NEW YORK—It’s kind of hard to leave the U.S. Open after being pre-occupied with it for 15 days and nights. But before I go, I’m going to try to capture a sense of what transpired this past fortnight-plus by publishing 14 thoughts on the just-completed tournament. These are in no particular order of importance:

1. Be careful what you wish for if you’re one of those fans just dying to see the long-predicted “changing of the guard” in men’s tennis. The mens’ finalists were not culled from the usual “long-shot” suspects like Tomas Berdych, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, or David Ferrer, nor from the ranks of the young turks. The fact that No. 14 seed Marin Cilic and No. 10 Kei Nishikori fought for the trophy suggests that should the “Big Four” vanish tomorrow, there would be no new guard coming it.

Meaning, I can’t see Nishikori or Cilic, or even Australian Open champ Stan Wawrinka, taking over the post. Rather, we’ll see a wide variety of players taking turns producing surprising results. That has its own appeal, of course, but the “changing of the guard” implies an orderly transition from one distinct group to another, and I don’t see that happening in the men's game—nor, for that matter, in the women's game, when Serena Williams relents.

2. Prodigies need not apply anymore when it comes to candidates for overnight stardom. Catherine (CiCi) Bellis created a sensation when she upset No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round, and she played a pretty good three-set second-round match against Zarina Diyas. But Bellis was the top seed in the junior event as well, and she was beaten in the second round by Russia’s Natalia Vikhlyantseva. It’s possible that Bellis was emotionally drained or adversely affected by all the attention she received because of her main-draw activities. Fair enough. But the facts suggest that even the most promising of youngsters have their hands full in the junior division these days—never mind dreams of making it deep into the main event.

3. Medical time outs are bad medicine, and so are the bathroom-break rules. We saw during the Peng Shuai controversy that there were no real protocols followed at all, thanks mainly to the way the “heat rule” is essentially an “anything goes because it’s scary hot and someone could get hurt out there” rule. But isn’t it absurd that a player, who’s already woozy and incapable of sound judgment, can unilaterally elect to go back on court after an evaluation and three-minute treatment?

Injury timeouts are being terribly abused, even by juniors. Twice this year, at Roland Garros and the U.S. Open, a junior player freely and comfortably admitted to taking an injury timeout even though he didn’t really need one. It’s part of the game now, just like grunting and shrieking. In each case, the kid took it because his opponent had already received a bogus time-out for a massage.

I don’t have enough space to go into the details here, but I think when a player takes an injury timeout he ought to be obliged to consult with a doctor, and the decision about whether he or she continues ought to be made by the physician. And please, no massages. Just evaluation and taping, if necessary.

As for bathroom breaks, they’re so common now that they ought to be automatic at the end of each set. Players could choose to take it or remain on court.

14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open

14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open

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4. Is there life after winning Wimbledon? That has to be the question eating at Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic and Petra Kvitova. Murray hasn't been the same since he won Wimbledon last year, ending a 77-year title drought for British men. The unique circumstances attending that win make it easier to see how, in the aftermath of that kingdom-wide emotional moment, Murray might be asking himself, “Is that all there is?”

It’s also true that Murray missed the fall segment last year due to minor back surgery, but he pronounced himself fit way back in February. Since then, he’s made it past the quarterfinals of a tournament just twice, and he’s fallen to No. 11.

As for Djokovic, after he won Wimbledon this year, he lost in the third round at both summer Masters events. He made the semifinals at the U.S. Open, but his performance against Nishikori was underwhelming, as was Kvitova’s third-round loss to qualifier Alexsandra Krunic. Maybe Marion Bartoli was on to something when she quit the game cold after winning Wimbledon in 2013.

5. It’s back to the drawing board for U.S. juniors, who entered the Open with high hopes but failed to put a single individual or team into the championship match in any of the four 18-and-under disciplines (singles and doubles, for boys and girls). Perhaps it’s some consolation to them that the tournament produced truly unpredictable results. The highest seed to reach any of those four finals was No. 5 Quentin Halys, of France, and even he lost—to unseeded Omar Jasika of Australia.

