x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

I am delighted to be proved wrong with US Open picks

The enchanting Kim Clijsters emerged as the Belgian belle of the ball with the most unlikely of male chaperones in the awesome Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro.

Shortly after the world's best tennis players began to converge on the Big Apple about three weeks ago, the process of trying to forecast who would carry off the silverware at the end of the last of the year's four major championships gathered momentum. The unfortunate conclusion after several days of form assessments was to suggest that nothing much would change at this year's US Open - Roger Federer was on a roll from his triumphs at Roland Garros and Wimbledon, while the Williams sisters would contest their own private decider of the women's singles a round early in the semi-finals.

How delightful it is to be proved wrong at the end of a fascinating fortnight during which the enchanting Kim Clijsters emerged as the Belgian belle of the ball with the most unlikely of male chaperones in the awesome Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro. For Clijsters it was a second coming at Flushing Meadows, the former world No 1 having been absent from the tournament since winning it in 2005 and failing because of injury to defend it 12 months later.

For Del Potro, who arrived with a bang on the big stage, it was a declaration that he has to be considered strongly for all of the main events from now on. While Clijsters endorsed the worth of her second grand slam success by defeating both Venus and Serena Williams on the way to her final victory over Denmark's Caroline Wozniacki, Del Potro accomplished what no other male player has so far achieved in beating Rafael Nadal and Federer at the same grand slam.

Overcoming Nadal was no great surprise, considering the Spaniard's problems this year with knee tendinitis and most recently with an abdominal strain. Derailing the Fed-express in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, however, was as significant a moment as Robin Soderling's mid-summer dethroning of the "King of Clay" Nadal in his own Roland Garros backyard. Federer had reigned supreme at Flushing Meadows since winning the first of his five titles there in 2004 and looked unstoppable as he homed in on a sixth. Del Potro, who has provided compelling evidence over the last year that he is a star of the future, refused to accept his fate.

The 6ft 6in giant rose magnificently to the big occasion to give his sport yet another epic men's final to follow those five-set thrillers earlier this year in which Nadal beat Federer in Melbourne and Federer beat Roddick at Wimbledon. Women's finals have been less than epic of late. The days of Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert slugging it out for glory and Steffi Graf emerging to overtake both of them to progress into open warfare with Monica Seles are fading memories as a succession of Eastern Europeans have risen to the top without really capturing the imagination.

The intriguing Belgian rivalry between Justin Henin and Clijsters was briefly promising until both chose to walk away from the game. Clijsters' spectacular return as a tennis mum has supposedly rekindled the desire of the enigmatic Henin to make a comeback. Let us hope so. The lasting memory of the 2009 Open, however, will be the distressing sight of Serena Williams threatening a diminutive female line judge after being called for foot-faulting when only two points away from a semi-final defeat by Clijsters.

It mattered not that the crucial call may have been erroneous. Serena's foul-mouthed behaviour was disgraceful and a braver referee would have defaulted her from the tournament, rather than send the defending champion off court for what amounted to two separate cautions. wjohnson@thenational.ae