New York, NY – September 2, 2018: Rafael Nadal of Spain returns ball during US Open 2018 4th round match against Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia at USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – Photo: Lev Radin/Gildshire
English novelist George Borrow was the man who coined the phrase “youth will be served.” Mr. Borrow said that in concert with another bromide, “Every dog has his day.” His assertion was that, sooner than later and in all areas of life, young and talented will overtake veteran and seasoned. He may be right more often than he is wrong, but the 2018 US Open tennis championship says, “hold off on that.” This year, one after another, the old masters are vanquishing they young upstarts just as quickly as one can utter “young whippersnappers.”
Who are we talking about when we say “old masters?” Let’s start with top-seed Rafael Nadal. Though ranked Number One in the world, Grand Slam observers believed that Russian upstart Karen Kachanov might have what it takes to oust Nadal in third round action. The 22-year old had experienced some success in both singles and doubles in previous US Opens and is seen as a comer in the tennis world. However, at the hand of Nadal (one of the leaders among old masters), Kacahanov went down. Oh, he gave Nadal a tussle. In fact, he won the first set. But, at the end of the day, it was Nadal who won, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6, 7-6.
It happened further down the bracket, as well. Portugal’s Joao Sousa was the underdog in his third-round match against France’s Lucas Pouille. The 17’th seed on the men’s side of the bracket, Pouille should have blown past another of the old masters. But, it was not to be. Sousa wins in a tight one, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 7-6. Oh, the young dog will have his day (to go back to George Borrow), but score another one for the old masters.
Surely, Roger Federer is past his prime. Just as surely, 23-year-old Aussie Nick Kyrgios would be just the man to take out the aging Swiss star. At 6’4″, 187 pounds, Kyrgios has the size, strength, and speed to send Federer home early. Maybe, he does and maybe he doesn’t because Federer held up the honor of the old masters with his 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 pasting of young Kyrgios.
How about Alexander Zverev. At 21-years-of-age, Mr. Zverev is the hottest thing since a fried egg on a New York sidewalk during these hot days. He is so renowned that, at his young age, he was seeded fourth in this tourney. How did he do? Zverev double-faulted seven times on his way to defeat at the hands of Philip Kohlschreiber. Oh, how old is Kohlschreiber, you ask? He’ll be 35 in less than two months.
Is this just a man’s bracket thing or is the same thing happening on the distaff side? Thirty-one-year-old Maria Sharapova hasn’t been the same since she was suspended for performance-enhancing drug use. For sure, Romania’s Sorana Cirstea would make quick work of the veteran Sharapova in their second-round match. Think again! Sharapova is victorious 6-2, 7-5, and remains alive in the quarterfinals, almost a week later. She beat Jelena Ostapenko to arrive in the quarters, Ostapenko is ten years Sharapova’s junior. If Sharapova goes down in her next match it will be another veteran, Spain’s Carla Suárez Navarro to be exact, who will have knocked Sharapova out of the tournament, something the young guns have been unable to do. So, score this one for the old masters no matter who wins.
Of course, no discussion of old masters having success in the US Open can be complete without a discussion of Serena Williams. Born September 26, 1981, in Saginaw, Michigan, Serena turned pro 23 years ago. She has overcome comparisons to her older sister, racial bias, childbirth, and the inevitable ticking of the clock to be still one of the greatest tennis players of this, or any generation. As long as Serena takes to the tennis court, youth will be served all right, but it will be served at 122 miles per hour and with a wicked slice. Ms. Williams remains a phenomenal talent at an age when people think she must be at the end of the line. Trust Gildshire, she can’t yet see the end of the line in her windshield.
The young guns make noise in smaller tournaments, and even take down one of the old masters on ill-lit courts in obscure cities. But, at the US Open and the other Grand Slam events, youth appears to still be waiting at the table for service.
Will the rest of the US Open action be as much of a surprise as the first half of the tournament turned out to be? Will youth and strength rise to the top or will the old masters still hold serve and, eventually, hold the championship spots? Continue to follow Gildshire for insight and analysis of the action. Our Lev Radin is on site and on top of the action as it breaks.