• Chris Wilkinson

Just too good

Chris Wilkinson September 14, 2011

It may not have had the drama of the 2008 Wimbledon final, but as Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal traded blows in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, they were breaking new ground.

The standard of tennis was incredible, the intensity phenomenal - they were playing every point like it was match point. The way the guys were hitting the ball - they took tennis to a whole new level on Monday night.

You had to feel for Nadal - he gave it absolutely everything but in the end Djokovic was just too good. At times Nadal wasn't aggressive enough on his forehand, but it was only because Djokovic was putting him under so much pressure and he was being pinned behind the baseline.

Ten titles including three grand slams, 64 wins from 66 matches - you really can't underestimate what Djokovic has achieved this year. It's unreal - I can't remember anyone having a season as good as his.

All things told Nadal has had a pretty decent year, but it has paled into insignificance compared with Djokovic. Most people would be delighted with a grand slam trophy and a handful of Masters titles, but having lost to Djokovic six times this year, Nadal will not be happy until he has cracked his current conundrum - how to beat the Serbian.

It was at last year's US Open that Djokovic began sowing the seeds for this season - he had that epic win over Roger Federer in the semi-finals before being narrowly beaten by Nadal in the final. That would have given him a lot of confidence and then of course the Davis Cup final at the end of last season was the start of quite a remarkable run of form. It's hard to put your finger on just what has triggered his astonishing rise, but it is a whole combination of things - superior fitness, a new diet, better movement, an improved serve, but it is confidence and belief that holds it all together.

I've been saying it for months now but Djokovic's level has got to drop at some stage, but in his current form I can't see anyone catching him which is worrying for his rivals.

What's more, he's still only 24 and so has time on his side, too. Who knows how many slams he can win? Having achieved so many of his dreams in one season, he will now have his eyes on the French Open to complete his career grand slam. And who would bet against him? He beat Nadal on the clay in Madrid and Rome this season and he has the game to adapt to any surface.

We are not just watching the three best players in the world, but three of the best players of all time

When you think the top three players in the world now have 30 slams between them, we really are in a golden era for men's tennis. We are not just watching the three best players in the world, but three of the best players of all time. You have to feel for someone like Andy Murray - he is good enough to win a slam, but he is playing in the same era as not just one all-time great, but three.

They are all great ambassadors for the sport - both Nadal and Djokovic spoke lucidly and sympathetically about 9/11after the final - in English which is not even in native language. They say and do all the right things - you don't see them plastered on the front pages of the tabloids like with so many other sports.

That is one of the real differences between the men's and women's games at the moment - not just that the men's game has such a glut of talent, but those players realise their obligations to the sport.

Serena Williams' behaviour in the women's final was embarrassing - she certainly didn't make many friends on Sunday. Her attitude and the way she treats officials shows a lack of respect and her acceptance speeches should be more gracious.

Players have an duty to promote tennis. The likes of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic have inspired thousands of youngsters to play tennis. I am not sure Serena inspires many young girls to pick up a tennis racket.

Serena Williams lost her rag with the chair umpire © Getty Images
Enlarge

That said, we should take nothing away from new US Open champion Sam Stosur. She played phenomenally and I think she surprised even herself at how well she played in the final. She went onto that court and she wasn't intimidated by Serena - so many players are beaten before they even walk on the court. It's brilliant for the women's game and thoroughly deserved.

I really thought this might be Caroline Wozniacki's chance to win a slam. She had ditched her father as her coach and I thought a fresh start may do her good. She has a fantastic attitude and is fiercely competitive which has seen her reach the top of the world rankings, but she lacks the big shots. In a way, her plight is similar to Murray - she needs to be more aggressive and produce the big shots when it matters.

Other players who will be happy with their performances in New York will be John Isner and Angelique Kerber. Isner has had a great summer and despite Andy Roddick's run to the quarter-finals, it is Isner who looks set to be the future of American tennis, while Kerber really made her mark with a series of strong performances, knocking out a couple of seeds en route to the semi-finals.

While some of the tennis on display was spectacular, the weather at times stole the show for all the wrong reasons. In my opinion the US Open has dropped behind the likes of Wimbledon and the Australian Open and needs to make some serious changes. They have got to find a way of adding a court with a roof - for four years now the men's final has been played on a Monday.

The officials didn't exactly cover themselves in glory, either. The situation with the leak on Louis Armstrong was embarrassing, and some of the scheduling decisions were baffling. To not get the first round finished in two days (Murray didn't play his first match until Wednesday) means organisers are chasing their tail before they have even started.

I appreciate they have commitments to television companies, but they also have a commitment to the players. Without the players there would be no US Open, and I think the USTA have forgotten that.

Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Feeds Feeds: Chris Wilkinson

Chris Wilkinson Close
Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis. Chris Wilkinson is a former British No. 1, who now serves as a tennis commentator and as a coach for the LTA. He is ESPN.co.uk's resident expert, providing an exclusive view on the world of tennis.