By Victoria Chiesa & E.J. Crawford
The US Open Series features five weeks of the best hard-court tennis in the world on the road to Flushing Meadows. Check back each week to see who claimed glory in the lead-up to the US Open.
Week 4: Western & Southern Open
An upset-filled draw delivered two unexpected finals and a pair of surprise winners at the 2019 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, with Madison Keys and Daniil Medvedev emerging with the biggest titles of their careers.
Both draws were littered with upsets. Men’s No. 1 Novak Djokovic and women’s top seed Ashleigh Barty were the only Top 8 seeds to reach the semifinals on their respective sides, with both falling in the semis, to Medvedev and Svetlana Kuznetsova, respectively.
No. 16 seed Keys caused some of that chaos, ousting No. 4 Simona Halep in the round of 16 before topping fellow Americans Venus Williams and Sofia Kenin and, finally, Kuznetsova, 7-5, 7-6, for the first Premier 5 title of her career. She also knocked off two-time Grand Slam singles champion Garbine Muguruza in the opening round.
“It was a tough draw from the very start,” Keys said after her victory. “I played some really, really great players from round one until today. I definitely think I played some of my best tennis consistently this week.”
The ninth-seeded Medvedev, meantime, capped off a brilliant two weeks by defeating David Goffin, 7-6, 6-4, in the Cincinnati final for his first Masters 1000 title. Last week he advanced to his first Masters 1000 final, at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, falling to Rafael Nadal in the title match.
“It's been the best weeks in my life,” Medvedev said. “I mean, as I say, my mentality was the best in my life. My serve was the best in my life. My tennis was really consistent. I didn't have one bad match. I'm just extremely happy, and hopefully I can continue this way well through all my career but hopefully at least next few weeks.”
Week 3: Rogers Cup
A breakout star and a tennis legend raised the trophies north of the border, as Canada's Bianca Andreescu and Spain's Rafael Nadal were crowned champions at the Rogers Cup.
Andreescu, the teenage sensation, secured her seventh victory over a WTA top 10 player this season in Sunday's championship match, as No.8 seed Serena Williams was forced to retire with a back injury in the final after four games, with the 19-year-old leading, 3-1.
"It's not easy for Serena, for sure, to pull out, especially to pull out in a final," Andreescu said in her post-match press conference. "I know how she feels because I've done that many times in my short career. But sometimes you just have to listen to your body. And, yeah, it's not the way I wanted to win, but a win is a win. So I'm really, really happy."
The Canadian teenager claimed her second title of the season, after announing herself on the WTA with a win at the BNP Paribas Open in March, and will rise into the world's Top 20 as a result - despite having missed much of the season in between due to a shoulder injury.
"Before the match, I was really, really nervous," Andreescu added. "I mean, I'm playing Serena in the finals of the Rogers Cup. So I was definitely nervous, but I think I handled the nerves really well. I mean, before situations or scenarios happen, I'm pretty anxious. But once things get going, then I'm totally cool.
"This has definitely got my confidence level up. Being able to deal with all the pressure and all the expectations from everyone. I'm just really proud with how I dealt with everything. And hopefully this win can give me momentum into the US Open."
In the men's final, Nadal steamrolled rising Russian Daniil Medvedev, seeded No. 8 as well, with the loss of just three games, 6-3, 6-0. The victory is Nadal's 35th Masters 1000 title.
"He was playing very well during the whole week. So for me, it was important in the beginning that he doesn't take advantage, because finals are always a little bit more difficult for everyone," Nadal said.
"I've played a lot of these. I know beginnings can be tricky, especially against a great player like him but especially when a player like him is playing with a lot of confidence like he was playing during the whole week. I think I played a very solid match, my best match of the week."
Week 2: Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic and Citi Open
In the first week of joint action of the US Open Series, a first-time WTA winner was the story on the West Coast, while the second week of the ATP Series was capped off by another stunning run from the racket of Nick Kyrgios.
In the nation's capital, Kyrgios lifted the men's trophy, beating No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev in two tiebreaks, 7-6(6), 7-6(4), while in San Jose, China's Zheng Saisai capped off the week by winning her first WTA title, at the Premier-level Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, by beating No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka, 6-4, 7-6(4).
