By E.J. Crawford
The Emirates Airline US Open Series annually features five weeks of the best hard-court tennis in the world. Read below to see how the Series unfolded week by week in 2015.
Week 5: Connecticut Open & Winston-Salem Open
The Emirates Airline US Open Series divided in Week 5, with two separate events for the first time in 2015 – the men playing at the Winston-Salem Open in Winston-Salem, N.C., and the women at the Connecticut Open in New Haven, Conn. The one common thread: it’s good to have a great serve.
Six-foot-8 Kevin Anderson boomed his way to the Winston-Salem Open title, holding 55 of his 56 service games and pounding 16 aces and 31 winners to defeat qualifier Pierre-Hugues Herbert in the final, 6-4, 7-5. It was Anderson’s third career ATP World Tour title and his first since winning in Delray Beach, Fla., in 2012.
In New Haven, the tricky lefty offering of Petra Kvitova guided her past an impressive field and to a second consecutive Connecticut Open title – and a third in four years. Kvitova’s run included victories, in order, over world No. 19 Madison Keys, No. 15 Agnieszka Radwanska, No. 4 Caroline Wozniacki and No. 6 Lucie Safarova, 6-7, 6-2, 6-2, in the final.
New Haven decided another singles champion as well. By reaching the quarterfinals, rising star Karolina Pliskova (pictured above) clinched her first-ever Emriates Airline US Open Series women's title.
In doubles, Dominic Inglot and Robert Lindstedt defeated the American duo of Eric Butorac and Scott Lipsky, 6-2, 6-4, to win the Winston-Salem title, while in New Haven, Julia Goerges and Lucie Hradecka topped Chia-Jung Chuang and Chen Liang, 6-3, 6-1.
Week 4: Western & Southern Open
Two of tennis’ all-time greats marked themselves as ready to contend at the US Open, with Serena Williams and Roger Federer repeating their titles from 2014 at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Serena overcame some difficult early matches – a tough opener against Tsvetana Pironkova and a three-set quarterfinal win over Ana Ivanovic – and clipped her chief US Open challenger, Simona Halep, in a high-intensity final, 6-3, 7-6. Despite the loss, Halep moved up to No. 2 in the world, ensuring she’ll be on the opposite side of the draw from Serena at the US Open.
Federer, meantime, won his record seventh men’s title in Cincinnati in impressive fashion, defeating world No. 3 Andy Murray in the semifinals, 6-4, 7-6, and No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the final, 7-6, 6-3. In fact, the five-time US Open champion did not lose a set in any of his five matches in Cincinnati, which included victories over Top 20 players Kevin Anderson and Feliciano Lopez and No. 23 Roberto Bautista Agut.
Federer was not the only winner in the match, however. His victory meant that Andy Murray clinched the 2015 Series men's title, narrowly over second-place finisher Djokovic. The loss also denied Djokovic the first-ever Golden Masters: titles at all nine Masters Series events. The 2015 Australian Open and Wimbledon champion is now 0-5 in Cincinnati finals.
In doubles, a pair of unseeded team took home the Cincinnati trophies. In the men’s doubles final, the ageless Daniel Nestor, 42, and his partner, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, defeated Marcin Matkowski and Nenad Zimonjic, 6-2, 6-2, to win the men’s title, while the Taiwanese pair of Hao-Ching Chan and Yung-Jan Chan defeated Casey Dellacqua Yaroslava Shvedova, 7-5, 6-4, for the women’s doubles crown.
Week 3: Rogers Cup
It was a weekend of breakthroughs at the Rogers Cup, with Belinda Bencic capturing the biggest title of her young career in Toronto and Andy Murray finally solving Novak Djokovic in Montreal. Not that either had an easy time getting it done.
Bencic, an 18-year-old former junior champion from Switzerland trained by Melanie Molitor, the mother of Martina Hingis, completed a stunning run through the Rogers Cup draw. In each of her six matches, she defeated either a former Grand Slam champion or finalist, culminating with a nerves-of-steel, three-set win over world No. 1 Serena Williams in the semifinals – only Serena’s second loss of the season and her first in a three-set match since the 2014 Rogers Cup – and a grinding 7-6, 6-7, 3-0 ret., victory over No. 2 seed Simona Halep in the final. The new Swiss miss, a quarterfinalist at the 2014 US Open, also defeated No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki and No. 5 seed Ana Ivanvic en route.
Murray, meantime, entered the Rogers Cup final in Montreal sporting an eight-match losing streak to world No. 1 Djokovic, including setbacks earlier this year in the Australian Open final and the French Open semifinals. But the Brit played inspired tennis in another grinding final, pulling out a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 victory in a match that lasted three hours. With the victory, Murray moved past Roger Federer to No. 2 in the world.
In doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan captured their second Series title of the summer, adding the Rogers Cup trophy to their victory at the BB&T Atlanta Open by defeating Canadian Daniel Nestor and his partner, Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 7-6, 3-6, [10-6], in Montreal. And in Toronto, Australian Open and French Open doubles champions Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Lucie Safarova prevailed, topping Caroline Garcia and Karolina Srebotnik, 6-1, 6-2.
Week 2: Bank of the West Classic
Angelique Keber has been quietly having one of the better years of any woman on tour. And she continued her stellar season in Week 2 of the Emirates Airline US Open Series, beating fellow US Open title sleeper Karolina Pliskova in a back-and-forth affair, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4, to claim the crown at the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, Calif.,
The victory was the fourth on the season for Kerber (pictured above), on her third different surface no less, and the seventh for her career. Her four titles are tied with Williams for the most on the WTA this year. Pliskova, meantime, leads all women with five finals in 2015, and with her result in Stanford she moved into the Top 10 for the first time in her career.
In doubles, the unseeded teandem of Xu Yi-Fan and Zheng Saisai defeated second seeds Anabel Medina Garrigues and Arantxa Parra Santonja, 6-1, 6-3, to become the first Chinese pair to win the title in Stanford.
Week 1: BB&T Atlanta Open
The 2015 BB&T Atlanta Open wrapped up much like the tournament did in 2013 and 2014 – with a towering John Isner posing with the winner’s trophy. The American No. 1 prevailed again this year at Atlantic Station, defeating a resurgent Marcos Baghdatis in the final, 6-3, 6-3.
Isner’s title defense had a few rocky moments – two tiebreaks in the round of 16 against Radek Stepanek, a tight three-setter against qualifier Denis Kudla in the semifinals – but he was able to prevail once again. The victory was Isner’s 10th career ATP World Tour title, with five of those coming in Series events. (In addition to his three titles in Atlanta, Isner has won twice at the Winston-Salem Open.)
The Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike, turned it into an all-American winner’s weekend, defeating Colin Fleming and Gilles Muller, 4-6, 7-6, [10-4], in the men’s doubles final. The doubles draw also received a jolt from the retired Andy Roddick and the retiring Mardy Fish, who teamed to win their first-round match before falling to No. 3 seeds Eric Butorac and Artem Sitak in the quarterfinals.