US Open: Osaka, Thiem provide highlights before sad end

By Sports Desk September 10, 2018

A fascinating and controversial US Open came to an end over the weekend, with Naomi Osaka and Novak Djokovic crowned champions at Flushing Meadows. 

Omnisport's Christopher Devine - who witnessed all the drama live in New York - picks out his highlights of the tournament, along with one hugely disappointing lowlight.

 

KAEPERNICK FEELS THE LOVE

The primary abiding memory from this tournament will certainly be Serena Williams' extraordinary row with umpire Carlos Ramos (more on that later).

However, eight days prior to the shocking events that sadly overshadowed the women's final, Serena and sister Venus were on court inside Arthur Ashe Stadium when a far more positive atmosphere reached its peak.

As the Williams siblings - quite possibly playing each other in New York for the last time - sat down for a changeover, Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid appeared on the four big screens in the stadium.

The crowd's reaction sent shivers down this reporter's spine, with prolonged cheers and applause in support of the two former San Francisco 49ers players, who led protests in the NFL against police brutality and racial inequality.

It was a special moment and little did we know that a headline-grabbing advert with Nike was about to follow for Kaepernick.

 

OSAKA DELIVERS ON RICH POTENTIAL

The undoubted star of the championships was Osaka, who took down her idol in the women's final to make history as Japan's first slam singles champion.

While controversy marred her win over Williams, leaving the champion in tears during the presentation ceremony, it should be noted that Osaka was a set up and performing magnificently when the chaos started.

The Japanese - a breakthrough victor at Indian Wells in March - has a great serve, fearsome groundstrokes and clearly possesses a winner's mentality - as evidenced by the way she kept her cool in the final.

She lit up the past fortnight with her performances, not to mention a series of highly amusing interviews, and her future looks stunningly bright.

 

DELPO BRINGS JOY TO TANDIL AND BEYOND

How wonderful it was to see Juan Martin del Potro - who almost retired in 2015 following continuous injury problems - shining again on the big stage.

Del Potro ultimately came up short in the men's final, despite a titanic effort, as the rejuvenated Djokovic produced a masterclass to claim his 14th grand slam title.

The Argentinian was in tears at the end, but should feel immensely proud. He and his boisterous band of friends from Tandil, whose vocal backing ensured there was a terrific mood every time Del Potro played, brought smiles to faces time and time again.

 

THIEM READY FOR NEXT STEP

Djokovic's success at Flushing Meadows means 47 of the last 55 men's slams - dating back to the 2005 French Open - have been won by either the Serbian, Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer, including all of the last eight.

By the end of September there will be no active slam-winner on the ATP Tour under the age of 30, with Del Potro and Marin Cilic both nearing landmark birthdays.

However, 25-year-old Austrian Dominic Thiem can feel more confident than ever in his ability to change that statistic. Although he ultimately lost an epic quarter-final to Nadal spanning almost five hours, this was without doubt the best performance of his career to date.

Already regarded as a genuine contender on clay, the 2018 French Open finalist hit rare heights against Nadal to suggest his ceiling on all surfaces is perhaps higher than many imagined.

 

A SAD END

It is such a shame that a tournament with so many highlights will be remembered most for a deeply unsatisfying controversy.

​Not only was the women's final itself overshadowed, the debate over the behaviour of Williams and Ramos continued throughout Sunday and remained a much bigger talking point on the streets and Subways of New York than the men's showpiece.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) did not help matters, remaining silent on the issue as Ramos was subjected to allegations of sexism and racism, apparently without any right of reply.

An ITF statement in support of the umpire's decisions - providing a necessary counter-point to so much criticism - finally emerged on Monday afternoon. It should not have taken so long.

 

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    The Los Angeles Rams took their 2018 record to 10-1 in a thrilling clash with the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday, winning 54-51.

    That result, which featured 14 touchdowns and 1,001 combined yards, represented the first time in NFL history a team had scored 50 points in a match and lost.

