By ADARSSH NAGARAJAN, sophomore
The unthinkable happened at the 2014 U.S. Open. For the first time in over 17 years, no one in the top four ranking on the men’s side participated in a Grand Slam final. When Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, the top two seeds, both made it to the semi-finals, fans assumed that these two icons would once again battle it out to win the Grand Slam title. Instead, two of the most shocking disappointments happened at the U.S. Open and on the same day.
In the first semi-final, Novak Djokovic played Kei Nishikori, who had already made an unexpected splash at the tournament by beating Milos Raonic and Stanislas Wawrinka, the number five and number three seeds, respectively, in consecutive five-set matches. The crowd favored Djokovic, and it seemed that he would easily win the match against his already-exhausted opponent. In the end, Kei Nishikori beat Novak Djokovic in a four-set match that lasted two hours and 42 minutes, becoming the first Japanese man to reach a Grand Slam final. The next match pitted Roger Federer against Marin Cilic, a Croatian man who had a fairly easy road in the tournament thus far. Ferderer, a fan favorite after already having won five U.S. Open titles, defeated Tomas Berdych, the number six seed, in three easy sets. However, Marin Cilic beat Roger Federer in three sets just as easily. The crowd, already mystified by the first upset, became utterly dumbfounded—the two best players both lost to competitors who had never before made it to a Grand Slam semi-final.
The U.S. Open was just the beginning of the invasion of the younger generation; players like Milos Raonic, Stanislas Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, and Kei Nishikori have gained confidence after dominating some of the top players in the world. These rising stars and their momentous accomplishments prove that no matter how great the legends are, sports athletes cannot maintain their titles forever. When prominent tennis figures, including Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, and Rafael Nadal finally retire, it will be up to the younger generation to pick up the torch and guide tennis through its future hardships and successes. And if the newcomers continue to astonish with their unexpectedly strong performances against top seeded players in major Grand Slams like the U.S. Open, fans can rest assured that there will be many more exciting matches and talented players to come.