British star Emma Raducanu won the women’s trophy, while Russia’s Daniil Medvedev emerged victorious in the men’s competitionThe Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas/Wikimedia Commons

This year’s US Open was the first Grand Slam since Australia 2020 where fans could attend stadiums at full capacity and this was cause for much anticipation before the tournament. Now the event has ended, it’s fair to say that this was one of the most entertaining and thrilling Grand Slams in recent memory. Much of it was down to the incredible atmosphere on-site, in addition to the records made and history on the line, particularly for a certain Novak Djokovic.

During the buildup to the Open, the recurring media narrative was very much focused on who was not attending, as Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, and Serena Williams had all pulled out due to injury. However, this was soon forgotten, as bigger headlines came to the fold.

In the singles, the first week was riddled with upsets. After beating Andy Murray in five sets in the first round, third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas lost to teenage prodigy Carlos Alcaraz in the following round. Alcaraz, who is regularly compared to his compatriot Nadal, was just one of the many teenagers that lit up the tournament.

“For such a young athlete, Raducanu seemed surprisingly unfazed by the gravity of the occasion, displaying incredible mental strength”

Meanwhile, Canadian Layla Fernandez proved to be the giant-killer of the women’s draw at just nineteen years of age, leaving in her wake the world numbers two, three, and five in Aryna Sabalenka, Naomi Osaka, and Elina Svitolina respectively, during her mesmeric journey to the final. She was, however, bested by British teenager Emma Raducanu.

Raducanu lifting the US Open title as an eighteen-year-old is truly the stuff of fairy tales. After her quarter-final run in Wimbledon, she had certainly made a small splash in the tennis world, but none would have predicted this sort of performance. She is the first person ever to win a Grand Slam title as a qualifier, and now holds the record for being the first woman to win a Grand Slam title in only her second attempt. What makes her achievement even more impressive is that she managed to breeze through the tournament without dropping a single set.

Although her path to the final may be described as easier than Fernandez’s, she won in dominating fashion, growing in confidence and competence with each successive victory. For such a young athlete, Raducanu seemed surprisingly unfazed by the gravity of the occasion, displaying incredible mental strength. With this championship run, she has now become Britain’s female number one, ranked 23 in the world, and also earns the title of the first British woman to win a Grand Slam since Virginia Wade’s Wimbledon victory in 1977.

“Djokovic was going for history: a huge accolade that would’ve set him apart from the counterparts he has been chasing for over a decade in Nadal and Federer”

Whilst Raducanu’s history-making was a work of the unexpected, the legend of the men’s game was almost a year in the making. Djokovic went into New York having won Grand Slams in Melbourne, Paris, and Wimbledon this year. It was no secret that he was looking to complete the Calendar Grand Slam and bag his 21st major title, a feat that would have almost certainly crowned him as the greatest male player of all time. Djokovic’s journey to the final was a difficult one, having to face Matteo Berrettini and Sasha Zverev in the quarters and semis, two top-ten players in fine form this season.

But in the final, it was clear that Novak had reached his limit, both physically and mentally. He faced Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, currently ranked world number two, who like Raducanu had breezed through a much easier side of the draw, dropping only one set in the process. Having lost to Djokovic in the Australian Open Final back in February, Medvedev came in with a completely different game plan to disrupt the Serb’s style and win his first Grand Slam title. Djokovic, revered as a fantastic on-court tactician, defensive powerhouse, mental giant, and ranked world number one, was simply overcome by nerves.

Djokovic was going for history: a huge accolade that would’ve set him apart from the counterparts he has been chasing for over a decade in Nadal and Federer. For the first time in his career, it looked like the crowd in the stadium, which had never truly shown him much backing before, was willing him to do the impossible and stage a comeback after going two sets down to the Russian. What is even more saddening is what it took out of him to get this sort of appreciation from fans: he had to be two sets down, on the verge of having his dreams shattered, to rouse support.


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The Calendar Grand Slam story does not end with Djokovic, however, as multiple individuals and teams in wheelchair tennis achieved this exact feat in the past fortnight. Diede de Groot of the Netherlands became the first person to achieve a Golden Slam in wheelchair tennis, notably taking gold in the Tokyo Paralympics earlier this month. Such an achievement was soon matched by Australia’s Dylan Alcott, as he won the Quad Singles title.

Moreover, the British pair of Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett were also crowned Calendar Grand Slam winners, following their victory in the wheelchair doubles. 2021 has been a breakthrough year for wheelchair tennis, as it is the first time where the Golden Slam has been possible due to changes in scheduling and, as a result, the American tournament has drawn some of the biggest crowds coming to watch these athletes book their places in tennis history.

The US Open 2021 will live long in the memory of tennis fans, particularly as the first tournament since the start of the pandemic to hold capacity crowds in attendance. The atmosphere and noise of a full stadium are not just crucial features of the tennis viewing experience, but they clearly have a huge influence on the players by enhancing their performances. It’s no surprise that this past fortnight has been so enjoyable and of such high quality; we can only hope that, moving forward, more and more tournaments will feel like this one.