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U.S. Open 2016 midterm grades: Serena, del Potro, Monfils earn top honors

Serena Williams, Gael Monfils, Juan Martin del Potro and the Arthur Ashe roof lead Jon Wertheim's 2016 U.S. Open midterm grades.

NEW YORK – No Federer. No Sharapova. No Problem. The 2016 U.S. Open already has put plenty on display. The new (courts, roof, potential stars) and the familiar (Williams, Djokovic, Murray.) The old, led by 37-year-old Ivo Karlovic and 36-year-old Venus Williams. And the young—teenagers, many American. There have been bangers and touch players. Servers and returners. Conventional points and points won like this.

Maybe most gratifying for the organizers, the event has seen a welter of fans. Both Friday’s and Saturday’s day sessions drew crowds of more than 40,000, both records.

This year’s fashion trend: players wearing all yellow, looking like so nothing so much as human hi-liters. It’s a reminder that the deepest passages are yet to come. Meantime, here are some marks from the first week of the year’s last major:


Serena Williams

How’s that right shoulder holding up? She has faced only one break point through her first three easy, breezy matches.

Juan Martin del Potro

A wild card well spent. The 2009 champ builds on his Olympics success, forehand-ing his way to the second week, beating Stevie Johnson and David Ferrer in the process.

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Rafael Nadal

He lost in the first round of Australia. After two rounds, he pulled out of the French Open. He missed Wimbledon entirely. And through three rounds, he’s played at a dizzyingly high level, punctuated by this:

Gael Monfils

Now 30, the best athlete in the sport (in sports period? Discuss) has kept his artistic integrity, but has matured. La Monf has yet to drop a set through three matches, continuing a sensational summer.

Caroline Wozniacki

A finalist two years ago, she came in ranked No. 74. And she has essentially salvaged her year by reaching the middle weekend.

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The Roof

Or “the toupee” as Pete Bodo nicely calls it, is a welcome touch and has already come in handy. But you get the sense that—to mix bodily metaphors—the USTA got caught flat-footed on the acoustics, as a string of players have griped about the noise level.

Jared Donaldson

Such an impressive week for the 19-year-old Rhode Islander. After qualifying—i.e. earning main draw access the honest way—he beats David Goffin and Viktor Troicki relying on both an elite serve and elite return game, which bode well for future success. Alas, he had few answers against Ivo Karlovic. But what a revelation.

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Novak Djokovic

The good news is the defending champ remains in the draw. The less good news: he has played only three proper sets, the beneficiary of back-to-back injured opponents. That gave him extra time to treat his own injuries (and bum left wrist and potential right arm injury as well) but you wonder how it affects his rhythm.


Frances Tiafoe

American teenager shows his stuff for 4.9 sets against John Isner. But his inability to serve out the match at 5-3 in the fifth set might (and probably should) stick in his craw for a while.

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Naomi Oaska

Japanese teenager shows her stuff for 2.9 sets against Madison Keys. But her inability to serve out the match at 5-1 in the third set might (and probably should) stick in her craw for a while.

The new Grandstand

A snazzy new court that could end up being the equal of its predecessor. But the USTA needs to change the policy and turn it into festival seating. Too many of the prime seats go unoccupied while the real fans pack the rafters.

Ryan Harrison

Once a wunderkind, at age 24, Harrison had to qualify just to get in the main draw. He won a pair of matches—including a takedown of Milos Raonic—but then lost a winnable match against Marcos Baghdatis.


Monica Puig

She had a hell of an act to follow—and had acquitted herself well in two weeks hectic weeks of victory laps. But the Olympic gold medalist bowed quietly in round one.


Garbine Muguruza

Following a dazzling French Open title, it’s been a dismal summer for Mugu. She matches her second-round defeat at Wimbledon with a second round loss here. For perspective: in 34 appearances at those two events, Serena Williams never lost before the third round.

Milos Raonic

After reaching the Wimbledon final, the Canadian pulls out of the Olympics, presumably to gear up for the U.S. Open. The gamble did not pay off, as he battled cramps and nerves and lost meekly to qualifier Ryan Harrison.

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The U.S. Open app

The rough reviews from you guys are well deserved. The load time is problematic. The scoring design is confusing. And from the players’ baby photos to the absent photo of former champs to the wrong photos the visuals are embarrassing. On the plus side, hire an intern to play around on Google image and you could improve the thing immensely in an hour.

Reciprocal wild cards

Wild cards fly in the face of fairness and should be examined more closely. But these “reciprocal wild cards” are especially unseemly. Virginie Razzano, the 33-year-old French beneficiary of a $43,000 donation lost her first 6-1, 6-2, while Ellen Perez of Australia went down 6-1, 6-1.

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Bernard Tomic

Foster’s is Aussie for beer. Tomic is Aussie for knucklehead. Marries a deplorable outburst with a borderline tank job in first round loss. He got docked $10,000 for “unsportsmanlike conduct” which, in his case, is a redundancy.