August 22, 2014
They call New York ‘the city that never sleeps’ – and the US Open at Flushing Meadows does its best to live up to the reputation. Here are the most extreme late-night finishes this gloriously chaotic tournament has ever seen.
Equal First: 2.26am
2012: Philipp Kohlschreiber beat John Isner 6-4, 3-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a third-round clash that matched the previous record.
Imagine how late they would have finished if Isner’s serve had been on-song! (It took him three days to grind down an opponent at Wimbledon a couple of years earlier.) At 2.30am, Kohlscreiber saluted the crowd New York crowd. ‘It’s very late, so everbody here is a really crazy tennis fan.’ No kidding Phil!
Equal First: 2.26am
1993: Mats Wilander beat fellow Swede Mikael Pernfors after five sets and four hours of sporting combat.
‘Ever played so late?’ Wilander was asked afterwards. ‘Played what?’ replied Wilander, bringing the house down.
2002: Younes El Agnaoui played Wayne Ferrer so late that even the back-room staff at Flushing Meadows were reluctant to get the show on the road on Court Four.
The locker rooms were reportedly locked, El Agnaoui had to wait twenty minutes for an attendant to open up. In the end the players shared the last car out of the venue and ate dinner together in Manhattan. It might as well have been breakfast.
2008: Rafa Nadal beat Mardy Fish in a match that didn’t start until 11.30pm because of an earlier war of attrition between the Williams sisters. This was the closest most of Rafa’s romantic admirers ever came to spending an entire night with their heartthrob.
2007: The late-night intimacy with Rafa had begun the previous year when he was beaten by David Ferrer in four sets in their round-of-sixteen tie. ‘I’m very tired,’ Ferrer admitted afterwards, though he didn’t say whether it was due to physical exertion or because the clock had ticked past 2am by the time he spoke.
A New York police officer told legendary commentator Bud Collins that he was less than impressed by the crowd’s refusal to leave Flushing Meadows until the show was over.
‘These people are either homeless or insomniacs,’ the jaded cop confided.
1991: Jimmy Connors staged a memorable comeback against Patrick McEnroe when Connors was old enough to have preferred being tucked up in bed with a cup of cocoa long before midnight. He beat John McEnroe’s feisty brother 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4.
Although it was only the first round, this remains one of the best and most fondly remembered occasions in US Open history. (The veteran Connors charged all the way to the semi-finals that year.)
2010: Samantha Stosur took 2hrs 38mins to beat Elena Dementieva 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(2). Russian Dementieva fizzled out because, as she explained even later, ‘I was feeling…like…a little bit sleepy.’
She was almost too tired to finish the sentence. Stosur survived four match points before proving the more effective at keeping her eyes open. This was the latest finish in the history of the women’s tournament.
1987: Gabriela Sabatini, the pin-up girl from Argentina, kept her admirers hanging on well into the early hours before she overcame Beverly Bowes 6-3, 6-3 in their first-round tussle.
Sabatini was only seventeen years old at the time. It really was well past her bed-time.
Last year Andy Murray complained because his match against Michael Lodra didn’t start until 9.55pm. Murray won in straight sets and got the job done by 11.33pm.
Come on Andy, this is New York. The fans like their guests to arrive late and stay late.
Whether they are crazy tennis fanatics, insomniacs or homeless, the Flushing Meadows crowd knows just what makes the US Open special. Schedule? Who needs a schedule anyway?
Forget the body-clock…or any clock.
Don’t ask those fans: ‘What’s the time?’
They might just reply: ‘What’s time, man?’
Want to see the great heroes of tennis, timeless or otherwise, at Wimbledon next summer? Book your tickets now and look forward to the biggest tournament of all.