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WHAT’S INSIDE LETTER FROM THE EDITOR

AMERICAN TENNIS

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KING OF ALL SURFACES

GATHERING OF THE GREATS

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SERENA 17 THEN AND NOW

RANKINGS

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CLOSING SHOTS

DOES FEDERER HAVE THE YIPS?

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Editors

Lana Maciel Blair Henley

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Writers

Erik Gudris

Chris Oddo

Letter from the Editor As expected, the US Open did not disappoint this year. In true New York fashion, the drama was high, which made for some interesting – and often shocking – headlines. Topping the list was Roger Federer’s near incomprehensible fourthround loss to Tommy Robredo. It was a bit surreal to see the former champ dismantled in straight sets, and sad to see him out of the event just one round shy of the ever-elusive Roger-Rafa US Open showdown (will we ever get to see that happen?). A lot of critics have their own explanations for Federer’s recent decline, and Tennis Now writer Blair Henley offers an interesting take on the Swiss Maestro’s situation in the article “Does Roger Federer Have the Yips?” found here on page 16. Also topping the big news at the Open was defending champ Andy Murray’s quarterfinal exit at the hands of that other Swiss, Stan Wawrinka. His breakthrough performance brought him out from behind Federer’s shadow and proved that his exceptional 2013 Australian Open performance against Novak Djokovic was no fluke. Is this a changing of the Swiss guard in the ATP? But Stan wasn’t the only one with a surprise run at the tournament. Who would have predicted Flavia Pennetta to reach the semifinals? Or Richard Gasquet, for that matter?

Blair Henley

blair@tennisnow.com

Nick Georgandis

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As for the Americans, the women showed great promise for what is to come in the next generation (see: Alison Riske), while the men yielded relatively disappointing results. Take a look at Tennis Now writer Erik Gudris’ assessment of how the Americans fared this year on page 20.

Alberto Capetillo Juan Esparza

Now, with Rafa and Serena reigning supreme in the season’s final major, it’s time to look ahead to the year-end finals, which will also be a telling sign of what’s to come in 2014, particularly for Roger Federer.

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Until next time, enjoy the issue.

TennisNow

Lana Maciel Editor, Tennis Now Magazine lana@tennisnow.com

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King of All Surfaces Nadal’s Leap of Faith in New York Opens the GOAT Debate Yet Again by Chris Oddo It was raw, it was evocative, it was the perfect end to a perfect summer. All this is true about Rafael Nadal’s rousing run to his 13th Grand Slam title at the US Open, and more. How to sum it up? How to put one’s finger on the pillar of passion and mental fortitude that is Nadal? The man is certainly a work of spirit, with a revolutionary game so sublime, and a will to win so divine, that there simply is nobody to compare him to. He’s a lot like Roger Federer in that regard, and in reaching the promised land in New York, the tennis world is starting to recognize that he may eventually be a lot like Federer in another regard: Grand Slam titles. In winning the 2013 US Open in stunning fashion, Nadal has cast off any lingering doubts that may have remained about his ability to win on any surface, against any foe, and also thrust himself head first back into the GOAT debate. While Roger Federer’s empire has continued to crumble in 2013, Nadal has rebuilt his dominion brick by brick, starting first with a seven-month hiatus that clearly enabled his spirit to refresh and his passion to reinvigorate, and ending with a masterpiece victory over his biggest rival in the US Open final. It truly has been a spectacular 180-degree turn for Nadal. The Spaniard himself was thought to be the ruler of a crumbling empire in 2011, when an ascendant Novak Djokovic roared through Nadal’s gates and rummaged through his village, pillaging and looting while beating his chest like a skinny Tarzan with short hair. Add to that Nadal’s perpetual knee troubles, and things really did look bleak for the Spaniard. With Djokovic holding an inexplicable, mysterious magic over his head, and Nadal missing in action when the first balls were struck in Australia this winter, the smart money was on 2013 being the year of Murray or Djokovic, not Nadal.

