The 2016 US Open was certainly a memorable one for British Tennis, with eight players competing in the main draw, three men reaching the third round in New York for the first time since 1968 and three of the country’s finest progressing to the last 16 of a major for the first time since 1985 (Australian Open).
Kyle Edmund excites as he soars into the second week
2016 has already been a breakthrough year for British tennis player Kyle Edmund, establishing himself in the world’s top 100, reaching the quarterfinals of two ATP events (Doha, Queen’s Club) and winning two singles rubbers in the Davis Cup quarterfinal away from home on the clay against Serbia and now he can a maiden appearance in the second week of a Grand Slam to the list. The Brit defeated American John Isner on Friday in four sets 6-4, 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(5) to book his place in the last 16 of the US Open, before falling to defending champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets 6-2, 6-1, 6-4.
Edmund broke new ground throughout his run at Flushing Meadows. Competing at the Open in the main draw for the first time, he defeated the 13th seed Richard Gasquet, the highest ranked player he has beaten so far in his career, booking his place in a Grand Slam second round for the first time outside the French Open (R2 2015, 2016). A straight sets win over American Ernesto Escobedo marked another milestone as he reached the third round of a major for the first time and his win over Isner took him deeper than he has ever gone before, moving up to a career high of 55 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
Johanna Konta recovers from second round on court collapse to reach the last 16 for a second time
It was quite a turbulent first week at Flushing Meadows for British number one Johanna Konta. One year on from when she made the headlines in New York when she reached the fourth round of a slam for the first time, having to come through qualifying rounds to get there, Konta came in this year as the 13th seed. The world number 14 is enjoying the finest run of her career to date, capturing her maiden WTA title as she defeated Venus Williams in three sets to win the Premier title in Stanford and finishing second only behind Radwanska in the Emirates US Open Series coming into the tournament.
Konta opened up with a comfortable straight sets win over American wildcard Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-3, 6-3 and was seemingly on course to record a similar victory in her second round match as she led Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 3-2 with a break of serve in hand. However, the Bulgarian battled back to get the break and in the twelfth game the Brit suffered a major health scare.
It was as the 13th seed prepared to hit a second serve when facing a third set point that Konta collapsed, struggling to breathe as her heart rate increased rapidly and her ‘whole body went into shock’ as the Brit put it in her own words. These distressing scenes resulted in the doctor and trainer coming onto court to medically assess her and attempt to cool her body temperature down with ice packs.
Amazingly the world number 14 was able to carry on, but could not prevent losing the second set 7-5 as she hit her second serve long. The British number one then swiftly left the court to change clothes and cool herself down as she prepared to get ready for a final set decider. Remarkably, that brought an end to the drama in that match as Konta went on to secure the third set and the match 6-2.
Any signs of that match affecting her looked to be distant as she dispatched the 24th seed Belinda Bencic with ease 6-2, 6-1 in just 52 minutes. Yet, the Brit looked very flat when competing in her last 16 match in Arthur Ashe Stadium against the world number 48 Anastasija Sevastova, succumbing to the Latvian 6-4, 7-5.
The fact that this defeat came as a disappointment to British tennis fans demonstrates how far the Brit has come in the past 12 months, from only having the ranking to go through qualifying here last year, to reaching the Australian Open semifinal in January 2016 and now being seeded 13 at this year’s championships. The end of year target for Konta now, to break into the world’s top 10 and qualify for the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore.
Dan Evans delivers to reach the third round and pushes Stan Wawrinka all the way in late night middle Saturday drama
Dan Evans made British tennis headlines three years ago in New York when he burst through from qualifying to reach the third round of a Grand Slam for the first time. That shock run saw him stun Nishikori in straight sets in the first round, a player who at the time was a top 20 player and would go on to reach the final the following year. Evans came up short in the third round against Tommy Robredo in 2013, but rather than using that success as a catalyst to improve his career, Evans went backwards and never reached the same heights, that is until the past twelve months.
Evans was ranked as low as 763 in the world in June of last year, but a series of wins and titles on the ATP Challenger circuit helped him break into the world’s top 100 for the first time in his career at the beginning of May this year. Recent runs to the third round at Wimbledon, and at Flushing Meadows, have helped him reach a new career high of 53 in the world.
