This year, the U.S. Open celebrated its 50th anniversary, drawing in almost 700,000 fans to New York City and the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to witness world class tennis – and one particular historic moment. This year’s final Grand Slam tournament, first open to professional tennis players in 1968, brought about some pretty epic moments. The world was turning their eyes on each of the matches. And one of them was not just making history at the 50th U.S. Open, but almost beat an overall Grand Slam tournament record.
An Enthralling Atmosphere
As the crowd streamed into the Arthur Ashe Stadium, named after the famous black tennis player who won three Grand Slam titles throughout his tennis career, the atmosphere was electric. It was already dark outside but New York was one humid bubble that day. Still, the sticky air didn’t keep fans of the sport away.
They were eagerly anticipating the quarterfinal between Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem. People took their seats in the largest tennis stadium in the world as the dimmed lights added to the excitement of what was coming. The light show was going – and then the stars of the evening, Nadal and Thiem, entered the stadium to the cheers of the crowd. Little did the visitors know, this match would go down in history.
Then, it began. The atmosphere was enthralling as Thiem and Nadal were both delivering an exceptional performance on the court, fans’ heads turning left and right as they tried to keep their eyes on the yellow tennis ball as it sped through the air. The matchmakers were focused. Concentration was evident. What a captivating, entertaining match.
The young Austrian Thiem was coming in hot and showed Spanish Nadal that he was very well capable of challenging him, for Nadal – seemingly not standing a chance against his competitor – lost the first set. The tension then increased in the second set that Nadal eventually managed to win. The crowd was clapping, cheering, holding their breath in-between. People were aw-ing and oh-ing every time a player made a point or simply hit the ball. It was sweltering in the stadium. The already humid air seemed like fire. It was an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth from the third set moving forward.
A Record Match
As the tennis enthusiasts in the stadium were on their feet, yet exhausted during this intense neck-and-neck race the two top players were delivering, the time kept ticking and it was still undecided as to who would eventually be victorious.
Pain. Sweat. Focus. Control. Although a physically very challenging match, the players – despite the heat – seemed to keep their cool. Still chasing the ball, left, right, thunderbolt forehands, one-handed backhands, most of the points were made from the baseline. Nadal and Thiem, two exceptionally fair and skilled tennis professionals, ran and jumped over the court. And so was the crowd – although not literally – while standing, as well as occasionally jumping in front of their seats, eagerly following what was going on down below.
Who would be the winner in the end? Time went by. It seemed like an eternity. Yet, with every minute that passed the match was not losing its quality. A thriller on the tennis court.
This epic five-set quarterfinal eventually turned out to be the longest match in the 2018 U.S. Open. The players hugged, were exhausted – and so was the crowd, yet still filled with adrenaline at 2:04 a.m. Nadal came out as the winner after they played a 0-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-7, 7-6.
It’s cruel sometimes, tennis, because I think this match didn’t really deserve a loser. But there has to be one. – Dominic Thiem
The match lasted 4 hours and 49 minutes. Hence, it almost went down in Grand Slam history as the longest tennis match ever played. However, this record still belongs to the 5 hour, 26 minute “court battle” semifinal between Stefan Edberg and Michael Chang back in 1992. Despite the harsh temperatures and intense physical conditions, the two players displayed true skills and an incredibly fair tennis spirit, as well as respect towards their competitor.
I told him that I am very sorry and you are very good. – Rafael Nadal
Even though, officially, Rafael Nadal won the match, both players technically left as winners that early Wednesday morning. What an experience it was to be part of the crowd, and what a glorious moment to experience not just the 50th U.S. Open, but also witness this historic tennis moment.