, Andrea Hlavackova took home the mixed doubles trophy with her partner Max Mirnyi. That afternoon she teamed up with her women's doubles partner Lucie Hradecka to take out Serena and Venus Williams in the women's semis.
Then on Sunday, she and Hradecka—who won the 2011 French Open and silver at the 2012 London Olympics—took out Australians Casey Dellacqua and Ashley Barty to win the women's doubles title.
This is one fortnight she won't forget for quite some time.
Winner: Flavia Pennetta
Forza! The fiery Italian, who started the Italian revolution in women's tennis by making it into the Top 10 a few years ago, announced that her best days might just be ahead of her at the U.S. Open.
She took out a slew of her countrywomen, including Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci, to make the first Grand Slam semifinal of her career at the age of 31.
Considering this time last year she was at home due to a wrist injury, and when she came back this year she was well outside the Top 100, it was a triumphant comeback for one of the most likable players on the tour.
We knew that the event was going to lose a bit of style when Maria Sharapova withdrew, but I'm not sure that anyone expected things to get this bad.
Nike might have been the worst offender, putting the typically stylish Federer into a laughable night kit, and then putting Azarenka into a high-waisted and batman-sweat-stained monstrosity.
Adidas didn't necessarily fare any better, particularly its always-questionable Stella McCartney line, which made the gorgeous Caroline Wozniacki look like she was a part of a toddler's art school project.
Do better next year, tennis designers. It's embarrassing to be this close to New York Fashion Week and to look this bad!