In the waning days of August, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro began a long, hot, exhausting trek toward the final of the US Open, where they would ultimately meet in a battle of veteran wills. There, Djokovic would look for his 14th Grand Slam singles title, del Potro his second. In this photo essay, tennis writer and photographer Chris Nicholson illustrates their paths to destiny.
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As for all Grand Slam champions, the road to the trophy is long, and begins at a time that seems forever before the final match. In the first days of the tournament, titles are but dreams — dreams that slowly come closer to reality as each match is won. In this photo essay, tennis writer and photographer Chris Nicholson illustrates parts of the journey of two women chasing history: Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams.
Rafael Nadal won his 16th Grand Slam singles title, and third US Open, in today’s well-fought but straight-sets win over first-time Slam finalist Kevin Anderson, 6-3, 6-3, 6-4.
Nadal’s long career shows no signs of slowing down. He won two major titles this year (including his 10th Roland-Garros championship). “I wake up every morning with the passion to go on court and to try to improve things. That’s why I still have chances to compete in this sport,” he says. “I still feel the nerves every time that I go on court. When some day arrives that I don’t feel those nerves or that extra passion for the game that I feel, it will be the day to say, ‘OK, I’ll do another thing.’ ”
Of the final four Americans in the women’s main draw of the US Open, Sloane Stephens was the last standing after defeating her good friend Madison Keys in the final 6-3, 6-0.
Both players came back from injuries in 2017, faced each other for the first time in a Grand Slam event, and were only the seventh pair of singles finalists in the Open Era to be appearing in their first Grand Slam championship match simultaneously. It was the 94th time an American woman has won the US Open singles trophy.
“I should just retire now,” Stephens said afterward. “I told Maddie I’m never going to be able to top this.”
Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta didn’t take his first career Grand Slam semifinal laying down—not most of it, anyway. But opponent and eventual winner Kevin Anderson did run Busta around enough so that the Spaniard, exasperated, took a breather right on court after slipping to the ground.
Anderson, of South Africa, advanced to his first Grand Slam singles final with the 4-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 upset. That final will be against Rafael Nadal, winner of 15 Grand Slam singles titles. “I’m sure there will be different emotions when I walk out onto the court on Sunday. But it will be very important for me as quickly as possible to really try, as much as I can, to block that out,” Anderson says. “Any match you face, you can be nervous. It’s just a larger scale. I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I have worked really hard to get here. It’s great I have given myself a spot.”
Arthur Ashe Stadium is celebrating its 20th year hosting US Open matches, yet none of those contests involved wheelchair tennis—until today. In the first stadium match of Day 11, Alfie Hewett (pictured) and Gordon Reid defeated Shingo Kunedia and Gustavo Fernandez, 6-3, 6-2, in the first wheelchair tennis match ever played on American tennis’ grandest stage. They were followed by women’s semifinalists Dana Mathewson and Aniek van Koot, who defeated Yui Kamiji and Lucy Shuker 0-6, 6-4, [10-5].
“It was incredible to have that opportunity as wheelchair players,” Reid says. “It’s showing the respect that wheelchair tennis is gaining, a great first match here. It’s probably the nicest court I played on, so for me, it really is the stuff that dreams are made of. Hopefully, it’s not the last time.”