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Liguori: Classy Champions Crowned After Unique US Open Fortnight

By Ann Liguori
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It was a US Open that said hello to a retractable roof, goodbye to Louis Armstrong Stadium, hello to a new women's No. 1 in Angelique Kerber and another new star in Karolina Pliskova.

It was an Open that saw four huge stars -- Andy Murray, Rafael Nadal, Venus Williams and Serena Williams -- exiting early, unprofessional tactics by Gael Monfils and a well-deserved championship for the hard-working Swiss star Stan Wawrinka.

The $150 million roof was the talk of the first week. It stole the show on opening night when it opened during a Phil Collins' song and several times during the fortnight. It takes about seven minutes for the roof to open or close and although it did salvage one stormy day that would have almost been a complete wash out, players had new issues to deal with, like more humidity and noise when the roof was closed.

The Armstrong court will be torn down and rebuilt as a new 14,000-seat stadium by 2018 with a temporary court used for next year. The Armstrong Court was the main showcase court until the Arthur Ashe court was built in 1997. This is the final phase of the massive transformation project that has been taking place for years.

Kerber, the 28-year-old from Germany, won her first US Open title, adding it to the first major crown she won this year at the Australian Open. Kerber beat Pliskova, 6-3, 4-6, 6-4, in one of the finest women's final I've seen in a long time. Kerber stayed calm and returned beautifully as the 6-foot-1 Pliskova amped up her serve in the second and third sets and played a more aggressive game, coming to net and hitting winning volleys.

But Kerber smacked forehand down-the-line winners and was consistent with her return of serve. She backed up her new No. 1 ranking, becoming the first German player to win the US Open since her childhood idol, Steffi Graf, took home the title in 1996.

Pliskova was quite impressive, ousting not one, but both Williams sisters along the way to her first Grand Slam final. She became the first player to beat both Williams sisters at a major since eventual champion Kim Clijsters in 2009. Pliskova, at 24, emerged as a new star in the women's game and should only get better with more experience and confidence.

Frenchman Lucas Pouille's hard-hitting accurary was ultra-impressive, as he ousted Nadal in the fourth round. Monfil's behavior in the first two sets against Novak Djokovic in their semifinal, in which Monfil didn't go after shots and tried other antics out of desperation, was unprofessional.

Wawrinka pulled off a well-deserved win over top-seeded Djokovic in the final, 6-7, 6-4, 7-5, 6-3, for his first US Open title. It was an intense battle of power and finesse during the first three sets before Djokovic slowed in the fourth and Wawrinka continued his relentless pursuit of his third major title, two of them now coming at Djokovic's expense.

At 31 years and 5 months, Wawrinka became the oldest US Open champion since Ken Rosewall won in 1970 when he was 35.

At the end of another memorable US Open, the men's and women's finals made all of tennis proud. There were great efforts by all the finalists, and impressive wins by Kerber and Wawrinka, two classy champions.

Follow Ann on Twitter at @AnnLiguori

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