6. Is it time to rethink the upside of Simona Halep? Sure, it was fun to jump on the Halep bandwagon. The French Open runner-up is just 5’6”, refreshingly modest, and a regular dynamo when it comes to covering the court and trading punches with women who have six or eight inches and 30 or 40 pounds on her. But she crumbled during the hard-court circuit, and entered the U.S. Open as a highly questionable No. 2 seed needing to prove her worth. She lost in the third round to qualifier Mirjana Lucic-Baroni.

14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open

14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open

7. First he won our hearts, then he broke them. I’m talking about Gael Monfils, of course, the No. 20 seed who seemed to be playing with a newfound focus on—get this—winning (instead of merely putting on a good show) during his upset of Grigor Dimitrov. Alas, the way he simply went away in the fifth set against Roger Federer in their subsequent quarterfinal only confirmed that Monfils is still an emotional flake. Sure it’s tough to focus and believe in yourself when the other guy fought off match points, but Monfils’ lack of resistance after Federer won the fourth set was not just stupefying, it was almost embarrassing to watch.

8. The slice backhand is making a comeback, or that’s what you might think if you watched this U.S. Open closely. The slice is a big part of Federer’s new, more aggressive plan. But champion Cilic also used it to great effect in his matches. Employed as either an approach shot or a “reset” button in the middle of a rally, the slice has been deemed useful once again by a number of elite players—and you know that’s going to rub off on down the line.

9. The champion of champion coaches is. . . Goran Ivanisevic? Think about it. The year started with great fanfare for Djokovic and Federer, who had hired former Grand Slam champions Boris Becker and Stefan Edberg, respectively, as part of their teams. Fast forward to September, and we’re talking about Michael Chang, who helped Nishikori reach his first major final, and Ivanisevic, who received effusive thanks and praise when his protege Cilic won the U.S. Open. Which are the most newsworthy headlines: “Djokovic wins Wimbledon” and “Federer Makes Wimbledon Final”, or, “Nishikori First Japanese Man in Grand Slam Final” and “Number 14 Seed Marin Cilic wins U.S. Open”?

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14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open

14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open

10. The match you should have seen on the women’s side was No. 18 seed Andrea Petkovic’s second-round win over Monica Puig of Puerto Rico. It was a match of superior shotmaking over an extended period, and a vivid demonstration of just how far women’s tennis has come in the past decade.

11. The good news is I get to face John Isner, and the bad news is whatever comes next. Philipp Kohlschreiber has played Isner, seeded No. 13 this year, three years in a row now in Flushing Meadows, each time in the third round. Kohlschreiber has won every meeting.

However, in two of the last three years, Kohlschreiber’s “reward” for beating Isner has been a match with Rafael Nadal (in 2013) or Djokovic (this year). He also lost in the fourth round in 2012.

12. The U.S. Open was a headcase-free zone in the second week, as No. 11 seed Ernests Gulbis was beaten in five sets in the second round by newcomer Dominic Thiem, No. 15 Fabio Fognini was destroyed by unseeded Adrian Mannarino, Bernard Tomic pulled out of his third-round match with David Ferrer owing to a hip injury, and Benoit Paire got waxed in the second round by Pablo Carreno Busta.

13. The game needs Rafael Nadal is one tempting conclusion to arrive at in the wake of this tournament. It seems that the absence of the defending champion didn’t motivate any of the usual suspects to leap through the window of opportunity. It seemed to make them go weak-kneed at the magnitude of the chance. The players who suffered most by failing to capitalize on Rafa’s absence were, first and foremost, Federer, followed closely by top-seeded Djokovic and No. 3 seed Wawrinka, who had a chance to add another major to his resume at the only other Slam played on the hard courts that are so friendly to his game.

14. Only one woman—Serena, who else?—among the top eight seeds lived up to her billing. The seven other quarterfinalists in the women’s draw were all fighting up out of their weight class. Granted, Victoria Azarenka and perhaps even Caroline Wozniacki and Eugenie Bouchard are top eight in substance if not in name, but then why even have rankings? The reality is that the seven women seeded above those ladies earned their places behind Williams, at least for the two weeks of the U.S. Open. But I get the feeling that the game of musical chairs is just beginning, and I don’t even want to think about what’s in store when Williams can’t or won’t compete anymore.

14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open

14 Thoughts from the 2014 U.S. Open