The unknown and the known: new U.S. Open champs

For the first time since 2002, two American women other than one of the Williams sisters made it to the finals.  For the championship, it was 15th-ranked Madison Keys vs. unseeded Sloane Stephens.  The result was a rout by Stephens in straight sets 6-3, 6-0 in a match that lasted 61 minutes before a sellout crowd at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows,  New York.

The match was highlighted with power and finesse as they mainly traded baseline shots with Keys, who outperformed fellow American Colleen “CoCo” Vandeweghe in straight sets 6-1, 6-2 in the semifinals. Vandeweghe was in control early in the first set, only to let it slip away due to careless unforced errors.

Stephens, who beat ninth-ranked American Venus Williams in three sets in the semis 6-1, 0-6, 7-5, picked up where she left off in the second set, not allowing Keys time to blink.  Keys’ unforced errors were increasing while Stephens was in control, hitting forehand and backhand winners. Keys finished with 30 unforced errors to Stephens’ measly six.

The match ended with both players approaching the net and embracing each other, filled with emotion and affection. Keys teared up.     

“Maddie is one of my bestest friends on tour, if not my best friend on tour, and to play her here, honestly, I wouldn’t have wanted to play anyone else but for us both to be here is such a special moment,” Stephens told USA Today. “I told her I wished it could be a draw because I wish we could have both won.”

Six weeks ago, Stephens was ranked 957th.  She jumped to No. 17 after the win.

After two weeks of elimination, the men’s final came down to one who was no surprise versus one who was a long shot.

Those two were top-ranked Rafael Nadal of Spain, who was no stranger to championships, versus 28th-ranked South African Kevin Anderson, who advanced to the final for the first time in his career.     

Nadal was at the top of his game playing like the top-ranked player he was, winning the championship in straight sets over Anderson 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 in front of a sellout crowd that included a number of celebrities like Christie Brinkley, Tiger Woods and Bill Gates.

Nadal was too much for Anderson, holding all of his service games while breaking Anderson four times on his serve.

Afterwords, both players shook hands. Nadal celebrated with the crowd and the men were awarded the championship and runner-up trophies.

Nadal expressed his gratitude to his opponent, then he praised his long-time coach and uncle Toni Nadal who after this tournament will no longer be traveling with the team. Nadal also poured his heart out to the victims of the hurricanes in the Caribbean and U.S. and the earthquake in Mexico and gave a speech in Spanish to which the crowd responded with a standing ovation.

Nadal has 16 total Grand Slam titles which includes 10 French, one Australian, two Wimbledon and three U.S. Open titles.