If a tennis fan were to look back at the four Grand Slams of 2017 they would see only two things: Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. This has been the year of the comeback and for the tennis faithful, it seems like the makings of a daydream. The two best male players of all time came back from injury induced time off to utterly dominate the Grand Slams of 2017. They were the story of these four tournaments, but here is how I see of the grand slams as far as excitement and competitiveness go.
- Australian Open
Winners: Roger Federer, Serena Williams.
RUs: Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams.
The Australian Open was by far the best major of 2017. The return of the giants in Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal made for a tantalizing story that had the tennis world on the edge of their seats. As they beat the odds to make it to the final, tennis analysts speculated that it could be the biggest tennis match in history due to the impact it would have on the status of either Federer or Nadal being considered the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time). The highly anticipated final did not disappoint. Federer and Nadal displayed everything tennis fans could hope for and then some. Both men playing well and trading blows all match long with Federer winning the mental battle in the end – coming back from a 3-1 deficit in the 5th set to win his 18th major.
In the women’s draw, Serena Williams beat her sister Venus Williams in the final of the women’s draw capturing her 23rd major and after the tournament, we found out that she was pregnant during the tournament which adds to the achievement of winning yet another major. The final was exciting and great for women’s tennis. Two champions of the game, who happen to be sisters, proved yet again why they are the most dominant siblings in tennis history.
Winners: Roger Federer, Garbine Muguruza.
RUs: Marin Cilic, Venus Williams.
At the beginning, Wimbledon had all the makings for a great tournament. All of the top players were healthy and ready to go for the men. Roger Federer was trying to win his record 8th Wimbledon, meanwhile, the women’s draw was wide open with the absence of Serena Williams due to her pregnancy. The tournament lost some star power early with Wawrinka, Zverev, and Kyrgios falling in the first round. There was still great excitement around the tournament with home favorite Andy Murray still in the draw. That ended quickly with the World #1 being upset by Sam Querry in an epic 5 setter in the Quarterfinals. Meanwhile, Federer was playing at a serene level like Nadal was in the French, cruising through top 15 players in the world like Raonic, Dimitrov, and Berdych without dropping a set. Nadal was upset by Gilles Muller in the 4th round which turned out to be the match of the tournament. After that turn of events, Federer was the clear favorite in the final where he easily won an anti-climactic match vs. Marin Cilic who at one time broke down into tears…
In the women’s tournament, it was another slaughter of the seeded players with only 13 of the 32 seeded players making it past the 3rd round. Garbine Muguruza played extremely solid in the tournament especially when she came back from a set down against (then) world #1 Angelique Kerber. Muguruza ended up beating Venus Williams in straight sets in the final which set her on the path to becoming world #1 which she now is.
Wimbledon was a decent tournament because of the quality of some of the matches and the star power that was present. The men’s tournament became less intriguing by the end with Federer having to sleep in past his matches to give his opponents any chance of winning because he was playing on a different planet than anyone else in the tournament.
3. French Open
Winners: Rafael Nadal, Jelena Ostepenko.
RUs: Stanislas Wawrinka, Simona Halep.
I rank the French Open slightly behind Wimbledon because in the men’s draw only 3 of the big 4 were entered. Roger Federer choose to skip the clay court season, taking away some of the star power from Roland Garros. As the tournament progressed many were disappointed by the lack of competitive matches that went 5 sets. Rafa’s level was reminiscent of the past where he couldn’t be touched by anyone other than Robin Soderling on clay. The quarterfinals looked like it should be great, all the top seeds made it there, but still, the matches weren’t very competitive except for the match of the tournament between Murray and Wawrinka in the semi-finals where Wawrinka beat the world #1 Murray 6-7, 6-3, 5-7, 7-6, 6-1. In the final Nadal destroyed Wawrinka in 3 sets, and the match wasn’t even competitive.
The women’s tournament was slightly more intriguing with unranked Jelena Ostepenko beating #3 seed Simone Halep to win the tournament. This inconsistency of the top players in the WTA was on full display with only 3 of the top 10 players in the world making it to the quarterfinals.
The tournament was great for Rafa fans as he didn’t drop a set and won his record 10th French Open Title and for the Latvian faithful who saw their unranked hero Jelena Ostepenko win her first major. For the rest of the tennis world, the French Open was an underwhelming experience.
- U.S. Open
Winners: Rafael Nadal, Sloane Stephens.
RUs: Kevin Anderson, Madison Keys.
The U.S. Open started with disappointment as Novak Djokovic and Stanislas Wawrinka pulled out of the tournament in the preceding weeks due to season-ending injuries. Andy Murray really made the tennis world mad when he pulled out of the tournament the day after the draw was released, putting Federer and Nadal on the same half of the draw and leaving the bottom half without anyone who closely resembled a contender to win the title. Alexander Zvarev was the favorite in the bottom half but he quickly squandered his break of luck by losing in the second round to Borna Coric. The only source of real excitement in the tournament was the prospect of having a Federer/Nadal matchup in the Semi-Finals, but Federer lost to Juan Martin Del-Potro in the quarters. Rafael Nadal picked up his level on the hard courts so when he faced his only formidable opponent of the tournament (Del Potro) in the semi-finals he was able to overpower the Argentine and play a great match to make it to the finals where he subsequently destroyed an in-over-his-head Kevin Anderson who was just happy to be there.
In the women’s draw, the match of the tournament came in the first round where Maria Sharapova, fresh off a doping scandal, defeated the #2 seed Simona Halep in a 3 set epic. As the tournament continued so did the theme of the year for the women’s majors where the top seeds continued to fall off like they were going out of style. This was great for American fans as the finalists were #15 seed Madison Keys vs. Sloane Stephens who was on the comeback from injury. Stephens went on to destroy Keys in a very uncompetitive match in similar fashion to the men’s final.
All in all, the U.S. Open lacked exciting matchups and star power. All was not lost as there was an opportunity for young and lower ranked players in the men’s and women’s draw to advance far and gain valuable ranking points like Stephens, Shapovalov, Carreno-Busta, and Anderson which is good for tennis. But the U.S. Open did not provide the drama and epic night matches we are used to, and in my opinion was the worst grand slam of the year.