Novak Djokovic's next target and Serena Williams second best: US Open talking points
Nadal's No 1 ranking next goal for Djokovic and Osaka has the talent to enjoy the spotlight again
No 1 the next goal for Djokovic
It took a little longer then expected but Novak Djokovic is back to being the dominant force of men’s tennis.
His US Open title victory over Juan Martin del Potro on Sunday was his second successive grand slam success after winning Wimbledon and puts him up to No 3 in the new world rankings released on Monday.
The 31-year-old Serb is the first player to win back-to-back majors since he achieved the same feat in 2016 [Australian and French Open], and he looks back to the levels that saw him sweep all before him for most of the early part of this decade.
So what next for Djokovic? Reclaiming the world No 1 spot he last held in November 2016 looks a realistic goal, depending on his schedule for the rest of the year.
He is 2,315 points behind current No 1 Rafael Nadal, who is set for a spell on the sidelines after retiring from his US Open semi-final against Del Potro on Friday with a knee injury.
With Roger Federer, the No 2, also struggling for form, the path looks clear for an assault by Djokovic to regain top spot.
There is a lot of tennis still to be played this year, including the Shanghai and Paris Masters, and a lot of ranking points to be won.
Djokovic did not play between July and December last year, so he can only gain points from here, while both Nadal and Federer have big totals to defend. There is every possibility Djokovic, whose victory over Del Potro saw him move level with Pete Samprass on 14 grand slams, could end the year as world No 1.
Osaka a worthy winner
It is easy to forget, given all the furore over Serena Williams, that Naomi Osaka won her first grand slam at the US Open on Saturday.
The 20 year old became the first Japanese to win a major, prevailing 6-2, 6-4 over Williams. It is a shame her achievement has been overshadowed by the drama involving Williams and her outbursts towards the umpire Carlos Ramos.
Osaka was superb in defeating Williams, holding her nerve when she could so easily have been distracted by the chaos. The way she took apart Madison Keys in the semi-finals was just as impressive.
It was not the first time Osaka had beaten Williams. She swept aside her childhood hero in straight sets in Miami in April, so Saturday’s victory should not be considered a fluke, even with Williams being hit with three violations for various offences.
Osaka is young enough to win another grand slam. Hopefully she will get another chance to enjoy the spotlight and celebrate her own achievements.
Osaka’s success highlights the unpredictability of the women’s game; she is the eighth player to win a major in the past eight tournaments.
With confidence high after her New York triumph, Osaka, now into the WTA top 10 for the first time in her career, will look to follow in Djokovic's footsteps and win a second slam in succession at next year's Australian Open.
Williams second best
When Serena Williams looks back on her US Open final meltdown she will hopefully acknowledge most of it was born out of frustration at her own failings rather than any campaign against her or women players.
The American, chasing a record-equaling 24th grand slam title, was, rightly, upset to be penalised for receiving coaching from the stand from Patrick Mouratoglou, something she denied seeing but Mouratoglou admitted to in an interview with ESPN.
But her outbursts at the umpire should not disguise the fact Williams was second best to Osaka.
Williams said post-match she does not know what the outcome would have been if she had stayed calm and not been penalised. But to most observers Osaka was simply too good for her on the day, just as Angelique Kerber was in the Wimbledon final. The fact that Williams has reached two consecutive grand slam finals less then a year after giving birth is testament to her greatness.
When the backlash subsides - Williams was fined a total of US$17,000 (Dh62,000) by the tournament's refereeing body on Sunday - and she takes stock Williams will know she needs more consistency from her groundstrokes and better movement from the back of the court if she is to finally equal Margaret Court's 24 grand slams.
Only time will tell if Williams, at 37, still has the desire to put in the hard yards.
Updated: September 10, 2018 11:35 AM