While attending the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the top 50 male and female tennis players in the world and a few wildcards battled for coveted titles, I came up with an idea. I figured as the last major –the U.S. Open– of 2018 approaches, it's a good time to review the most phenomenal moments of tennis of the year thus far – from the triumphs to the biggest comebacks.
1. Novak Djokovic comes back from a dry spell and achieves the career Golden Masters.
I witnessed Djokovic earn his first Cincinnati Masters title with my own two eyes. After making it to the finals here five times prior and walking away each time with a runner-up trophy, Djokovic defeated Roger Federer in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4 to attain his first championship win here and to become the first person to achieve the Career Golden Masters, meaning he has won all nine Masters 1000 events at least once. He also cruised past worn-out Kevin Anderson, who experienced lengthy quarterfinal and semifinal matches, 6-2, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) in the final at Wimbledon in July to secure his 13th grand slam title. After having a rough past year with no ATP wins and a coach change, this former world number-one is on the verge of returning to the coveted top ranking.
2. Serena Williams comes back after maternity leave and makes it to the Wimbledon Final.
After winning the Australian Open in January of 2017 while secretly two months pregnant and giving birth to Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr., the 23-time grand slam champion and former world number-one Williams returned to the tennis stage in early March. Just four months later, Williams surged to the Wimbledon final before losing to Angelique Kerber 3-6, 3-6. Although she lost, Williams quickly became a role model for women everywhere trying to bounce back from childbirth. She revealed in a CNN article that she almost died giving birth to her daughter; the C-section went smoothly, but she soon developed a pulmonary embolism and her C-section wound opened, which revealed a hematoma, and she spent the next six weeks in bed. Williams said she wanted to win Wimbledon for her daughter and although she lost in the final, she still won over the hearts of many through her bravery and resilience.
3. John Isner wins his first ATP Masters 1000 event
We all know Isner as the victor of the longest match in tennis history – the 2010 Wimbledon first rounder that lasted 11 hours, five minutes and spanned over three days – and the holder of the third highest number of aces in ATP history, but 2018 really has been his year. At the Miami Open, Isner defeated Alexander Zverev to attain his first Masters 1000 title. A few months later, he played the third longest tennis match of all time after making it into a major semifinal for the first time in his career. Isner fell short of a victory to Kevin Anderson 6-7, 7-6, 7-6, 4-6, 24-26 in a match that lasted six hours, 36 minutes. These achievements allowed Isner to reach a singles ranking of 8, the highest in his career thus far.
4. WTA world number-one Simona Halep attains her first grand slam title.
After losing in the French Open final in 2014 and 2017, Halep came back from a set down to win her first major, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 against Sloane Stephens. Halep revealed in an interview at Wimbledon, before losing there in the third round to Hsieh Su-wei, that with a grand slam title under her belt now, she feels "no pressure" to win anymore. She won a WTA Premier title against Stephens 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 6-4 in early August – and tennis fans everywhere hope to see more success from the Romanian in the upcoming months.
There is a plethora of other remarkable events that have happened in the tennis world this year, but not enough room to discuss all of them. The incredible occurrences of 2018 are another reminder that tennis is a tremendous sport built upon supportive, wonderful fans and talented players with an extreme love for the game.