In a slew of late-in-the-tournament rain delays, the US Tennis Open 2009 provided two shocking winners for both the men and women’s tournament. Both sides produced what I might describe as wonder kids (or if you prefer wunderkinder), but with a twist.
On the Women’s side, the Belgian Kim Clijsters took full advantage of a wild card entry to sweep through 5 seeded players — not least of which both of the Williams sisters — to win in comfortable style 7-5, 6-3 against another surprise finalist, #9 seeded Caroline Wozniacki, from Denmark. Clijsters, who ‘retired’ prematurely in 2007, had taken off 2 years to have Jada, her daughter, who came on court (with father and basketballer Brian Lynch) to help her mother with the Trophy. Not since 1980, when Evonne Goolagong Cawley defeated Chris Evert at Wimbledon, has a mother won a Grand Slam title. Along the way, Clijsters also became the first wild card entry to ever be crowned US Open champion. The unseeded Clijsters jumped to 19th seed in the world immediately after the victory, now that she has completed her third professional tournament. A fairy tale tournament and year for Clijsters, whose father died at the beginning of the year.
In the Men’s draw, it was Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro, the 20-year-old sixth seed, who twice came back from a set down to win a monster five set match 3-6, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-2 against the perennial favourite Roger Federer. Federer had been carrying a 40-match, 5 crowns-in-a-row unbeaten streak into this final. Ironically, another Argentine, David Nalbandian, was the last man to beat Federer at the US Open (in the fourth round of 2003). Del Potro joins Guillermo Vilas (1977) as the only other Argentine to have won the US Open. And it was the first time in 10 years that the final had gone to five sets. Federer was undoubtedly flustered yet again by the hawk eye, a technology that has earned Roger’s general disapproval (“I think it’s nonsense…”). So Federer will go down in history with five consecutive wins at the US Open, behind Bill Tilden’s 6 wins (each time over the feckless William Johnston) and Richard Sears (7 in a row at the end of the 19th century). Del Potro was an unlikely winner as far as I was concerned to the extent that he even managed to get beyond the high-potential Cilic in the quarters. Then he blew aside a lame #2 Nadal 6-2,6-2,6-2 in the semis.
For the doubles, on the men’s side it was the fourth seeded Leander Paes (IND) and Lukas Dlouhy (CZE) who beat third seeded Mahesh Bhupathi (IND) and Mark Knowles (BAH) in three sets 3-6,6-3,6-2, having also beaten the top seeded Bryan brothers (USA) in three sets in the semi-final.
And on the women’s side, the 4th seeded Williams sisters (USA) powered to victory over top seeded Cara Black (ZIM) and Liezel Huber (USA) by a score of 6-2,6-2, to redeem their singles performance.
Interesting fact on the men’s front: a right hander has won the title every year since 1985 (Lendl). However, from 1974 to 1984, it was a left hander who won (11 years in a row, and featuring four different players: Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe, Guillermo Vilas and Manuel Orantes). See more US Open Stats here.