The U.S. Open is headed into the second week. Here are our midterm grades on the action thus far. 

By Jon Wertheim
September 01, 2019

NEW YORK — School may be starting everywhere else. Coco Gauff’s 15-year-old peers, for instance, just got their new locker combinations and learned the names of their geometry teachers. But in tennis, we are deep into the semester. Herewith, midterm grades from the year’s final Grand Slam, the 2019 U.S. Open, through Saturday’s play….

A

Titans and titanesses: The upsets have all been of the minor variety. The Big Three, Serena, and the top three women’s seeds (Naomi Osaka, Ash Barty and Karolina Plisova) all remain.

Taylor Townsend: Long live serve-and-volley tennis. But, ultimately and more importantly, long live a player who says, “Eff It, I have to be myself.”

Kristie Ahn: The 27-year-old American plays her first Open main draw in more than a decade—how long ago was her last appearance? She lost to Dinara Safina!—and crashes into the fourth round.

Gael Monfils: Giving new zest to the idea of closing out a match in style….

USTA: After a clumsy final weekend in 2018, what a strong first week it’s been. The pre-tournament Fan Week was a smash. The roofs paid dividends when it rained on Wednesday. The technology worked well. Attendance was strong.

Courtney Nguyen: Winner of the Bud Collins Award from the International Tennis Writers Association.

A-

Daniil Medvedev: His strong summer continues. And I want you all to know when you go to sleep tonight: if tennis now has a heel, so be it.

Coco Gauff: Not the result nor the performance she wanted against Naomi Osaka. But in some ways, this was an ideal tournament. She backed up her Wimbledon breakthrough, won over the crowds, and gave a glimpse into the future. But, with her comprehensive third-round loss, a crow-bar was thrown in the wheels of the Hype Train.

B+

Andy Murray: An ocean away from New York, the former champ was playing best-of-three matches in a Challenger. He didn’t win the tournament in Mallorca—and still has some lost conditioning to make up—but he sure didn’t cut the figure of a player pondering retirement.

Nicole Gibbs: Couldn’t quite pull the upset, but what a great effort for a thoroughly likable player. In her first major since her post-cancer scare, the former Stanford star pushed Simona Halep to a third set. 

Coffee requests: More players are—all within the rules—turning ballkids into barristas. But this got awkward.

B-

Simona Halep: She won a match at the U.S. Open for the first time since 2016…but then lost to qualifier Taylor Townsend. Halep was, as always, gracious in defeat. But the player who stayed for the Wimbledon ball, sure departed unfashionably early from this cotillion.

C

Sloane Stephens: The 2017 champ doesn’t win a set this year, falling meekly and with uncertainty to Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya (who lost decisively in her next match). Some good news: Stephens was elected to the WTA Players Council, suggesting a level of engagement in the profession.

Angie Kerber: Ach! A wretched year for the 2016 champ continues with her first-round loss to Kristina Mladenovic (who lost her next match). After reaching the fourth round in Australia, Kerber won just one match at the next three Grand Slams.

Dominic Thiem: For the second straight major, the fourth seed loses in round one. Of course we could broaden this to…..

Young Folks: It’s the ugly underbelly to the glory of the Big Three. Where’s the bench? Stefanos Tsitsipas, Karen Khachanov and Felix Auger-Aliassime all fail to get out of round one.

Late withdrawals: As a rule, give athletes a wide berth when it comes to injuries. It’s reasonable to say, “I’m going to wait as long as possible, in hopes of giving it a go.” But once the schedule comes out, your decision to withdraw impacts the entire draw.

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