US Open 2017: Rafa Nadal and Sloane Stephens victorious in New York
We discuss the talking points after another eventful Grand Slam tournament
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 14/09/17 12:00pm
On what has been a throwback year for men's tennis, Rafael Nadal became King of New York while Sloane Stephens played an equally starring role by landing an unexpected maiden Grand Slam title.
We look back on what has been another drama-filled tournament across the pond with great matches, incredible points, surprising outcomes, and plenty to talk about.
We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when...
Rafael Nadal's victory over Stan Wawrinka in the final of the French Open in June ended a three-year wait for a major title, overcoming injuries and a loss of confidence in his body and his game. Despite a wobbly start at Flushing Meadows, he eventually ended the tournament head and shoulders above the rest.
He pummelled Kevin Anderson into submission in the final on Sunday night for the sweetest of his 16 Grand Slam titles, but one thing Nadal did not manage to achieve in 2017 was a victory over his great rival Roger Federer.
Federer won a classic Australian Open final and clashes in Indian Wells and Miami, and they were denied a fourth meeting by the Swiss star's loss to Juan Martin del Potro in the quarter-finals in New York.
But for the first time in in six-and-a-half years, Nadal and Federer are ranked one and two for the first time. So might they be destined to meet in the final of the season-ending World Tour Finals in London this November?
Rafa's Grand Slam reign
Look back over Rafael Nadal's Grand Slam history after his 16th major win at the 2017 US Open
Sloane Ranger surprises us all...
Does a first major championship give Sloane Stephens the hunger to chase a second one? "Of course, girl. Did you see that cheque (£2.8m) that lady handed me?! Like, yes. Man, if that doesn't make you want to play tennis, I don't know what will."
What a journey it has been for 24-year-old Stephens who had plateaued after reaching her first Grand Slam semi-final at the Australian Open in 2013.
The vivacious American was out of action from last August due to a stress fracture in her left foot and only returned to the tour at Wimbledon where she was ranked outside the top 900. She's already up to No 17 after upsetting the odds to win her maiden Grand Slam title at Flushing Meadows.
'I'm never going to top this'
Sloane Stephens pays tribute to close friend Madison Keys after US Open title win
Stephens' victory capped a year of change on the WTA Tour, with the last three Grand Slam titles all won by players under 25. The US Open, meanwhile, comprehensively belonged to America - the host nation boasted all of the semi-finalists for the first time since 1981.
Back where she belongs...
Maria Sharapova was back in the limelight, taking centre stage on opening night as the 30-year-old former world No 1 returned to Grand Slam tennis for the first time since the end of her 15-month doping ban.
The Russian star, wearing a dazzling, crystal-encrusted dress, knocked out second seed Simona Halep in a three-set thriller.
It was her 50th appearance at a major but first since the quarter-finals of the 2016 Australian Open and her first at the US Open for three years.
"Behind this little black dress and the Swarovski crystals, there is a girl with a lot of grit and she's not going anywhere," said the five-time major winner.
Sharapova was eventually defeated in the fourth round by Anastasija Sevastova.
The new kids on the block are catching up fast...
So what happens when Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray retire from the men's game?
Well, the US Open provided us with a glimpse into the future with 19-year-old Andrey Rublev becoming the youngest player to reach the quarter-finals in New York for 16 years, while Denis Shapovalov, a year younger, excited spectators with a unique swashbuckling game, and young American Frances Tiafoe proved why he is one of the brightest young stars in tennis after taking the great Federer to five sets in their first-round match.
World No 4 Alexander Zverev, and, love him or hate him, Nick Kyrgios, disappointed at a Grand Slam once again, but knowing they bring a certain je ne sais quoi to the court, expect to see this group of talented players eventually buck the trend.
Crackerjack of a match
Spurred on by a sea of passionate Argentinians on Grandstand Court after two days of illness, Juan Martin del Potro saved two match points to outlast Dominic Thiem in an epic five-set thriller to reach the quarter-finals in one of the matches of 2017.
The 2009 champion Del Potro has long been a sentimental favourite on the tour, a status created by his lengthy battles against wrist injuries, which required four surgeries. When his world ranking, once as high as four, slumped to 1,045 last year, he even pondered retirement.
But with supporters chanting "Ole, Ole, Ole" their weary hero and his trusty sledgehammer of a forehand battled back from the brink to a stunning test of endurance to triumph over the young Austrian.
"I came here trying to play the best I can and then when I see this crowd cheering for me, I was trying to play better every game," said Del Potro, who went on to beat Federer in the quarter-finals before losing to Nadal in the last four.
Sky Sports Tennis will have all the action from the Laver Cup, China Open, Shanghai and Paris Masters before the season-ending extravaganza World Tour Finals at London's O2 in November covered via our website www.skysports.com/tennis with live blogs and updates as the season reaches its climax.
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