The win over the Belarusian world No.10 was Zheng's fourth win over a seeded player in five matches in San Jose, as she also defeated No. 8 seed Danielle Collins, No. 4 seed Amanda Anisimova and No. 7 seed Maria Sakkari in the second through semifinal rounds.
"I played every match on Stadium Court, and from the first match, I heard so many people cheering for me, and I was surprised because I felt like I was far from home, playing in the States. It turns out there are a lot of Chinese fans and even the local people started to support me after my second match. I really appreciated that," said Zheng after the match.
"It brings up so much confidence. I hadn't been winning and then here, I beat many seeded players. But everyone is different, and rankings can't tell you how strong a player can be, because everyone can win if they play well. I'm not going to relax, and feel like I'm unbelievable."
Kyrgios also mowed down a trio of seeds to win his second title of the season, as he beat top seed Stefanos Tsisipas in the semifinals after saving a match point, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(7), and also beat No.11 seed Gilles Simon earlier in the tournament.
"I've just been working really hard, on and off the court, to try and be better as a person and as a tennis player," Kyrgios said. "This has been one of the best weeks of my life, not just on the court but in general. I feel like I've made major strides. And I'm just going to take it one day at a time and hopefully I can continue on this new path.
"I dug deep and it could have easily been Daniil in this position. The match was super close and obviously just happened to get through that first set was massive. As a whole, this week has been amazing. It's been a real -- definitely an experience I won't ever forget."
Rounding out the champions, American Jessica Pegula won her first WTA title at the Citi Open, as she beat Italy's Camila Giorgi, 6-2, 6-2, in the final.
Pegula had previously beaten No. 6 seed Katerina Siniakova in the opening round, and came through a draw of opportunity at the International-level event, as no seeded player reached the semifinals.
The 25-year-old American downed fellow American Lauren Davis in the quarterfinals, Russian qualifier Anna Kalinskaya in the semifinals, before rolling past former Wimbledon quarterfinalist Giorgi in the championship match.
"I felt like, pretty focused. So I wasn't too hyped up or, you know, too, like, calm, I guess. I was just kind of in a good zone today, which is kind of what you always want to get in. It's just hard to do," said Pegula.
"I really embraced some of the changes I've had to make the last few weeks. I've tried to look at it with the most positive mindset. I read a lot of books, and I write in a journal, and I just try to keep the right mindset going forward. I think doing that every single day the last few weeks really helped it all come together today."
Week 1: BB&T Atlanta Open
Twenty-year-old Australian Alex de Minaur made a splash in the first week of the US Open Series.
The No. 3 seed captured his second career title at the BB&T Atlanta Open with a 6-3, 7-6 (2) victory over No. 2 seed, American Taylor Fritz.
It's a return to the winner's circle for the rising Aussie, who won the first title of his career on home soil in Sydney in January, but was also plagued by a groin injury for nearly two months earlier this year.
De Minaur dominated on serve for the duration of the one-hour, 17-minute final, as he never faced a break point and denied Fritz the opportunity to win his own second title of 2019.
The serve was the story for the Aussie not just in the final, but for the whole week: he became the third player in recorded ATP Tour history to win a tournament without facing a break point.
“This one is really special to me. I felt like I really needed this. To start the year with a bang and then be slowed down by injuries… you expect your level to be right there once you come back, but you have to slowly grind your way back,” said De Minaur.
“I’ve been playing great tennis and felt like if I could keep it all together, the good results will come. This is a week that will really help me out.”
The 20-year-old world No. 34 served eight aces in the championship match and broke Fritz twice, with both breaks coming in the first set as he won the last four games.
In the second set, the two rising stars of the ATP Tour traded service holds for the duration, as neither player faced a break point overall, nor even lost a point on serve over the last four games.
“It was a good week. It’s my first time being one of the top seeds [at an ATP Tour tournament], and I made it to the final," said Fritz. "He played really well, and I just needed to up it even more if I wanted to win. It hurts so much to lose a final, but I’m still confident and will keep moving forward.”
De Minaur hit 19 winners to a sparkling eight unforced errors in the match, as Fritz totaled the same number of winners but also racked up 20 unforced.
He downed a trio of Americans over the course of the week, taking out Bradley Klahn in the second round and Reilly Opelka in the semifinals, while also defeating his compatriot Bernard Tomic in the last eight.