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But little did we know that time was all Rafa needed. Some fishing, some precious moments away from the hamster wheel of the ATP Tour, a little romance, home cooking, friends and family, and presto, he’s back and better than ever. “The doubt is if I am healthy or not,” Nadal said on Monday, after defeating Novak Djokovic in four sets to claim his second US Open title. “When I came back to Chile for the first tournament I said, ‘Well, most important thing is be healthy. With seven months, I am sure that I will not forget how to play tennis.’” No, he clearly remembered. And furthermore, in going 22-0 on hard courts, Nadal has scaled new heights, ones that even for a super shaman like Nadal seemed unthinkable. “If you are healthy, if you have been in the top positions for nine years already or eight years and you stop for seven months, why you will not have the chance to be back there?” The health has very much to do with it, but we should not overlook the spiritual bliss that being home seems to have enabled Rafa to experience. After returning to the tour in February, Nadal’s fire has burned impossibly bright, his lust for battle has never been so big, his appetite for the competition never so intense. When talking about one of the most legendary competitors in the history of the game, that’s saying a lot. To watch Nadal is to marvel. Every ounce of his being, thrust into every shot, every strategic on-court decision seemingly weighed by some implicit mechanism, some flesh-and-blood supercomputer that has been programmed through repetition. While other great players can’t seem to figure out where to go with their overheads and how to deal with a little adversity, Nadal’s decision making is crystal clear. Without hesitation he instinctively strikes. He doesn’t overthink. He doesn’t appear to be thinking at all. Instead, he reacts. While other players struggle to get into the zone, Nadal lives in the zone, and only for brief periods does he ever fall out.


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He fell out when Novak Djokovic defeated him seven straight times, beginning in 2011, and since he has recovered to win six of seven from the Serb. This makes Nadal’s return to prominence in 2013 all the more remarkable. Not only did he have to return to form, he also had to vanquish a brilliant foe that had designs on his empire. Djokovic didn’t hesitate on Monday to praise his adversary. “Well, 13 Grand Slams for a guy who is 27 years old is incredible,” he said. “He’s definitely one of the best tennis players ever to play the game, I mean, looking at his achievements and his age, at this moment, you know... He still has a lot of years to play, so that’s all I can say.” Nadal’s legacy no doubt looks more attractive now that we’ve seen his response to Djokovic’s push. What do we want from our greatest athletes? Yes, we want them to have the aesthetics, but in also giving us the guts, grit and passion to go with the aesthetics, and in his continuous quest for improvement and diversification of his game, Nadal has given us what we didn’t even knew we wanted in the first place. He has given us the strongest mental game that the sport may have ever seen, and a lust for tennis and for battle that is simply beyond compare. Before 2013, we looked at Nadal as a phenom who, based on the strength of his clay-court prowess, rose to prominence as the greatest dirtballer of all time. Maybe, we said, he is one of the top 10 players to ever play the game.

But after his return and his awe-inspiring rush to hard-court greatness, Nadal’s body of work has another layer to it. Remarkably—almost preposterously—the Nadal of today is better than he ever was. He has found his game on the hard court, but more importantly he has regained the balance in his spiritual life. Before his hiatus he appeared to be weighed down, uptight, maybe a little bitter. Now he seems light, airy, positive, energetic. In improving his health and unlocking the passion that had been waning, Nadal has restored the empire from the foundation up. How has he done it? “Just confident, you know, playing with big passion,” he said, “fighting for every ball, emotionally good, so that makes that success.” At 27, Nadal and his “big passion” once again have the world at their fingertips. Body, mind and spirit are clicking on all cylinders, and for the first time it looks like Roger Federer’s 17 Grand Slam titles are well within his sights. Given all that he’s been through and how far he’s come to get back, it’s probably silly to look too far ahead. But what we’ve learned about Rafael Nadal in 2013 is that he may be the most spirited competitor to have ever played the game. Maybe, when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as the greatest, too. Now that he’s back and flying high again, it certainly can’t be ruled out.

