August 21, 2014
Flushing Meadows is known for raucous crowds and crazy late-night schedules. There have been some wonderful highlights at the US Open over the years. We’ve picked out just five of our favourites.
1/ ASHE MAKES HISTORY – 1968
Arthur Ashe became the first African American man to win a Grand Slam. At the start of the Open era and before tie-breakers, he defeated a Dutchman called Tom Okker in a five-set thriller. The opening set was a feat of endurance in itself. In the end it all boiled down to who wanted the title more. Ashe’s will-power prevailed and he triumphed 14-12, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Ashe achieved instant hero status within the American civil rights movement. He never won the US Open again, yet his name will be remembered at the tournament forever.
(In 1997 Arthur Ashe Stadium became the main stage at the US Open, four years after the tennis star sadly passed away.)
2/ MARATHON MAN MCENROE – 1980
John McEnroe’s surge to glory involved two of the most memorable matches the US Open has ever seen. First he defeated one arch-rival, Jimmy Connors, despite being “bagled” in the third set. Supermac hit back to win 6-4, 5-7, 0-6, 6-3, 7-6. Somehow he still had the energy to take revenge on the man who had edged him in a Wimbledon classic earlier that summer – the brilliant Bjorn Borg.
Despite the Swede’s dramatic comeback in the final, McEnroe won the title 7-6 (4), 6-1, 6-7 (5), 5-7, 6-4 to complete his marvellous marathon
3/ NAVRATILOVA STUNS GRAF – 1991
Steffi Graf had won their previous four meetings and it looked as though time had finally caught up with the magnificent Martina Navratilova. Then we were treated to their classic semi-final, an enthralling battle of wills.
Navratilova emerged triumphant 7-6 (7-2), 6-7, (8-6), 6-4. It was her reward for relentless attacking and her refusal to crack, just when it appeared she might choke in the third set.
(Monica Seles defeated a jaded Navratilova 7-6 (7-1), 6-1 in the final to claim her first US Open. Yet it was the semi-final that lingered longest in the memory.)
4/ SAMPRAS AND AGASSI EARN STANDING OVATION – 2001
Just before 9/11 changed New York forever, we were treated to one of the city’s very finest sporting moments. Even before this scintillating quarter-final was over, the 23, 033 crowd rose to give Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi a spontaneous standing ovation, a display of love and appreciation that almost reduced Sampras to tears.
‘That was the first time I was ever affected by a crowd to the point where it got me out of a match mentally,’ Sampras later confessed.
“Pistol Pete” quickly refocused to close out an epic 6-7 (7), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5). Agassi wasn’t broken all match – and still lost!
Were it not for the tie-breakers, they would prbably still have been slugging it out the following morning.
5/ HENIN EDGES CAPRIATI IN SPORTING WAR – 2003.
Justine Henin-Hardenne, as she was known back then, didn’t just face Jennifer Capriati in their semi-final. The whole of America was backing the home favourite. Capriati was desperate not to disappoint. But the plucky Belgian refused to be beaten, despite being two points from defeat several times. The match turned into one of the most memorable clashes of all time in any sport, not just tennis. Inspired by the memory of her late mother, Henin finally managed to bludgeon Capriati into submission 4-6, 7-5, 7-6 (4)… but at what price?
The winner left the arena with a drip attached to her arm, totally exhausted and dehydrated.
‘I’m so tired but I know my mother is fully aware of what I’m doing,’ she said. Incredibly, just twenty hours later, Justine somehow summoned the strength to defeat arch-rival Kim Clijsters in the final.
So those are our five most memorable US Open highlights. You’ll have your own, of course. And doubtless we’ll have a few more to savour in the next fortnight and then cherish forever.
Bring it on!