An Idiot's Guide to the 2019 US Open
In a true expression of American arrogance masquerading as American exceptionalism, the US Open has somehow found itself in the enviable position as the capstone Grand Slam on the tennis calendar. All the time spent in the desert American hard courts in the winter, the ratty clay courts of South America, the glitzy clay courts of Europe, the somehow glitzier grass courts of England, and the swamp-ass hard courts of the American summer, has led up this.
Unfortunately, “this” means shitass tennis played in shitass swamp-ass style heat and humidity, in front of the most shitass tennis fans, in the most shitass city in the United States. New York’s self-assured smugness is the perfect setting for a tournament that thinks “obnoxious famous and rich people feigning interest 4 glasses of $21 glasses of pinot grigio deep at 3 pm” is a selling point. Chrissie Teigen will show up, post “Allison Riske is #squadgoals” and get 8 million retweets. Then, very tennis journalist will respond “OMG Chrissie!!!!” as Riske wins her first round matchup when Gabi Muguruza literally melts into a puddle in 97 degree heat. The glitz of the US Open is its selling point, which fits, because it makes it absolutely unbearable in every way.
Slam tennis in general suffers from overexposure. An entire season of events spread across the world goes unnoticed, only for the media to swarm over two-week stretches four times per year. Ultimately, tennis is not that hard of a game to follow, which makes it ripe for uninformed people to act as experts. The first three Slams of the year are more or less protected by distance. It’s harder for your average ESPN Talking Head to make a mess of the Australian Open when it’s being played at 3 AM. The US Open is exposed to the elements, and boy does that make it a chore. Everyone and their mother will invariably have a mealy mouthed take when, say, Serena suffers an upset loss to Sevastova, or Roger Federer gets scrubbed off the court by Novak Djokovic, or Steve Johnson beats a disinterested Nick Kyrgios.
Last year’s US Open had two storylines: one was that people were keeling over and dying in the oppressive humidity of a New York summer. The second storyline was whatever happened in the women’s final after Naomi Osaka dominated every aspect of the first set. No one has ever written about what happened in the second set. Pretty wild. None of the storylines were about what happened on the court, because everything that happened on the court sucked.
On the men’s side, that meant such luminaries as 73 year old, Phillip Kohlschreiber, and 0.0 WAR level player, Joao Sousa, in the 4th round, and Let’s Remember Some Guys Guy, John Millman, beating Roger Federer and making the quarterfinals. This year, Millman is 18-23 and has lost to players ranked 170, 214, and 246 in the world. Cool!
On the women’s side, seeds dropped left and right, punctuated by No. 1 seed, Simona Halep, going out in the first round to Kaia Kanepi, No. 2 Caroline Wozniacki, going out in the second round to Lesia Tsurenko and 5 other top ten seeds going out before the Round of 16. The women’s side will always have more upsets given its best-of-three formats, but even for the topsy-turvy world of WTA Slams, the US Open was a goddamn mess.
2019 promises to be no better on the court.
As a brief interlude during this cacophony of whinging, there are ultimately charitable ways to view the unpredictability of the women’s tour, and this mini thread by Courtney Nguyen is a good place to start.
I think this is ultimately true. It is cool that there are about 20 people who could win the title. It’d be nice to see someone separate themselves some time soon, but it doesn’t have to be right now, and it definitely doesn’t have to be when the list of u21 stars is as long as your arm. Naomi Osaka (21), Aryna Sabalenka (21), Bianca Andreescu (19), Sofia/Sonia Kenin (20), Dayana Yastremska (19), and Iga Swiatek (18) are all in the top 50 and 5 of them could make noise this week. Amanda Anisimova (17!) will miss the US Open due to the tragic passing of her father. And then there’s the unmissable Coco Gauff (15!!!), who has more hype than any young US star in a long time.
But, ultimately the US Open promises to be, yet again, a pile of crap.
The men’s draw has a grand total of two quarters that aren’t bad. Section 6, where the top two seeds are Gael Monfils and Hard Court Dominic Thiem, is uniquely unwatchable. The only matches on the men’s draw that I’m genuinely excited for before the quarterfinals are first round matchups. The RIGGED AND VERY UNFAIR draw put Andrey Rublev/Stefanos Tsitsipas, Denis Shapovalov/Felix Auger-Aliassime, Stan Wawrinka/Jannik Sinner, and Fabio Fognini/Reilly Opelka all in the first round. All of these have more punch than virtually any potential 3rd or 4th round match.
The women’s draw is better. A lot better, even if another Sharapova/Serena battle being scheduled in the first round is the least subtle bit of corruption imaginable. Daria Kasatkina/Johanna Konta is especially exciting as a first round matchup, if we get chalky early rounds, we could end up seeing Madison Keys play Sonia Kenin and Elina Svitolina in the 3rd and 4th rounds, Serena could have to go through Su-Wei Hsieh in the 3rd, and Section 3, which hosts Simona Halep, Caroline Wozniacki, and Bianca Andreescu, is loaded to the gills.
All in all though, the worst slam will live up to its billing and produce two weeks of sloppy tennis punctuated by boring finals and the grandest sin of all, the final set tiebreak.
I can hardly wait!
(1) Djokovic over (5) Medvedev
(3) Federer over De Minaur
(10) Bautista Agut over Shapovalov
(2) Nadal over (9) Khachanov
(13) Bencic over (9) Sabalenka
(6) Kvitova over (4) Halep
(20) Kenin over (3) Pliskova
(14) Kerber over (8) S. Williams
(1) Djokovic over 3 Federer
(2) Nadal over (10) Bautista Agut
(6) Kvitova over (13) Bencic
(20) Kenin over (14) Kerber
(1) Djokovic over (2) Nadal
(6) Kvitova over (20) Kenin