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SERENA 17: THEN AND NOW

With her fifth US Open title, Serena Williams comes full circle since winning her first one in 1999 at the age of 17. by Erik Gudris

After winning her first US Open and maiden Grand Slam championship in 1999, the Associated Press had this to say about the then 17-year-old Serena Williams. “In winning her first major title, Williams showed the kind of athleticism, court sense and resilience under pressure that could make her a champion for years to come.” How’s that for a prediction? Williams showed all those qualities and more 14 years later when she overcame her opponent Victoria Azarenka as well as her own nerves to claim her fifth US Open title. Some are still surprised that Williams had a case of the nerves when serving out the match, two times in fact, in the second set before rallying to beat Azarenka in the third. But don’t forget Williams also got jittery trying to serve out Martina Hingis in that first US Open final before she sealed the straight-sets win. With all her achievements and many victories, we still like to think of Williams as superhuman – that she isn’t prone to feeling emotion on the biggest stages, in the most important matches, and against the toughest opponents. But like she did 14 years ago, Williams admits to her nerves, which mostly surface because she wants to win and keep adding to her own remarkable history. “You know, when you’re always trying to write history, or join history in my case, maybe you just get a little more nervous than you should,” Williams said about her nerves in the 2013

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finals. “I also think it’s kind of cool because it means that it means a lot to you. It means a lot to me, this trophy, and every single trophy that I have. It makes me feel that I’m still fighting just to be a part of this fabulous sport.” Despite her veteran status, Williams kept repeating over and over during this year’s US Open that she was having fun. Yes, she wanted to defend her title and continue proving she is the world’s best. But just being on the court and competing is adding even more fuel to her desire to win, even more so in her early 30s. “I always said age for me is ‑I feel great. I have never felt better. I feel really fit. I can play a tournament like this, singles, doubles, with tough, tough schedules. For the most part, I felt really good. You know, I haven’t felt like this in a number of years. I’m excited about the possibilities. I don’t know what can happen. I just keep playing and do the best that I can.” If Williams does feel young again, at least in terms of her body, and also carries the wisdom and discipline of being on tour for so many years, could an 18th major title be just around the corner? It’s looking more and more likely. The achievement would tie her on the all-time Grand Slam list with greats Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova. But the feeling Williams gets from winning a major, whether it is her first or her 17th, feels similar and different now for her.

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“Gosh, it was amazing winning like at 17,” Williams said about that first trophy in New York. “It was just a great feeling. For whatever reason, I never thought I was going to lose that year. I just knew I was going to win it. So when I was 17 I remember I took my opportunity right then and there, and I made some shots and I wasn’t making as many errors. It was great. But, you know, being older, it’s always awesome and such a great honor, because I don’t know if I’ll ever win another Grand Slam. Obviously I hope so. I say that every time I win one.” In overcoming injury, personal loss and setbacks to produce perhaps the best tennis of her career, Williams proves the prediction made about her all those years ago and is now firmly adding to her legendary status. When asked a hypothetical question on who would win a match between a 17-year-old Williams and the 31-year-old Williams of today, even she wasn’t sure. “I don’t know. I have been looking at film from when I was 17. I remember I played Steffi Graf in Indian Wells, and, gosh, I was good (laughter),” Williams said about that one and only meeting against Graf in a match that many fans still use to spark the “greatest ever” debate. “I came to the net, and I’m like, ‘Me? I hit volleys?’ Yeah, so, I mean, I don’t know. Both of us are fighters. We both never give up. So it would be interesting to see.”


