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5 oldest US Open men's singles champions

In 2019, Rafael Nadal became one of the oldest winners at the US Open.
In 2019, Rafael Nadal became one of the oldest winners at the US Open.
Arjun
ANALYST
Modified 22 Jul 2020, 19:56 IST
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The US Open is the oldest Grand Slam tournament after Wimbledon.

The first US Open tournament was held in the year 1881. It is noteworthy to mention that the US Open is the only Grand Slam to have been played on three different surfaces over the course of its 139-year history.

It is also the only Grand Slam tournament that has been played uninterrupted since its inaugural edition.

Until 1974, the US Open was a grass-court affair. For a brief stint during 1975-1977, the tournament was played on clay. Since 1978, the US Open has been played on hard courts.

The US Open was played in Newport, Rhode Island from 1881 to 1914 before it relocated to Forest Hills in New York in 1915 where it stayed for six years. From 1921 to 1923, the US Open moved to Philadelphia in Pennsylvania.

The tournament returned to Forest Hills in 1924, the year it was officially recognised as a Grand Slam tournament by the International Lawn Tennis Federation. On transitioning to hardcourt in 1978, the US Open moved from Forest Hills to its present home at Flushing Meadows in Queens, New York.

68 different players have won the men's singles title at the US Open; 24 of them have done so exclusively in the Open Era. The trio of Rod Laver, Ken Rosewall and John Newcombe won the tournament both in the Amateur and Open Era.

Players from 15 different nationalities have triumphed in men's singles at the US Open. The home country has been represented on 85 occasions, with the last such occasion being 2002 (Pete Sampras).

In the Amateur Era, Richard Sears, Bill Tilden and William Larned won the most US Open singles titles; the trio won seven titles apiece. In the Open Era, Roger Federer, Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors lead the singles trophy count with five triumphs apiece.

In 1973, the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to offer equal prize money to both men and women. The 2019 edition of the tournament saw an all-time record prize money of $57 million on offer, with the men's singles champion Rafael Nadal walking away with a cool $3.85 million cheque.

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On that note, let us take a look at five of the oldest players to have won the singles title at the US Open.

Five oldest men's singles champions at the US Open:

#5: Stanislas Wawrinka (31 years, 167 days) in 2016

Stanislas Wawrinka
Stanislas Wawrinka

In the first US Open not to feature any American player among the top 16 seeds since the seeding system was introduced in 1930, Stanislas Wawrinka recovered from a set down to beat defending champion Novak Djokovic in the final.

The win made Wawrinka the only Swiss player after Roger Federer to win the US Open singles title as the 31-year-old picked up his third Grand Slam title in as many years.

After straight-set wins in the first two rounds against Fernando Verdasco and Alessandro Giannessi, Wawrinka survived a match point in the fourth-set tiebreak against Dan Evans. The 'other' Swiss would drop a set in each of his next four matches at the tournament.

Wawrinka beat Ilya Marchenko in the fourth round and 2009 winner Juan Martin Del Potro in the quarterfinal to move into his third US Open semifinal in four years. After recovering from a set down against 2014 finalist Kei Nishikori, Wawrinka set up a final showdown against the defending champion Novak Djokovic.

Having spent 18 hours on the court compared to Djokovic's 9, the exertion showed on Wawrinka as the Serb took a 5-2 lead. However, the Swiss fought back to recoup the break before conceding the set on a tiebreak.

Wawrinka saw an early break lead disappear in the second but took control when Djokovic fired wide on set point down. The Swiss player was no buzzing, taking a 3-0 lead in the third before Djokovic managed to get back on serve.

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With another tiebreak looming, Wawrinka found his best tennis to take the set 7-5 and a crucial two sets to one lead as it was Djokovic who began to struggle physically.

Djokovic continued to battle on despite a bloodied and blistered toe but the writing was on the wall as Wawrinka saved three break points and then converted his second championship point to become the oldest US Open winner in the Open Era since Ken Rosewall in 1970.

"This is amazing. I came here without the goal of winning it but stepped on the court trying to win the match. I played a lot of tennis, I am completely empty. There was so much emotion with the crowd, the atmosphere, the stadium, it's been an amazing night," said Wawrinka after his victory.

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#4: Rafael Nadal (33 years, 97 days) in 2019

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal

Rafael Nadal won his first US Open title in 2010 to complete the Career Grand Slam, becoming the youngest ever to do so at the age of 24.

Nine years later, the Spaniard celebrated his fourth title at the tournament to move to within one title of all-time Grand Slam title leader Roger Federer (20).

Nadal started his 15th campaign at the US Open with a straight-set win over John Millman before receiving a walkover in the next round against another Australian, Thanasi Kokkinakis. A straight-set win over Hyeon Chung meant that the Spaniard was well rested going into the second week of the tournament.

