The 2021 U.S. Open: A Tale of Triumph, Defeat, Teenagers and Upsets

Ryan Tiedemann, Staff Writer

2020-2021 was an eventful year for Tennis fans, causing increasing excitement that culminated in the final major competition of the year: The U.S. Open.

In a calendar year, there are four major tennis competitions, called grand slams: The Australian Open, The French Open, Wimbledon and the U.S. Open, in that order. Each competition has men’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles. Winning the same event in all four of these tournaments in a single calendar year is called a calendar year grand slam, which was last achieved in men’s singles by Rod Laver in 1969. 

Entering the U.S. Open, Serbian men’s singles player Novak Djokovic had won the other three grand slams. This means that a men’s singles player was challenging for a calendar year grand slam, with the previous men’s singles calendar year grand slam taking place in 1969. In an upset, Djokovic lost in the Olympics right before the U.S. Open to a younger player, resulting in a tense atmosphere heading into the tournament. Furthermore, men’s singles legends Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were both absent from the bracket due to injury concerns. This left Djokovic as the clear favorite, but also featured a plethora of younger players eager to win their first title. Although the men’s singles bracket alone was enough excitement for a typical tournament, it was far from the only interesting bracket.

Women’s singles had, for years, been dominated by Serena Williams. However, Williams has not been performing well recently, and did not participate in the Open. This left, similarly to the men’s bracket, a wide variety of title contenders, including Naomi Osaka and Ashleigh Barty, to name a few. These few top players were, similar to the men’s bracket, favored to win the competition.

Despite the heavy favorites in both singles brackets, the U.S. Open featured an incredible amount of upsets and highlights. 18 year old Spaniard Carlos Alcarez upset 3rd seed Stefanos Tsitsipas in the 3rd round, then proceeded to beat  Peter Gojowczyk in the round of 16, making him the youngest men’s singles quarterfinalist in history. American Shelby Rogers beat 1st seed Ashleigh Barty in an extremely intense match, and Francis Tiafoe (also an American) beat 5th seed Andrey Rublec in yet another close match. The most shocking upset of all came in the men’s singles final: 2nd seed Daniil Medvedev managed to beat 1st seed Djokovic, winning the bracket and denying Djokovic what would have been the crowning achievement of his career: a calendar year grand slam. 

However, this shock upset was not even the most exciting part of the tournament. Following a string of amazing matches and upsets, the women’s singles finals featured 19 year old Canadian Leylah Fernandez versus 18 year old British Emma Raducanu, an all-teenager final. After a hard-fought, incredible 2 hours, Fernandez emerged victorious. However, Raducanu also made history, being the first qualifier to make the finals of a grand slam (qualifiers have to play extra just to enter the main tournament). 

The 2020-2021 U.S. Open was crazy, intense, and a delight to watch. From a failed bid at a calendar-year grand slam and incredible upsets to all teenager finals, this year really had it all. The upcoming Australian Open will have a lot to live up to!