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Does Federer Have

the Yips? There is no doubt that Roger Federer’s age and faltering confidence have contributed to his recent struggles. But his difficulties could stem from another issue altogether. by Blair Henley

For most fans, Roger Federer’s fourth-round loss to Tommy Robredo at the US Open was simply the latest in a mound of evidence suggesting the 17-time Grand Slam champion has lost his grip on the flawless game that made him famous. But the far more troubling aspect of his decline is not the slow bleed of his shotmaking capabilities, but rather his inability to execute when things get tight. Could Federer be suffering from a case of the yips? Most often used in reference to baseball and golf, the term describes a psychological block preventing an athlete from effectively completing plays he could at one time pull off while simultaneously winking at fans in the audience. In happier times, Federer could rely on his insane foot speed, deft touch and simple, solid mechanics to propel him to victory in highpressure situations. He also took full advantage of his opponents’ general fear of his greatness - we’ll call it the Federer Factor. But with his skill and, more importantly, his potential for intimidation diminished with age, Federer now knows he must convert when

opportunities, more rare by the match, present themselves. The ensuing urgency has resulted in a short circuit of sorts for the Swiss. Against Robredo, Federer converted on just 12 percent of his break chances. While the Spaniard certainly played a respectable match, Federer looked positively paralyzed. “You’re known as such a great closer,” a journalist said in Federer’s post-match press conference, perhaps softening the blow for the second half of his statement. “Two for 16 on break points.” “Yeah, that was a great close,” Federer said with a combination of sarcasm and irritation. “No, it wasn’t a very good close today.” Believe it or not, Federer has always had symptoms of a yip issue. Consider his two losses to Novak Djokovic at the U.S. Open in 2010 and 2011. Federer had match points in both instances, bowing out to a more comfortable and confident Novak Djokovic. He blew a two-sets-to-love lead over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in the quarterfinals of the 2011 Wimbledon Championships. He had a win over his nemesis, Rafael Nadal, within his grasp in the 2009 Australian Open final, only

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to lose after a mental collapse in the fifth. And how many times have we seen him misfire on groundstroke shanks more commonly seen at the local park courts? Federer’s most telling yip indicator is the fact that he has played just one “vintage” match since his lone 2013 tournament win in Halle: his three-setter against Rafael Nadal in Cincinnati. That is significant, of course, because he had nothing to lose. Before Roger Federer became “Roger Federer the Greatest of All Time,” he was just another nobody climbing the ATP rankings. No pressure. Once he reached the top, his exceptional talent level and work ethic kept him there, and it wasn’t long before the Federer Factor started affecting his opponents as tangibly as one of his inside-out forehands. Federer likely made better use of his status as “The Greatest” than we’ll ever know.

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Of course, the yips are more difficult to diagnose in tennis. Unlike the majority of sports where players may only participate in a few plays per game, tennis players could easily tally several hundred points in a match. Federer isn’t going to forget how to hit a backhand, but forgetting how to hit an aggressive backhand on a key break point is a different story. Federer admits he is currently suffering from a lack of confidence, which can certainly affect performance under pressure. But his problems are exacerbated by an underlying tendency to seize up when the match is on the line. With the demise of the Federer Factor, don’t be surprised to see the Maestro permanently thrown off his rhythm.


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Partly Cloudy With Sunshine: A Mixed Forecast for American Tennis American tennis once again finds itself at a crossroads as U.S. women kept rising while the men stumbled at this year’s US Open. by Erik Gudris

At the US Open, expectations for each player are always high. But none more so for the Americans competing in their country’s major. That was especially true this year with a group of veterans and rising hopefuls all trying to take advantage of home cooking (or as close to it as they could find in New York) and home crowds cheering them on in Flushing Meadows. But with the tournament now firmly in our collective rearview mirror, American tennis fans are still left with two very different immediate futures as they set their focus on 2014. One is looking very bright. The other still very cloudy. Serena Williams continues to create history as she secured her fifth US Open title. But these two weeks in New York proved that the veteran Williams may not be the only American woman in the elite tier of tennis for long. Despite her loss to the world No. 1 in an anticipated fourth-round rematch, Sloane Stephens proved again she is looking more and more likely to become the first American woman since Williams to enter the WTA top 10. Something Stephens, now ranked No. 13, could well achieve by the end of the year. But Stephens wasn’t the only one who made news among the 19 American women in the main draw this year, the most since 2006. Alison Riske, who was once considered a grass court specialist, raised her game to a whole new level by reaching the fourth round, a run that included an upset win over Petra Kvitova.

