Two unexpected champions accepted their first Rookwood championship trophies and ended a week that brought more questions than clarity to the upcoming US Open.
Who will be healthy on the women’s side? Will stumbling blocks in the men’s class at the Western & Southern Open be carried over to New York?
And are Madison Keys and Daniil Medvedev able to bring their newfound dynamism to a Grand Slam event? After winning the biggest tournament title of their career, they were already being asked how it could be carried over to the bigger stage.
The keys came together late in both sets and defeated Svetlana Kuznetsova on Sunday 7: 5, 7: 6 (5) for her second title of the season and by far the biggest of her career. After erupting flames in her last three tournaments and a tough draw for the week, she couldn’t imagine the result.
Back on the court to receive the trophy, she told the crowd, “If you had told me I would be here a week ago, I would have laughed in your face!”
But there it was, back in the top 10, on a surprising upswing towards New York.
She will climb to # 10 after a gritty show typical of her week. She broke Kuznetsova to even pull at 5-5 in both sets, then pulled them out with a steady serve.
Keys had failed to make it through the second round in their last three tournaments, including Wimbledon. Now she has a good feeling about her favorite Grand Slam event.
“It’s definitely a great building block,” said Keys. “I want to do well in New York and have a good end to the season.”
At 34, Kuznetsova was the oldest finalist in the history of the Western & Southern Open. For the first time in her 19-year career, she beat three top 10 players in a tournament – Sloane Stephens, Karolina Pliskova and Ashleigh Barty.
The 153rd player got off to a late start to the season as she spent seven months recovering from a knee injury. In her ninth tournament of the season, she brought her game together and got her best result in two years.
“To be honest, I didn’t expect to be that good at this tournament,” she said.
After what happened in Cincinnati during the week, no one knows what to expect in the New York women’s group.
Serena Williams left Cincinnati with back problems that also forced her to withdraw from the Toronto finals. Naomi Osaka, the defending US Open champion, withdrew from her semi-final game on Friday with discomfort in her left knee, making her head for New York about her condition.
There is some intrigue among men too.
The staple in Cincinnati was billed as the Big Four reunion – Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray were back together for the first time since January. None of them made it to the final.
Nadal won the Rogers Cup last Sunday and retired from the Western & Southern, citing fatigue. Murray played singles for the first time since hip replacement in January and lost his opening game. The seven-time champion Federer was eliminated in the quarter-finals, and Djokovic lost in the semifinals to Medvedev, and the crowd cheered him.
The Russian thanked the crowd for their support after beating David Goffin 7-6 (3) and 6-4 for his first Masters 1000 title on Sunday. It was his third consecutive final, but the first time he had won. Medvedev lost to Nadal a week earlier in Montreal and then reached his sixth final of the season, most of them on the ATP tour. He won twice.
“To finally win the trophy this week is an incredible feeling,” said Medvedev.
At the age of 23, he became the youngest Cincinnati champion since Murray in 2008 at the age of 21.
“Congratulations,” said Goffin, “and I think you’re ready for New York.”