As the 2023 U.S. Open, played in New York City, New York, comes to a close, a reigning champion is juxtaposed against younger names entering the top, indicating change in the centuries-old ‘jeu de paume.’ The men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic, ranked first in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals, and Daniil Medvedev, ranked third, resulted in Djokovic continuing his reign at number one.
The three-set match was intense, with the 36 year-old Serbian player coming out on top in spite of physical struggles. In his post-match interview, he insisted that as long as he is playing high-level tennis and winning high-profile tournaments, he does not want to leave the sport. This win marks his 24th Grand Slam title, but some fans have grown tired of the player’s arrogant verbiage and overall attitude off the court.
Regardless of players like Djokovic refusing to give up their crown, some well-known, young names have made their way into the conversations of tennis fans and have become household names in a sport long characterized by famous, older players. Coco Gauff, ranked sixth in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals, won the women’s singles final, her first Grand Slam title. At just 19 years old, she impressed fans with a remarkable come-back after losing the first set to Aryna Sabalenka, ranked first, by a score of six to two. The Belarusian player fell behind in the following two sets, leaving room for Gauff to win. Gauff’s rank is now expected to rise to a career high of number three in the world.
As Gauff accepted her three million dollar check, she thanked tennis icon and activist Billie Jean King for her efforts in fighting for equal pay in men’s and women’s tennis. Because of King, exactly 50 years prior to Gauff’s win, the U.S. Open became the first major tournament to award equal pay for the title. Gauff undeniably made history with this win, being the youngest player to win the US Open since Serena Williams in 1999. Age has become more relevant than ever in the sport. Fans, and critics alike, contend that tennis is becoming a ‘Gen-Z’ sport.
Carlos Alcaraz Garfia, ranked number two in the world by the Association of Tennis Professionals, is a prospect for this new age of players. Though his performance in the 2023 U.S. Open left him eliminated in the semi-final match by opponent Medvedev, he has quickly become well-known since he turned pro in 2018. With two Grand Slam titles under his belt at the age of 20, his high energy and youthful vitality appeals widely to fans. Their cheers were answered when he became the first teenager to be ranked number one in the world. Ben Shelton, a 20 year-old who played at University of Florida last year, is the youngest American player since Michael Chang in 1992 to reach the U.S. Open semi-finals. Peyton Stearns, 21 years-old, who played at University of Texas-Austin, made the round of 16. Both players won NCAA singles titles in 2022 and are now making tremendous waves on the tour.
Some older players, however, did manage to emerge victorious from the 2023 U.S. Open finals. Rajeev Ram, a 39 year-old player from the United States, and Joe Salisbury from Great Britain, won their third straight U.S. Open doubles title, after struggling to win matches all year. The women’s doubles final between 12th seed Laura Siegemund and Vera Zvonareva, former champions, and 16th seed Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe, resulted in Dabrowski and Routliffe cinching the win in a remarkable upset.
The 2023 U.S. Open was full of surprising wins, expected outcomes and exciting change for the sport. This year’s tournament will likely bring about a modern wave of players, most of whom are rather young and newer to the world of pro tennis. As the year goes on, tennis fans must wait and see what the upcoming year has to offer for the sport and its growth.