Christina McHale, who battled mono late last season, returned to the third round of New York for a second time in her career. And who could forget young Vicky Duval’s stunning win over former champion Sam Stosur in the opening round that made the young American a household name overnight? With so many American women enjoying success at the US Open, it is easy to forget that not long ago, many wondered who would ever follow the Williams sisters in holding up the red, white and blue for U.S. tennis. A similar conversation continues right now on the men’s side. For the first time in the Open era, there wasn’t a single American man left in the fourth round of the US Open, and the concern is that the trend could see itself repeated in upcoming majors. American No. 2 Sam Querrey, who crashed out in the second round in New York, gave a rather terse response when asked why he hasn’t yet made it past the fourth round of a major. “I mean, I don’t give a crap what anyone thinks. I mean, it’s my life and my career. Whatever makes me happy is fine. You know, I don’t know what it is exactly to get to the next step. Just winning a few more close matches, you know, being more aggressive. I guess that’s it.” While theories abound as to why American men can’t replicate the recent success of the women, ESPN tennis analysts Cliff Drysdale and Chris Evert feel it is a generational thing.

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“The ‘why’ is, it’s cyclical. Two years ago you were asking the same question about the women,” Drysdale said in a recent conference call. “It was Serena and her sister, and that was it. Now suddenly we do have a whole slew. Stephens, (Jamie) Hampton, (Madison) Keys, (Bethanie) Mattek-Sands.” “For the men, it’s just taking a little bit longer,” Evert said when asked why the men haven’t stepped up. “What is the reason? I don’t know. That old saying that there’s so many more choices in sports in America, we have so many choices, our male athletes are going to those other sports. Tennis is No. 1 in these smaller countries. It’s more intense. But that’s a good question.”

While American women continue to improve and make progress, the prognosis for the U.S. men is bordering on flatline status at the moment. James Blake’s retirement announcement at the start of the event ended his standout career. But his departure, along with the continuing absence of Mardy Fish due to health issues, only adds more pressure on the younger players to start filling their shoes – and quick. U.S. No. 1 John Isner certainly had a good summer by winning one title (Atlanta), reaching two finals (D.C., Cincinnati) and beating world No. 1 Novak Djokovic along the way. But once again, Isner got bogged down in the first week of New York. He defeated Gael Monfils in a match where many in the crowd were

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cheering for the Frenchman to force a fifth set, but then lost again to Germany’s Phillip Kohlschreiber for a second time in the third round. Many still feel Isner has the game to make a deep run at a major, but it may never happen in New York. When Tim Smyczek, the last American man standing in the first week, lost in five heartbreaking sets to Marcel Granollers, it marked the first time in the Open era that no U.S. man advanced to the fourth round. Despite the disappointment, Smyczek tried to look on the positives about his fellow American players, and it may be the best advice for U.S. tennis fans heading into next season. “I know we got really spoiled with Pete (Sampras), Andre (Agassi), all those guys, and Andy (Roddick) for so many years. But, you know, I

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think it’s also a really exciting time because there’s five, six, seven guys that are hovering right around 100 and have a good chance to make a big breakthrough. You have (Ryan) Harrison back in the top 100, you have (Jack) Sock who is doing really well, and a bunch of guys just outside. I think you can look for American tennis to be on the upswing again real soon. “ If American men can replicate the success of the women is hard to tell just yet. But U.S. tennis fans are certainly hoping that 2014 brings even brighter skies for all of their players next season.


