This year's US Open tennis championship was expected to be something special. It certainly proved one, only the end-script, as it happened, got changed in particular for Novak Djokovic. The tennis world had looked forward to this man making history by winning a calendar Grand Slam, the second player after Rod Laver had achieved it in 1969 and also winning his 21st major title, one more than Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. That did not happen for the Serb ace, thanks to the Russian challenger Daniil Medvedev, who kept his word that he would play better and avenged his Australian loss to the same player with a touch of class to grab his maiden Grand Slam trophy.
If that was an unexpected twist, considering the way everybody had looked at Djokovic's possibility of moving into a zone of his own, there was the women's section where Britain's teen sensation Emma Raducanu surprised everyone including perhaps herself by annexing the crown with such a whiff of freshness that no Grand Slam event had seen for a long time. Like Medvedev, the 18-year old Emma too had lifted her first major title at the expense of another youngster, Canada's Leylah Fernandez. Two new winners, and what more can the world of tennis look to for assurance that the sport is in such a healthy state. This is particularly significant in the current times where anything and everything had been badly affected by the deadly pandemic sweeping the globe.
Poor Djokovic, teary faced and poignancy written all over, reflected the shattered finish to what was a big dream he had. He had decided that in the final he would go ahead and give his all and play as if it was his last career match for such were the stakes. But as it transpired his well-intended effort did not match with his raging opponent who had vowed to do something greater. Maybe it is a coincidence but sadly it was this very same venue where last year Djokovic was forced to quit early under unexpected circumstances, leaving everyone in a shock. On that occasion, his act of a miscued but unintentional swipe of a loose ball led to a line judge getting hit on the throat. Djokovic had not looked at where he was aiming but the damage was done and despite his efforts to prove his innocence, he was sent out of the tournament after being in the fourth round. Djokovic has had such on-court skirmishes earlier and he believed that he would come out of it all evolved as a player and human being. The Serb seemed by far in a much better state of mind and demeanour this time though Medvedev did trigger a moment of madness in him when he demolished his racquet on the court after losing a return in the second set.
It is such petulant acts or moments where he loses control of himself that perhaps had made him a less appreciated champion as compared to Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal. All three on the level with 20 majors seemed an acceptable proposition but Roger is Roger and Nadal is Nadal and they are different has been the refrain. Though to Federer fans, there is never a dispute on who is the real GOAT (Greatest of all times). So, when Djokovic came closest ever to outshine that mark with a personal record that was expected to stand for some time there was certainly a buzz around. Though the Serb had faced the misery of missing the Olympic gold in Tokyo his intention backed by sound play looked on course for a perfect finish in New York's Arthur Ashe stadium. History beckoned him but as it happened it was a case of there being many a slip between the cup and the lip! At 34 years Djokovic may not be growing any younger but he has the game, appetite and a will to achieve more and that should certainly help him to add a few more major titles but as they say, who knows? But the Serb can still be proud of his one big record_ to have been the number one ranked player for a record 337 weeks now. He could still stretch that.
But maybe we will have a different story to narrate in the women's section. The depth of talent has stunned observers and Emma's emergence as also Leylah's have thrown up a whole lot of new possibilities for the future. Simply put, this British schoolgirl has made experts sit up in disbelief watching her innate talent. Not since Virginia Wade in 1977 has a British woman won a major title and here is a player who rises from the qualifying phase and demolishes all opposition en route to the title, all without losing even one set! Two years ago while successfully competing in an ITF women's tournament in India (Pune), Emma had displayed her potential but had still remained unknown until when she gave glimpses of her ability in the Wimbledon. And now with this success, the world of tennis is bound to witness a new sequence in the history of women's tennis. Emma is now the youngest Grand Slam winner since Maria Sharapova in 2004.
Undoubtedly this year's US Open, coming as it always does, at the end of the year has been an eye-opener, a mirror to what is in store in the New Year. Two new champions have come to inspire a generation of new players onto the path of glory.