The 2020 U.S. Open: a series of rarities

by Mallika Reddy | October 5, 2020

Photo by Alexander Hadig (’22)

The 2020 U.S. Open Tennis Tournament, spanning from August 31 to September 13, was unlike any other sporting event due to COVID-19 restrictions, a surprising default from the top seed, and a series of comebacks.

The crowd at the event is usually known to be enthusiastic and deafening, affecting most players’ game, whether it betters their performance or worsens it. Specifically, for Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, one of the top men’s players, and Serena Williams, a former number-one looking for her 24th Grand Slam win, the crowd usually ignites them with energy and pushes them to play better tennis. Unfortunately, both players, who were favorites to win, were unable to reach the finals, forcing Williams to put a pause on grabbing that historic 24th win.

Novak Djokovic, a Serbian seventeen-time Grand Slam champion, was the top seed at the men’s singles tournament. Since he was the only one out of the Big Three (Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic) attending, he was a shoe-in to snatch the championship. During his game against Spain’s Pablo Busta, however, Djokovic hit a tennis ball toward the line judge in frustration, nailing a bystander in the throat, causing her to fall to the ground gasping for air. The bystander’s identity has not been confirmed but speculators have identified her as Laura Clark, leading to an unfair amount of hate on her social media. Due to the ground rules, if a ball hits someone out of anger, the player must be immediately defaulted, no matter the rank. Therefore, Djokovic was unexpectedly sent home, tarnishing his reputation and creating an uproar, especially among his fans.

Adding to this series of unorthodox events, the U.S. Open included comebacks from several players, who were significantly trailing behind their opponent. Specifically, during the women’s and men’s singles final, both Naomi Osaka and Dominic Thiem seized the Grand Slam win even though their opponents initially had a significant lead over them. Both wins were momentous, with Thiem making history and Osaka bringing attention to racial injustice. Thiem took his first Grand Slam championship along with the first U.S. Open comeback from two sets down in 71 years—the last one being in 1949 when Pancho Gonzalez defeated Ted Schroeder even after trailing by two sets. On the women’s side, Japan’s Naomi Osaka defeated Belarus’s Victoria Azarenka for the singles championship from one set down, earning her a third Grand Slam win. Osaka honored victims of racial injustice through the seven different masks she wore at seven different matches, each customized with the name of a Black victim of racial violence to spread awareness.

As a result of the combining factors of Djokavic’s disqualification, Williams’s early defeat, Thiem’s underdog victory, Osaka’s racial justice activism, and the COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 U.S. Open was a championship like never before. These unexpected moments will definitely go down in sports history.

Categories: Sports

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