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Gathering of the Greats The Legends Ball 2013

More than 500 tennis industry insiders, fans and Hall of Famers gathered on Sept. 6 at Cirpriani 42nd Street in NY City for the annual Legends Ball presented by BNP Paribas to benefit the International Tennis Hall of Fame. In addition to honoring the Class of 2013 -- Martina Hingis, Cliff Drysdale, Charlie Pasarell, Thelma Coybe and Ion Tiriac -- the night featured Hall of Famer Rod Laver presented with the Eugene L. Scott Award, while ESPN was given the Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Award. Hosted by Good Morning America’s Lara Spencer, the event offered tennis fans the chance to rub elbows with nearly 20 Hall of Famers including Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Monica Seles, Rod Laver, Stan Smith and Michael Chang.

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RANKINGS

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1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Djokovic, Novak Nadal, Rafael Murray, Andy Ferrer, David Berdych, Tomas Federer, Roger Del Potro, Juan Martin Tsonga, Jo-Wilfried Gasquet, Richard Wawrinka, Stanislas Raonic, Milos Nishikori, Kei Haas, Tommy Janowicz, Jerzy Isner, John Simon, Gilles Fognini, Fabio Almagro, Nicolas Robredo, Tommy Youzhny, Mikhail Anderson, Kevin Seppi, Andreas Tipsarevic, Janko Cilic, Marin Kohlschreiber, Philipp

SRB ESP GBR ESP CZE SUI ARG FRA FRA SUI CAN JPN GER POL USA FRA ITA ESP ESP RUS RSA ITA SRB CRO GER

10,980 10,860 7,060 6,850 4,535 4,515 4,425 3,425 3,165 3,150 2,555 2,325 2,265 2,110 2,025 1,950 1,945 1,940 1,890 1,825 1,775 1,630 1,505 1,445 1,445

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25

Serena Williams Victoria Azarenka Maria Sharapova Agnieszka Radwanska Na Li Sara Errani Marion Bartoli Caroline Wozniacki Angelique Kerber Jelena Jankovic Petra Kvitova Roberta Vinci Sloane Stephens Kirsten Flipkens Carla Suarez Navarro Sabine Lisicki Ana Ivanovic Samantha Stosur Simona Halep Maria Kirilenko Ekaterina Makarova Sorana Cirstea Dominika Cibulkova Elena Vesnina Jamie Hampton

USA BLR RUS POL CHN ITA FRA DNK DEU SRB CZE ITA USA BEL ESP DEU SRB AUS ROM RUS RUS ROM SVK RUS USA

12,260 9,505 7,866 6,335 5,565 4,325 3,746 3,645 3,420 3,245 3,170 3,065 3,045 2,806 2,775 2,770 2,720 2,715 2,630 2,620 2,275 2,250 2,126 2,125 2,036 2013 French Open Review

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No. 2 seed Victoria Azarenka produced a tremendous effort in her quest for her first US Open title, but for the second year in a row, she fell back into the shadow of Serena Williams in dropping a three-set thriller.


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American veteran James Blake called it a career at this year’s US Open. And what a career it was. His retirement from the sport left fans with vivid memories of his best performances at his home Slam in Flushing Meadows.


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Max Mirnyi and Andrea Hlavackova won the mixed doubles title at the US Open over Abigail Spears and Santiago Gonzalez. Hlavackova also claimed the women’s doubles title with Lucie Hradecka.

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Defending US Open champion Andy Murray fell flat in his quarterfinal match against an on-fire Stan Wawrinka. The Scot was ousted in straight sets and denied a chance at repeating his championship.


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Rafael Nadal was overcome with emotion after winning his second US Open title over Novak Djokovic.


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Novak Djokovic did all he could to put an end to Rafael Nadal’s hard-court win streak, but he fell just short of claiming his seventh major.

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After a practice session, a select few lucky fans got an autograph from 13-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal.

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It was only fitting that Serena Williams won Grand Slam No. 17 at the same event where she won her first, at age 17.

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2013 US Open Review  

The 2013 US Open did not disappoint. From Rafa's historic hard-court streak to Serena's 17th major title, we analyze the best and worst of t...

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