Marin Cilic provided Nadal a stern test in the fourth round, winning the second set to restore parity before the lefthander conceded only three games in the next two sets to breeze into the quarterfinals.

Nadal then dispatched Diego Schwartzman and first-time Grand Slam semifinalist Matteo Berrettini without dropping a set to reach his fifth US Open final.

Against first-time Grand Slam finalist Daniil Medvedev, Nadal took control of the match by taking the first two sets and a break in the third. Just when it looked like the Spaniard would have one of his easier Grand Slam final wins, the Russian came storming back into the contest.

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Medvedev recouped the break and then broke Nadal again at 5-6 to reduce the arrears courtesy some ruthless hitting from the baseline.

Suddenly the Spaniard started to make unforced errors galore as Medvedev mixed up his baseline game with frequent forays to the net. A single break of Nadal's serve sufficed as Medvedev took the 2019 US Open final to a decider.

The lefthander was reeling under Medvedev's onslaught but managed to save a break point to hold serve in the second game. That hold proved crucial as Medvedev lost serve twice to fall behind 2-5.

However, the Russian refused to throw in the towel, grabbing back one of the breaks but rued squandering break points when Nadal served for the title for the second time.

No man had lost a US Open final after going two sets up since Pancho Gonzalez beat Ted Schroeder in 1949. Nadal eventually ensured that he would not suffer Schroeder's fate as the Spaniard sealed his fourth triumph at Flushing Meadows.

"It has been one of the most emotional nights in my tennis career. It has been an amazing final. It has been a crazy match," Nadal said.

Medvedev was gracious in defeat, commending his opponent for an 'unbelievable' win:

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"I just want to congratulate Rafa; a 19th Grand Slam title is something unbelievable, outrageous."

#3: Ken Rosewall (35 years, 315 days) in 1970

Ken Rosewall
Ken Rosewall

Ken Rosewall is one of only three men to have won the US Open in both the Amateur Era and the Open Era; the other two are his compatriots Rod Laver and John Newcombe).

One of the greatest players in the Amateur Era, Rosewall won Grand Slam titles in the Open Era too despite being well over 30 when the era commenced.

Having won his first US Open title in 1956, Rosewall triumphed for a second time at the tournament 14 years later.

Rosewall, the third seed among an all-Australian top-5 contingent in that edition of the US Open, opened his campaign with straight-set wins in his first three rounds.

After a four-set win over Nikola Pilic, Rosewall had respective straight-set wins over Stan Smith and John Newcombe to reach the final. A title showdown against compatriot Rod Laver, however, did not materialise as the defending champion lost in the fourth round.

Up against another compatriot, Tony Roche, Rosewall started on the wrong foot by dropping the opener for the loss of just two games. But the diminutive Australian quickly recovered to take the next three sets and become the oldest men's singles winner at the US Open in the Open Era.

Incidentally, the 37-year-old Rosewall triumphed at the 1972 Australian Open to become the oldest player in the Open Era to lift a men's singles title.

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Rosewall exhibited tremendous agility and consistency even in his late 30s, making the finals at Wimbledon and US Open in 1974 at the ripe age of 39. Though beaten on both occasions by Jimmy Connors, Ken Rosewall remains the oldest Grand Slam finalist in the Open Era.

#2: Bill Tilden (36 years, 216 days) in 1929

Bill Tilden
Bill Tilden

One of only three men to win seven US Open men's singles titles, Bill Tilden won his seventh title at the competition at the age of 36 in 1893 to become the oldest winner at the tournament in the last hundred years.

After two straight-set wins in the first three rounds, Tilden dropped five sets in the last three rounds of the 1929 US Open.

In both the semifinal against John Doeg and final against Frank Hunter, Tilden had to recover from two sets to one deficits before winning his seventh US Open title in his record tenth singles final at the competition.

It took more than eight decades for a player to reach more than 10 finals at a Grand Slam tournament; Roger Federer reached his 11th Wimbledon final in 2017. A year later, Rafael Nadal reached his 11th title match at Roland Garros.

Bill Tilden holds a number of records at the US Open. The American's six consecutive US Open titles from 1920 to 1925 are the most in competition history behind compatriot Richard Sears who swept the first seven titles at the tournament (1881 to 1887).

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Tilden's eight consecutive US Open finals (1918 to 1925) have only been matched by Ivan Lendl (1982 to 1989).

#1: William Larned (38 years, 170 days) in 1911

William Larned
William Larned

After losing to Malcolm Whitman in the 1900 US Open men's singles final, William Larned tasted only one defeat in his next eight title matches at the tournament.

Larned is one of only four men in US Open history to win five consecutive titles at the tournament, His win over Maurice MacLoughlin in the 1911 final made the 38-year-old American the oldest winner of the men's singles title at the US Open.

Larned's win at the 1911 US Open was the last in the era of the challenge round, which was abolished from the next year.

Published 22 Jul 2020, 19:46 IST
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