By Alessandro Mastroluca

  • Britwatch Sports reviews the 2019 season. The fourth part covers all that happened during the hardcourt season in America
  • Daniil Medvedev won his first Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati and moved to a stunning final at the Us Open
  • Andreescu won the title at Flushing Meadows on her debut beating Serena Williams

LONDON, UK – Britwatch Sports looks at some of the best moments of the 2019 season. The fourth part of our coverage covers the Rogers Cup, the Western & Southern Open and the US Open

 

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Daniil Medvedev and Bianca Andreescu began their midsummer night’s dream in Canada showing they have what it takes to succeed on the biggest stages. During the hard-court season, Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas played one of the most memorable matches of the year at 2019 Citi Open. In nearly every one of his matches in Washington D.C., Tsitsipas’ shoes tore at the laces. In the semi-final, Kyrgios sped up the process and brought those shoes back from his opponent’s box. The exchange relieved the tension of a funny clash between polarising and unorthodox players. Kyrgios completed a perfect week beating World No. 10 Medvedev for his second ATP 500 title of the season.

 

Nadal won his record 35th Masters 1000 title

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The Russian began his streak of six straight finals in Washington. The following week, Medvedev faced Rafael Nadal for the very first time on one of the biggest stages in tennis, in the Coupe Rogers final. Medvedev led the ATP Tour in hard-court victories in 2018 and continued to improve. In the semi-finals, he defeated his fellow 23-year-old Muscovite Karen Khachanov replacing him as Russian No. 1 in the ATP Rankings.

Nadal did not have to play to reach a record-breaking 51st ATP Masters 1000 final as Gael Monfils withdrew after suffering an injury during a lengthy quarter-final win over Roberto Bautista Agut. The Mallorcan reinforced his status as the all-time leader with 35 ATP Masters 1000 titles dominating the title-match to seal his fifth title at the tournament.

READ MORE | Evans pushes Nadal, Edmund dominated by Medvedev

 

Andreescu’s fairytale began in Canada

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In the women’s singles event, Andreescu launched a 16-match winning streak from the beginning of the Rogers Cup in August that ran through until Beijing, when she was finally lost to Naomi Osaka in a three-set classic.

Bianca won the title as Serena Williams suffered from back spasms that forced her to withdraw from the match and to drop out of Cincinnati. Also Osaka, the defending US Open champion, had to abandon the Western & Southern Open before the semi-final match with discomfort in her left knee.

The tournament ended on a high note for Madison Keys who rallied late in both sets to beat Svetlana Kuznetsova, the oldest finalist in the Western & Southern Open’s history, who defeated three top-10 players in a single campaign (Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty) for the first time in her career. Keys easily sealed her biggest title that propelled her back into the Top 10 just before the US Open.

 

Medvedev, the first Russian champion in Cincinnati

Two unexpected champions characterised the latest edition of the tournament, where Medvedev claimed his maiden Masters 1000 crown. In the third round, his compatriot Andrey Rublev needed just over an hour to beat Roger Federer who suffered his quickest defeat since losing to the Argentine left-hander Franco Squillari in 54 minutes in Sydney in 2003.

Medvedev survived cramps, cracked a racquet and saved two break points while serving for the match to beat David Goffin in a tense final. He became the youngest Cincinnati champion since 21-year-old Andy Murray in 2008 and the first Russian in the Top 5 since No. 5 Nikolay Davydenko in the week of 28 June 2010. For the first time, a Russian player embraced the Rookwood championship trophy.

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A stunning final in New York

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Medvedev, the type of witty and clever guy that looks both amiable and indecipherable, showed all his sarcasm to fuel his troubled relationship with the American fans at the US Open. After his third-round victory over Feliciano Lopez, he stood on the court and told the fans he won because of them. He used almost perfect words amidst the boos that he even encouraged throughout the match. He had snatched the towel from a ball-person, and then he threw his racquet towards the chair umpire flashing his middle finger next to his forehead.

Day after day, Medvedev tried to explain himself and, in the end, he gained some sort of respect from the crowd as he moved towards his maiden career Grand Slam final. At the age of 23, he became the youngest major finalist since Novak Djokovic at 2010 US Open and the first Russian to reach that stage since Marat Safin at 2005 Australian Open.

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Medvedev was third player to reach the Washington, Canada, Cincinnati and US Open finals in the same season during the Open Era (since 1968), joining Ivan Lendl in 1982 and Andre Agassi in 1995. All of them lost in the US Open title-match. Nadal conquered his fourth title in five finals, becoming the second-oldest champion in the tournament’s history in the Open Era since Ken Rosewall (35) in 1970.

After a tremendous battle, Nadal built a seemingly insurmountable lead going ahead by two sets and a break but Medvedev staged a spirited comeback to force a decider and went one point away from breaking Nadal again in his first service game of the fifth set. Nadal needed four hours and 50 minutes to earn his 84th tour-level title. He and Federer are the only players to reach a Grand Slam final at least five times in all four tournaments.

READ MORE | Three thoughts on Nadal’s Slam tally after being pushed the distance by Medvedev

US Open: Fearless Andreescu won the title

In the women’s singles event, Cori “Coco” Gauff failed to match her magical Wimbledon run but what happened in her third-round defeat against Osaka immediately turned into a blockbuster moment. Osaka bested the 15-year-old American, then she embraced her opponent and asked her to share their on-court interview at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

At the same stage, Johanna Konta confirmed her ability to find her highest level on the biggest stages as she demolished talented, all-around baseliner Zhang Shuai. The British No.1, who reached the round 16 as a qualifier in 2015, then conquered her nerves and her opponent Karolina Pliskova, who had beaten her in straight sets in the Rome final. Konta’s toughness in big moments helped her to stage a stunning comeback victory. She became the first British woman to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open since Jo Durie 36 years ago.

However, she was in the hardest half of the draw and missed out on the semifinals as Ukrainian fifth-seed Elina Svitolina won in straight sets. Konta, aiming to complete the set of major semi-final appearances, was outclassed for the fifth time in as many clashes against Svitolina, one of the most consistent ball-strikers in the circuit. Her constant pressure put Konta out of her comfort zone, so she tried to over-hit in return and it led to 35 unforced errors.

Svitolina lost to Serena Williams, while Andreescu, who warmed up using the same practice court for the entire tournament, went on to shine against the resurgent Belinda Bencic. Since Venus Williams in 1997, no other player had reached the US Open final on her debut.

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At the same time of the year in 2018, Andreescu was ranked 208th in the world. Fifty-two weeks later, she was the first man or woman born in the 2000s to reach a Grand Slam final. Her fairytale had the happiest possible ending as she stunned Serena Williams in a gripping clash. She played with confidence and focus. Her strokes remained effective and precise, a quite unusual feat for a teenager. She looked fearless and unfazed by the occasion, as Maria Sharapova was at Wimbledon in 2004. Since then, no teenager before Andreescu had won a Grand Slam title.

READ MORE | Andreescu makes history as Canada’s first Slam champion

 

As a 16-year-old, the Canadian had once written herself a fake cheque. After beating an American icon on the biggest tennis court in the world, the prize money looked as much unreal. But nothing is really impossible in the city that doesn’t sleep.

Part 1 | Tennis | 2019 in Review | Australian Open: Andy Murray got a premature tribute, Novak Djokovic made history

Part 2 | Tennis | 2019 in Review | Konta conquers clay, Nadal extended reign in Paris

Part 3 | Tennis | 2019 in Review | Wimbledon: Djokovic won a final for the ages, Serena fell short again

 

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