    But where does the record-breaking encounter rank among football's other high-scoring clashes?

    Here we take a look at the top five.

     

    1. New York Giants v Washington Redskins, 1966 - 113 points

    The Redskins scored 10 touchdowns on their way to a 72-41 victory in this match, while the Giants managed an impressive six in defeat. According to newspaper reports, 13 footballs were lost to the crowd from conversion attempts during the contest, which occurred before the days of nets behind the posts, while Brig Owens threw another into the stands after returning a fumble 62 yards for a touchdown.

    2. Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns, 2004 - 106 points

    Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer threw for four touchdowns and Rudi Johnson recorded a career-high 202 rushing yards as he ran for two more in a 58-48 victory over the Browns. Kelly Holcomb was unfortunate to be on the losing side after throwing for five touchdowns.

    3. Kansas City Chiefs v Los Angeles Rams, 2018 - 105 points

    Monday's match moves to third on the all-time list of high-scoring matches in the NFL. Prior to this week, teams scoring 50 points or more were 216-0. Rams coach Sean McVay said after the match: "It was fun. I don't know if I would say it was fun from a defensive standpoint but there was a lot of good football."

    4. Oakland Raiders v Houston Oilers, 1963 - 101 points

    In a game played before the NFL-AFL merger, the Raiders edged the Oilers 52-49, the match coming agonisingly close to achieving the feat of both teams reaching 50 points 55 years before the Rams and the Chiefs finally broke that record. Oakland placekicker Mike Mercer won the match with a field goal less than five minutes from the end of the final quarter.

    5. New York Giants v New Orleans Saints, 2015 - 101 points

    This was the highest-scoring match of the decade until Sunday and matched the scoreline of that Raiders-Oilers clash, with the Saints winning 52-49. The match was also notable for the fact Drew Brees threw a record-equalling seven touchdown passes. The Giants' Eli Manning threw for six in return. 

  • Peng overcomes Davis in Houston final Peng overcomes Davis in Houston final

    Peng Shuai claimed her first WTA Tour title of the year with a comeback win over Lauren Davis in the Oracle Challenger Series Houston final.

    The 32-year-old from China rallied for a 1-6 7-5 6-4 victory over Davis after a rainy Sunday.

    Peng was playing at her first tournament since Wimbledon after serving a suspension and the success was her third in singles on the WTA Tour, but first outside China.

    At the OEC Taipei WTA Challenger, Luksika Kumkhum claimed her second title of the month, beating Sabine Lisicki 6-1 6-3 in the final.

  • Win more than Djokovic? Let's chill out – Zverev Win more than Djokovic? Let's chill out – Zverev

    Alexander Zverev laughed off suggestions he could match Novak Djokovic's career, saying it was too soon for such claims.

    Zverev, 21, clinched the biggest title of his career so far with a 6-4 6-3 win over Djokovic in the ATP Finals decider on Sunday.

    That marked his 10th ATP World Tour crown, a tally not yet close to matching that of Djokovic (72).

    Zverev hopes he can one day reach Djokovic's level, but said it was too soon to discuss that.

    "Oh, Jesus. Oh my God. God. I mean I won one of those, he won five," he told a news conference.

    "He's won, I don't know what, 148 more titles than me, so let's not go there for now.

    "I hope I can be great, but let's chill out for a little bit."

    Zverev is still searching for his first grand slam title, with his run to the French Open quarter-finals this year his best result.

    The German expects the likes of Djokovic, 31, Roger Federer, 37, and Rafael Nadal, 32, to continue challenging at majors.

    "They're still going to be the guys to beat at the big tournaments. I will hope I'll do everything I can to get better, to compete always," Zverev said.

    "I feel like I'm doing that but I still have a lot of things to improve. Hopefully next year I'll be able to play better tennis than I did this year, even though it's been a good year."

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