The current British number two began his US Open campaign with a four sets win over American wildcard Rajeev Ram and progressed to score a shock second round victory over the 19-year-old, world number 28 Alexander Zverev 6-4, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2. With the Brit’s confidence high it was an ideal time to face the third seed Stan Wawrinka, who had looked shaky in the first two rounds.
The match panned out that way as Evans produced his best tennis to take the first set and to take a two sets to one lead over the eventual champion. An incredibly close fourth set tiebreak came to a pulsating conclusion as the Swiss saved a match point to edge the breaker 10-8, before taking the final set 6-2 as the Brit struggled with a foot injury after giving the match his all, which finished 4-6, 6-3, 6-7(6), 7-6(8), 6-2
This defeat will have come as a disappointment to Evans after putting in so much effort and to be on the verge of the biggest win of his career, but British Tennis hopes that this match spurs him on and inspires him to go on to achieve bigger and better things.
Andy Murray goes one better than last year but falls to Kei Nishikori in quarterfinal five set thriller
Andy Murray is enjoying arguably the best spell of his career, beginning the summer with a maiden French Open final before progressing to win a record fifth Queen’s Club title, a second Wimbledon title and a second Olympic gold medal in the men’s singles in Rio. Expectations were high as the world number two entered the US Open as the favorite to take the title, with Djokovic not in the best of form compared that of Murray’s and the fact that the Brit won this title back in 2012.
The British number one looked convincing in his opening two rounds as he dispatched Lukas Rosol and Marcel Granollers with relative ease. Murray’s third round match with Paolo Lorenzi was a struggle, but the three-time Grand Slam champion was able to prevail 7-6, 5-7, 6-2, 6-3. That victory setup a popcorn clash with 22nd seed Grigor Dimitrov. The match up brought out the best in the world number two, producing his best tennis in New York since the 2012 final as he dismissed the Bulgarian in very convincing fashion 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, firing down his fastest ace ever in the process (141mph).
The quarterfinal match between Murray and sixth seed Kei Nishikori was a blockbuster, but the Brit will rue missed opportunities as he squandered a two sets to on lead against the 2014 runner-up, who was victorious 1-6, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1, 7-5. Murray was attempting to take a firm grip of the match in the third game of the fourth set as he brought up a break point chance. During the point, which was turning into an intense rally, an unexpected noise burst on the PA system which resulted in the umpire calling a let and for the point to be replayed. Murray then missed his next two service returns and vented his anger towards the referee over her decision as Nishikori progressed to hold. That game proved to be a dramatic turning point in the match as the Japanese superstar wrapped up the set 6-1 before edging a tight decider 7-5.
It was not the end to the tournament that Murray was hoping for, but it appeared that the Scot’s remarkable summer was starting to catch up with him physically as he was unable to match Nishikori’s energy and consistency with his tennis in the latter stages of the match. The Brit will look to bounce back with a strong end to the 2016 season as his quest for the world number one ranking continues.
Laura Robson returns to British screens as she qualifies for the main draw and Naomi Broady puts fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska through her paces
The first round had a particularly British feel as Naomi Broady and Laura Robson were drawn to face each other in an exciting encounter. Former British number one and world number 27 Robson had been on holiday in Rome at the beginning of the week of US Open qualifying, not expecting to be able to compete. However, she got a call from her agent and the Brit jumped on the next plane to the states to try and return to Flushing Meadows, a place where she reached the fourth round in 2012.
Robson successfully came through qualifying without dropping a set and looked on course for a main draw win after taking the opening set on a tiebreak against compatriot Broady. However, the British number three bounced back, taking the next two sets 6-3, 6-4 to advance to the second round of a Grand Slam for the second time in her career.
Waiting in the next round for the woman from Stockport was fourth seed Agnieszka Radwanska, but Broady did not let the challenge faze her. The Brit served for the first set at 5-4 and despite falling short managed to bring up four set point opportunities during an epic first set tiebreak, which the former Wimbledon runner-up eventually closed out 7-6(9), before recovering from a break down again to win the second 6-3. Broady should take a lot of heart and confidence from that performance and the fact that she was able to push the world number four in a Grand Slam match.
A memorable two weeks at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
Overall it was a hugely successful fortnight for the young British rising stars, with several going deeper at a major than they have ever gone before. While the tournament may have been a disappointment for the British number ones, neither Konta or Murray lost any ranking points, still leaving them in a great chance to finish the season strongly in terms of successful results and end of year rankings. The future of British Tennis certainly looks bright and the team will look to continue the success at the Australian Open in January.