Sharapova, Shapovalov, del Potro lead 2017 U.S. Open Midterm Grades

2:10 | Tennis
U.S. Open: Lack of Big Names Shouldn't Impact Competition
Sunday September 3rd, 2017

NEW YORK – The day before the 2017 U.S. Open started, Rafael Nadal practiced inside Arthur Ashe Stadium adjusting to a court that had been resurfaced only days prior. As Nadal took the court and technicians played with the arena sound system, you could hear the strains of the “Winds of Change.”

With all due respect to Shania Twain, the tournament’s official songstress, this Scorpions metal ballad may as well be the tournament’s anthem. Through three rounds, seeds have been bounced like moonballs; hot prospects have been cooled; and the bottom half of the men’s draw looks like eight names picked at random from the ATP media guide.

But it’s fun.

Through six days, herewith our midterm grades from 2017 U.S. Open.

A

Chaos

Even by tennis’ limbo-bar standards, this has been a study in the bizarre. It started with a five-time Grand Slam winner wild card “upsetting” the Slam-less second seed; and then Roger Federer being pushed to five sets by Frances Tiafoe. Who knew we were just warming up?

Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

Denis Shapovalov

The revelation of the summer. The 18-year-old Canadian qualifier—let’s pause here: he needed three wins just to get into round one—zings his lefty one-hander, plays with precocious conviction and here he is in round four.

Maria Sharapova

She may polarize but she’s playing her best tennis in years, moving well, and recovering physically. Could she win this thing?, more than a few of you ask. Why not?

Central Park Tennis

It’s hard to imagine a better marketing campaign than this.

Juan Martin del Potro

2009 champ has yet to drop a set.

Andrey Rublev

Yoked with Sascha Zverev during the juniors, the 20-year-old Russian is ascending slower but steadily nonetheless. Made his mark with an upset of Grigor Dimitrov and then backed it up in the next round. (And bonus points for remaining alive in the doubles.)

Mother Nature

Her profile here is reduced thanks to the roof, but the weather has been generally sublime.

Champion lineage

Putting the labor in Labor Day weekend, Serena Williams became a mother and Novak Djokovic became a father again.

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B+

Roger/Rafa

Neither comes close to resembling the players that won Wimbledon and the French, respectively. But they’re still here, which, ultimately is all that matters.

‘Merica

Sam Querrey carries the torch on the men’s side. But the women are going strong, two standouts include a resurgent Sloane Stephens and Jennifer Brady reaching another second week of a major.

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USTA innovations

The shot clock used in qualifying matches was an unqualified success. The efforts to improve pace are to be applauded. On-court coaching is cheap and gimmicky. And overall, you applaud the willingness to experiment.

Zverev family

Against the odds (literally), the older brother outlasts the younger brother again. Mischa beats John Isner to advance to Week Two. Sascha, the No. 4 seed, was upset by Borna Coric, continuing disappointing results in best-of-five matches.

Naomi Osaka

Future star wins her first match with brute force, and wins her second with a courageous fight. Then misses a gilded opportunity for more, by failing to close a lead against qualifier Kaia Kanepi. Speaking of failures to close….

B-minus

Simona Halep

Losing to a five-time major in winner is no great shame, a defeat that looks a little better with each round as Sharapova rolls. But what’s the cumulative effect on Halep on this these shortcomings?

C

Angelique Kerber

Defending champ musters all of four games in her first match, the encapsulation of a season as dismal as her 2016 was dazzling.

Jack Sock

A first round loss caps a disappointing season, especially in the Slams. The reality of tennis today: players are judged largely by their majors results.

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The Big 5-9

Berdych, addled by a worst injury, fell to Dolgopolov. Jo-Wilfred Tsonga lost in the second round to Shapovalov. 

Knuckleheadedness

If you’re going to breach decorum, make sure you’re no longer in the doubles draw. Otherwise, you penalize your partner as well.

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