Roberta Vinci def. Serena Williams, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
Day 12 at the US Open was widely thought of as the day Serena Williams would move one win away from the first calendar-year Grand Slam in almost three decades. Then the unthinkable happened.
Williams will say the pressure of her pending historical achievement played no part in her loss to unseeded Italian Roberta Vinci, but really, the pressure was immense. Vinci played, in the words of Williams, out of her mind. But you have to believe that had Serena played free and uninhibited, even an inspired Vinci would have been left offering her hand in congratulations.
Instead, Vinci delivered the match of her life and Serena suffered a nearly unthinkable semifinal defeat. Williams totaled 16 aces and recorded 50 winners to 40 unforced errors, but nobody will remember those numbers days, weeks or years from now. Serena has been the best in the world for several years now, but on the cusp of doing something new for the first time, it was the moment, and 32-year-old free-swinging Vinci, that stole the headlines.
Novak Djokovic def. Roger Federer, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
The world No. 1 showed the world why he's the best hard-court player of his era with a thrilling four-set victory in the men's final on Sunday evening.
Facing the in-form 17-time Grand Slam singles champion in addition to a pro-Federer crowd, the 28-year-old saved his best to last to win his second US Open title. The top returner in the game broke Federer six times, three times as many as he had been broken in his previous six matches combined, and he kept the Swiss both off balance and on the defensive for much of their three-hour, 20-minute battle.
Up two sets to one and serving with a 5-2 lead, Djokovic looked as if he would claim his 10th Slam with a flourish. Federer had other ideas, however, breaking the Serb when he went to serve for the championship and pushing him to the limit. The comeback ultimately fell short, but not before the duo showed one final time why they're the gold standards by which all other players on tour are measured.
Fabio Fognini def. Rafael Nadal, 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4
In perhaps the most thrilling match of the Open, No. 32 seed Fognini rallied from two sets down to upend eighth-seeded Nadal in a five-set thriller than lasted almost four hours.
It’s hard to imagine a match where the balls were hit harder on a more consistent basis than this third-round contest, which saw both men slugging the felt off the ball in a brutal display of power forehands from behind the baseline.
Nadal was up a break in the third set and looked to be cruising to victory before the Italian sprung to life. He started crushing his forehand and charging the net with abandon, eventually sending the fan favorite to his first defeat in 149 matches when he’d taken the first two sets. Fans were left in awe of Fognini’s shotmaking and wondering what the future holds for the two-time US Open champion.
Donald Young def. Viktor Troicki, 4-6, 0-6, 7-6, 6-2, 6-4
For the second time in the tournament’s opening week, Young rallied from two sets down in curating another instant US Open classic.
Young, who dispatched No. 11 seed Gilles Simon in the first round, put his fans through their paces in the final singles match ever played in the Grandstand, fighting his way to a third-set tiebreak and then holding on in the fourth. On finally booking his place in the fourth round, Young dropped to his back on the court before leaping around with his arms raised.
Young joined No. 13 John Isner as the last two remaining American men in the round of 16. It is the second time in his career and the second time here at Flushing Meadows that Young had reached the fourth round of a Slam.
Feliciano Lopez def. Mardy Fish, 2-6, 6-3, 1-6, 7-5, 6-3
Fish’s farewell tour came to a close with a dramatic five-set second-round loss on Day 3 of the Open.
Playing nine sets over three days proved to be too much for the veteran, who actually had a chance to serve for the match at 5-4 in the fourth but was broken at love. Fish was given a heartfelt and well-deserved send-off from those who came in hopes of one last upset, but it wasn’t to be as he eventually wilted under the heat and humidity of a brutally hot early September afternoon.
Fish said, in his own words, that he came to New York to chase the demons that had haunted him since his anxiety attacks stopped him from playing to his ability. It wasn’t the way Fish wanted to go out, but in front of a raucous crowd, he can have no doubts that he went down fighting, the only way he knew how.
Simona Halep def. Sabine Lisicki, 6-7, 7-5, 6-2
World No. 2 Halep needed three hours and 18 minutes to finally outlast No. 24 seed Lisicki in a punishing match with a spot in the quarterfinals on the line.
Halep’s left thigh was heavily taped, and every game inside Louis Armstrong Stadium seemed like a battle. It was gutsy rather than crisp, but the Romanian showed the fighter qualities for which she has become so well known in overcoming her sluggish start.
Despite soaring temperatures and a 10-minute break to put the heat rule into effect, Halep kept running as Lisicki continued to bring her into the net. In the end, consistency came out on top as Halep limited her errors in the crucial moments. The reaction of sheer joy, exhaustion and relief at the end told the tale better than any statistics ever could.
Serena Williams def. Venus Williams, 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
On the game’s grandest stage, the 27th meeting of tennis’ most decorated sisters went the distance in front of a capacity crowd inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The quarterfinal was everything a neutral could have hoped for. Serena was chasing history and Venus was one of just a few people who were left standing her way.
Neither Williams was willing to detour from their game plan of ultra aggressive baseline play, and while Venus came out hitting the hardest, it was Serena who ran away with the first set.
Venus played her part beautifully as she fought her way back into the match by flashing the form that saw her capture seven Slam titles and reach another seven finals.