8 Things I Think About Novak Djokovic’s 24, Coco Gauff’s First And The US Open
Wrapping what turned out to be a very in-form US Open…
1) Net Novak
Novak Djokovic took the last 15 sets of the tournament with in an incredible 1 hour, 34 minute stand in the second set of the final. Djokovic made full use of his vast arsenal to keep Daniil Medvedev from leveling. Djokovic finished 37/44 at the net and won 20/22 serve-and-volley points.
Every time you looked up, Djokovic was at the net, taking advantage of Medvedev’s deep court position and the Russian’s desire to prolong rallies.
I don’t think either player had a great serving day — Djokovic was low on his first serve (54%) and Medvedev got hammered on his second (won just 38%). The two were about even off the ground but Djokovic’s net play was the difference as he won double to Medvedev (44 to 22). And guess what the total point difference was? It was 21 (118 to 97).
2) 24 And More
So Djokovic finishes 2023 with three of the four Grand Slams and was a backhand from winning Wimbledon (that doesn’t mean he would have won the US Open, though).
Point is, at age 36 he’s still as dominant as ever. He might night be as good as ever, but with the landscape as it is — really just Carlos Alcaraz — Djokovic will continue to rack up big titles especially if Alcaraz stumbles under the weight of the growing pressure.
Djokovic just has to stay healthy and that Cincinnati title now is in Carlos’s head. That’s going pay off again down to the road.
3) Just Add Coco
A magical summer closed in perfect style for Coco Gauff who became the first American to win a Slam in over three years. And unlike the last winner — Sofia Kenin — I have a feeling it won’t be her last.
Coco knew that, waited out that first set onslaught, saved those early break points in the second and then trusted her legs and trusted the Belarussian’s level would drop. It’s risky, but it worked.
Good for her.
Just 19, she speaks like she’s 49. She’s almost too mature for her age. I think Gauff’s legacy in the end will go far, far beyond the courts.
4) Alcaraz Falls Short
Defending a Grand Slam title is hard. Really hard. And Carlos Alcaraz found that out. The kid has basically been playing with house money but that’s changing now.
He’s expected to win Grand Slam matches, just about all them including semifinal ones against Daniil Medvedev. The pressure is only going to ramp up even more. That ever-present smile is probably going to go.
The 20-year-old did not have a great summer by his lofty standards with losses to Tommy Paul and to Djokovic. But he seemed to have found the form early on in New York.
However all the credit to Medvedev who grinded out the first leaving Alcaraz lost. Like a fighter who got hit, Alcaraz was stunned, wobbled and dropped to the mat. He got back up but it was too late.
Alcaraz is still going to be among the favorites if not the favorite in every event he plays in for the next 15 months. And he’s still got a chance in…
5) The ATP Race For #1
Alcaraz and Djokovic are now turning their attention to the 2023 year-end race for No. 1.
Alcaraz lost the US Open and the No. 1 ranking, but he can still finish the year on top for a second straight season.
Just 1,300 points behind or so, Alcaraz is well within striking distance with 1000 events like Shanghai and Paris plus the 1,500 ATP finals ahead. The question is how much will they play?
I expect Alcaraz to make that first Asian trip but Djokovic, at his age, might skip it and focus more on Europe’s indoor wars.
No doubt he’s love to finish No. 1 for a record 8th time, but at the risk of overplaying and potentially damaging a title run in Melbourne?
6) The WTA Race For #1
Similar to the men’s, Sabalenka has about a 1,300 point lead over Iga Swiatek.
After stumbling out of the US Open, I expect Swiatek to bounce back. Sabalenka will do well, also. My guess is it will come down to that new WTA finals events in Cancun to decide it.
7) The Future Is Already Here
Coco, Carlos and Ben are all under 21, all once again were in the spotlight the last week of a Slam. And Swiatek is just 22, Sabalenka isn’t that old at 25. Jannik Sinner is 22, Holger Rune 20, Elena Rybakina just 24. And on and on. Not mention all the younger players like Mirra Andreeva, Alex Michelson, the Czech teens along with Jack Draper and Arthur Fils. These players could all be Top 10ers.
The change isn’t coming. It’s here.
Carlos, Iga and Coco stand out especially since they’ve already won Slams but their results will no doubt inspire the rest of the pack.
With Djokovic still a force in the the seas will be choppy for the men, but it seems like smooth sailing in the women’s where changes can happen and can happen quick.
8) The US Open Smells Like Success
Weird things happens at the US Open. Courts bubble, hurricanes hit, people glue their feet to floors and the smell of weed can permeate throughout the grounds. But despite Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams not playing this year, the tournament still saw record crowds, packed stadiums and enthusiastic fans.
Djokovic still won for the men, but the women’s game has already moved on from the Serena generation. And that’s not just a success for the US Open but for the sport as a whole. Tennis seems as healthy as ever!
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