The US Open was the last chance for most players on the ATP World Tour to make a serious statement. Some players took advantage, while others had some serious struggles. With the year’s final major over, it’s time to hand out the grades.
Milos Raonic: F
A second round loss, especially one that brought up some injury concerns, is enough for a failing grade for any top-five player. But Milos Raonic’s second round loss to Ryan Harrison is somehow so much worse. The Wimbledon runner-up had never lost to Harrison before and won the first set before imploding, eventually crashing out amidst an attack of cramps that is still bothering the Canadian weeks later. To make matters even worse, had he reached the quarterfinals, he would have returned to his career-high ranking of number four in the world. Instead, he’s still stuck at number six.
Rafael Nadal: D
Maybe a bit harsh, but Rafael Nadal had a great opportunity to make a charge at the US Open, especially with Raonic falling early and Novak Djokovic struggling. But he just couldn’t put away Lucas Pouille, a player he should be able to dispatch with relative ease. Full credit to Pouille on a great performance, but some tentative play from the two-time US Open champion allowed the Frenchman to steal a win. Perhaps at no point more than this one this season has Nadal looked as much a shadow of his former self. The loss also confirmed that he would not reach a major quarterfinal in a season for the first time since 2004.
Andy Murray: D+
This grade is less a reflection of Andy Murray’s performance, but more on the opportunity he missed. The 2012 US Open champion had reached all three major finals already this year, but crashed out in the quarterfinals here. He had several chances to put that match away, but kept letting Kei Nishikori back into the match. He also couldn’t keep up his own level up when he battled back himself. The fact that a speaker malfunction seemed to spook him so much is not a good sign. But more than that, with Djokovic not at his best, he had a shot at a title that could have made a serious contest out of the race for number one. Instead, it seems like Murray will remain consigned to number two for the foreseeable future.
Novak Djokovic: B
In actual fact, based on his form dating back to Wimbledon, Djokovic did very well to reach the final. But the Serb got very lucky with his draw, benefitting from opponent’s withdrawals/retirements three times in seven matches before he fell to Stan Wawrinka in the final despite having spent half as much time on court throughout the fortnight and being considerably more rested than his opponent. It’s a tough loss to swallow for the world number one. Perhaps more concerning, however, were his own injuries that seemed to nag him throughout the tournament. Djokovic leaves New York with more questions than answers.
Gael Monfils: A-
While he did have the second easiest draw of the four semifinalists, not needing to face a top-twenty opponent before the semis, it would have been just like the Gael Monfils of old to have blown it. But this is not the Monfils of old. The flamboyant Frenchman’s renaissance year continued as he dominated the field, not dropping a set before putting up a good fight against the world number one in the semis. It was arguably the best major performance of the Frenchman’s career and has reignited discussion as to whether or not he can one day pull a Wawrinka and steal a major in his 30s.
Juan Martin del Potro: A-
There is no question that the most heartwarming moment of the entire US Open was the standing ovation 2009 champion Juan Martin del Potro received near the end of his semifinal loss to Wawrinka. The Argentinian, still on the comeback trail after yet another wrist surgery, seems to be putting the pieces back together as he took out three of the top-twenty on his way to his first major quarterfinal since 2013, prior to his latest surgery. In that quarterfinal, he took a set off the eventual champion. Considering he got into the tournament as a wildcard, he could not have done much better.
Kei Nishikori: A-
When he reached the final of the US Open in 2014, everyone thought that it was only a matter of time before Nishikori claimed a major title. Since then, while he’s been a consistent top-ten player, the Japanese has not really impressed at the majors. However, he reminded the world why is a top-ten mainstay when he took out Murray with a gutsy effort in an epic quarterfinal. He then took the lead over Wawrinka in the semifinals before eventually falling to the soon-to-be champion. He may have fallen short, but it was a performance that once again points to the Japanese as a potential major champion.
Stan Wawrinka: A+
In the third round, Wawrinka was one point away from crashing out of the US Open and the top five in the rankings. That feels like a lifetime ago now that the Swiss is a three-time major champion following yet another brilliant victory over Novak Djokovic in the final. There were times in the tournament when the Swiss looked shaky, but he never caved, coming back from a set down three times, including the semifinals and finals, before blowing the best player in the world off the court in the final. It was a brilliant performance from Wawrinka, who is now a Wimbledon title away from the career Grand Slam.