US Open: How Emma Raducanu and Daniil Medvedev helped light up an ‘amazing’ tournament

Canada's Leylah Fernandez and Britain's Emma Raducanu with their US Open prizes
Canada’s Leylah Fernandez and Britain’s Emma Raducanu were the first players to contest an all-teenage Grand Slam final since 1999

Going into the final Grand Slam of the year, there was uncertainty for some people whether a US Open shorn of several of the sport’s biggest names would attract as much attention as usual.

It provided a treat of stunning tennis, seismic shocks, entertaining storylines and the birth of several new stars.

Long-held concerns about how the sport would cope without its main attractions – with Roger Federer just turned 40 and Serena Williams less than a fortnight from reaching the same landmark – were answered as the US Open offered reassurance it will continue to thrive.

“It has been an amazing tournament,” said former Wimbledon champion Pat Cash, who worked as an analyst for BBC Radio 5 Live.

Here, BBC Sport has a look at the main takeaways from a super Slam which captured the imagination.

Raducanu anointed the queen of Queen’s

There is only one place to start, isn’t there? Emma Raducanu. A name which many outside of British tennis had not heard of three months ago.

Then, the British teenager was ranked just outside the world’s top 350 and had only played one top-level professional event.

Now, she is a Grand Slam champion. British teenager Emma Raducanu is a Grand Slam champion. Still doesn’t sound real does it?

But it is and it wasn’t surprising given the way the 18-year-old played in the New York borough of Queen’s.

With confidence and class, she did not drop a single set in her 10 matches at Flushing Meadows, the first three of which were in qualifying for the main draw.

“I’ve always dreamed of winning a Grand Slam. You just say these things. But to have the belief I did, and actually winning, I can’t believe it,” Raducanu said after beating Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, who only turned 19 earlier this week, in Saturday’s final.

The next generation becomes the now generation

With Williams, Federer and Rafael Nadal all missing the New York event through injury, it was the first major without the three of them in a singles draw since 1997.

Added to that, Dominic Thiem – the reigning men’s champion – also had to pull out because of fitness problems.

That opened the door for new stars to emerge.

As well as Raducanu and Fernandez in the women’s singles, Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz was another teenager to announce his arrival on the biggest stage of all.

The 18-year-old made history by becoming the youngest player in the Open era to reach the US Open quarter-finals, with the highlight of his success coming when he stunned Greek third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

In addition there were impressive runs to the second week of the singles for a host of players aged 21 or under, including Bianca Andreescu, Iga Swiatek, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jenson Brooksby and Jannik Sinner.

Carlos Alcaraz
Alcaraz beat Stefanos Tsitsipas 5-7 6-1 5-7 6-2 6-0 in the fourth round

“I had a few doomsayers before the championships saying it would be absolutely rubbish because there was no Federer, Nadal, Serena Williams or a few other great champions,” Russell Fuller, BBC tennis correspondent, said.

“We have just been reminded that however great those players are, there are so many amazing talents in the world.

“Youth has taken this opportunity – especially on the women’s side – to burst through and make sure we are glued to our televisions and radio for the next 10-15 years.”

‘Chess master’ Medvedev finally solves the Slam puzzle

Daniil Medvedev lifts the US Open trophy
Daniil Medvedev won the US Open men’s singles for his first Grand Slam title

Novak Djokovic was initially the centre of attention as he bid to win a historic 21st Grand Slam men’s title at a tournament lacking a slew of his fellow stars.

The 34-year-old was attempting to complete a rare calendar sweep of the Grand Slams and pull clear of Federer and Nadal in terms of major victories.

Instead it was Daniil Medvedev, not world number one Djokovic, who was left celebrating victory in the men’s singles.

Russia’s Medvedev, 25, had lost two previous Grand Slam finals but the man known as the ‘Chess Master’ beat the Serb to finally solve the problem of how to beat one of the men’s ‘Big Three’ in a major final.

“I think it is the first of many for Medvedev,” predicted former British number one Laura Robson.

Murray rolls back the years against Tsitsipas – and creates ‘Toiletgate’

Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andy Murray shake hands after the US Open match
Stefanos Tsitsipas and Andy Murray shared a frosty handshake after their US Open match

Andy Murray rarely fails to disappoint – even if he doesn’t get the result his legions of fans wanted.

The former world number one’s remarkable renaissance – after a serious hip injury which left him certain that retirement beckoned – continued as he pushed Greek third seed Tsitsipas all the way in their first-round match in New York.

The British three-time Grand Slam champion played in a manner reminiscent of his best as he led by two sets to one before Tsitsipas fought back to win a five-set thriller.

That wasn’t all the drama though.

Tsitsipas found himself the butt of the jokes after Murray aimed another jibe at him in the row over long bathroom breaks.

After losing to him on the opening Monday, Murray said he “lost respect” for Tsitsipas and accused his opponent of “cheating” by going off court for eight minutes, although the Greek did not break any rules.

Murray was not in the mood to let the issue slide, though, even after a night sleeping on it.

The Scot joked it took less time for American billionaire Jeff Bezos to fly into space than Tsitsipas spent in the toilet.

Brits enjoy fairytales in New York

While Raducanu receives most of the attention for her fairytale in New York, she wasn’t the only British player to enjoy success.

There was a doubles double for Joe Salisbury, while Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett completed their clean sweep of the Grand Slams.

Salisbury, 29, became the first Briton to win two doubles titles at a Grand Slam in the Open era.

On Friday he won the men’s doubles with American partner Rajeev Ram – beating another Briton, Jamie Murray, in the final – and claimed the mixed doubles title alongside Desirae Krawczyk on Saturday.

Reid, 29, and Hewett, 23, became the first pair to win all four Grand Slams wheelchair doubles in a calendar year on Sunday.

Full crowds recreate special New York buzz

Fans celebrate Shelby Rogers win
There were loud crowds throughout the tournament

After being closed to fans last year, the tournament was the first Grand Slam since the coronavirus pandemic started to be allowed at 100% capacity throughout.

That saw the buzz of the New York tournament return, especially during the night sessions on Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Playing underneath the lights on the biggest tennis court on the world – which has a capacity of nearly 24,000 – is an experience like no other.

With exuberant fans enjoying the mid-match entertainment – which usually includes music, dancing fans, celebrities being introduced to the crowd and ‘Kiss Cam’ at the changeovers – there is always a din of background noise in a crackling atmosphere.

“It was fantastic to see full crowds from the first point and there were some amazing matches all the way through. It has been incredibly exciting,” concluded Cash.

Tennis needed the feelgood factor to return and the US Open provided just that. The future is bright.

BBC News