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Wednesday, November 6, 2019 5:00:44 AM

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Usually I close a Grand Slam by handing out grades to the players, and other lead actors in the drama. Back in the U. It was a two-week movie with an ending that, while it might not have pleased every fan, was a happy one for the sport.

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Everyone will have their favorite moments; here are my Top 8. Brady saved four match points to beat Heather Watson, and eventually stunned everyone by reaching the fourth round. Better yet, they have a new competitor to watch.

But as he showed in his five-set, second-round win over Nick Kyrgios, he can play that tennis well. By saving a match point with an all-or-nothing forehand winner, the straight man became a star for a night. When the match was over, Seppi bent double in celebration, finally letting everyone know how much it meant to him.

The biggest, and best, reason to support a quicker surface was the sudden rise of Mischa Zverev. He did things no one thought possible anymore. He served and volleyed; he chipped and charged; he won points with stretch volleys, drop volleys and half-volley pickups from his shoe tops.

Instead of hammering the ball on every shot, he mixed paces and spins into a patient and intriguingly varied whole.

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Hopefully, some talented young player somewhere liked what he saw. From her Samprasian service motion to her easy forehand power, the year-old Vandeweghe looked like an athlete finally finding out what she was capable of doing, and who she was capable of destroying i.

The highlight was the way she closed out Eugenie Bouchard in a close first-week match: by belting a no-fear backhand down the line for a no-doubt-about-it winner. Is that a shot, and a game, she can reproduce on a regular basis? This is one traditionalist fan who hopes so. Un-Dimmed The camera in the tunnel can be cruel: This is where we see losing players trudge morosely toward the locker room.

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Despite losing a five-hour heartbreaker to Nadal in the semifinals, he flashed a smile at the first person he saw: the usher in the hallway. Dimitrov had just finished the best big tournament of his career with one of his finest performances. Playing with more patience, solidity and smarts than ever, the year-old was a thrill to watch this month.

Having watched her win big matches before, I had a feeling we were in for a memorable celebration when she reached match point against Karolina Pliskova in the quarterfinals.

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Lucic-Baroni had last played a Grand Slam semi in , when she was 16; now, after enduring much, she was back at Unfortunately, she had to turn around and play Serena the next day, and had little left. Before their final, Venus and Serena both said there would be no losers, and this time the words were believable.

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And when the ordeal was over, you could see how happy they were to be back on the same side of the net. Venus inspired Serena to be better than her, and then to be better than everyone else.

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Thankfully this first family—of tennis—can stay in office as long as it likes. It was, in my estimation, the fourth best of their 35 matches: a little better than their five-set Australian Open final, which it resembled for certain stretches, but not quite as good as their five-set Wimbledon final, which was resembled in the way it ended.

Rafa, on the other hand, succumbed to his own long-term negative dynamic: He played well enough to make a comeback and well enough to take a lead, but not well enough to hold that lead. Still, the good news for tennis is that these two popular players have allayed any doubts about their future viability.

Nadal reached his first Slam final in three years, while Federer won his first major in five. The Aussie final reversed the result of the final, and so did the trophy ceremony.

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Eight years ago, it was Nadal who consoled Federer; this year it was Federer who returned the favor. Federer and Nadal kicked off the Big Four era together a decade ago, but for years their fans have been divided.

On this night, when they met more as friends than rivals, it felt like the old Big Four wars—between players and fans—were behind us, at least for a moment. We could use that moment to celebrate them together. As Rafa, Roger, Venus, Serena, Mirjana, Mischa, Andreas and others showed us in Melbourne, sometimes getting older really can be a beautiful thing to watch.

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