New York – Rafael Nadal’s third United States Open and 16th Grand Slam title meant a familiar look for the landscape of men’s tennis – and a worrying wake-up call in the “City That Never Sleeps” for the next generation.
The 31-year-old Spaniard defeated Kevin Anderson to ensure that the last five majors have been won by men over 30.
From Wimbledon in 2003, an incredible 53 of 58 Slams have now been claimed by just five men – Roger Federer (19), Nadal (16), Novak Djokovic (12) and Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka with three apiece.
To hammer home their enduring appeal and dominance, Federer and Nadal shared the four Slams in 2017 – Federer beating Nadal in the Australian Open final before capturing a record eighth Wimbledon.
Nadal claimed an unprecedented 10th French Open before adding another US title on Sunday.
Both Federer and Nadal have five titles apiece for 2017, impressive for two men who were ranked 16 and nine respectively at the end of 2016.
With Murray, Djokovic and Wawrinka sidelined with injury, the US Open was to be the tournament where the “NextGen” was to make its mark.
However, it was grim fortnight for most of the young pretenders.
Germany’s Alexander Zverev, who was seeded four, fell in the second round to Borna Coric despite arriving in New York with five titles, including the US Open tune-up in Montreal.
The 20-year-old’s best Slam performance remains his fourth-round run at Wimbledon.
“I’ve been dealing with expectations from a very young age, so for my whole career. For me, this is just another step,” he said after his loss to Coric in a half of the draw thrown wide open after the injury-hit withdrawal of Murray.
“For me, nothing changes. I still have to go back to work and then try to win this title maybe in the future years.
“I know that I could have done some big things here. I know that I could have done something that I haven’t done before. But I won’t. It’s just as simple as that.”
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios lost first round to compatriot John Millman while sixth-seeded Dominic Thiem, 24, squandered two match points in a five-set defeat in the fourth round to Juan Martin del Potro.
There was some hope for the future stars.
Frances Tiafoe, just 19 and ranked at 70 to start the tournament, pushed Federer to five sets in the first round.
Grigor Dimitrov, who famously described himself as the “old next generation” was knocked out by 19-year-old Andry Rublev of Russia.