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Welcome to Roland Garros 2009 in New York

It’s the 2009 French Open, live at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows!

Wait a minute. What?

The French Open is played in Paris, not New York. This isn’t 2009. What are we even talking about here?

The point is this: We have entered the end stages of the 2022 U.S. Open. This tournament feels like the 2009 Roland Garros event in which everything felt fragile and wide-open after Rafael Nadal lost on the men’s side, and there was no obvious, dominant women’s player.

Iga Swiatek is the No. 1 seed, and she could definitely win this tournament, but no one would say she is playing the best tennis out of anyone in the field. Jessica Pegula, Coco Gauff, Caroline Garcia, and Ons Jabeur enter the quarterfinals all playing better tennis.

The women’s tournament is entirely up for grabs. Any of the eight women left could win it. This recalls 2009 Roland Garros, when Svetlana Kuznetsova — though already a major champion — made an unexpected run to a second major title.

On the men’s side, the connection with 2009 Roland Garros is much more obvious and easy to identify: No Rafa. No Djokovic. In 2009, Roger Federer knew this was his big chance, but that knowledge did not help him. Federer played unsteady tennis with Rafa out of the draw. He had to rescue himself from a two-set deficit against Tommy Haas. He was down two sets to one and then tied 3-3 in the fifth set against Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals before pulling off a narrow escape. It wasn’t until he won the second-set tiebreaker against Robin Soderling in the final that his French Open title felt secure. It was not a dominant run. It was a run marked by handling big-pressure moments well.

That’s the challenge facing every ATP player left in the field in New York this week. One will win a first major title, and it will come down to the #INNERGAME of blocking out the buzz and the distractions and playing calm, focused, poised tennis in stressful situations.

Welcome to the 2009 French Open in lovely Flushing Meadows, New York!

Now you get the fuller picture.

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