The most memorable US Open moments
Tennis at the US Open is unlike any other tournament. While Wimbledon, the French and Australian Opens are great in their own ways, the US Open is widely regarded as the toughest of the Grand Slam tournaments. Epic matches held in Arthur Ashe Stadium and the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, together with the raucous crowds cheering every great point, make tennis in Manhattan a sight unlike any other. While there have been many great moments in the tournament’s history, some have stood out more so than others.
One of the most memorable and symbolic moments was accomplished by Arthur Ashe himself. In 1968, the first year professionals were allowed to compete, it was the amateur Ashe who stunned the tennis world by defeating Tom Okker in five sets to win the Open championship. Ashe won a gruelling five-set match, becoming the first African-American to win a Grand Slam championship. Not only was Ashe an American tennis hero after the win, but his victory was also a boost for the ongoing civil rights movement, to which he was deeply committed.
In 1980, a feisty New Yorker named John McEnroe, or “Johnny Mac” as he was dubbed by his fans, took to the courts to face his two greatest rivals, Jimmy Connors and Bjorn Borg. Earlier in the year at Wimbledon, Borg and McEnroe played an epic final that went to Borg, so McEnroe wanted revenge. The semifinal saw him defeat Connors in a thrilling five-setter, but the match was exhausting and left him only one day to rest before facing Borg. In a testament to his desire to win, McEnroe played another incredible five-set match against Borg, this time defeating him for the title. The back-to-back five-setters to win the championship are still today considered one of the greatest feats in US Open history.
A decade later, Flushing Meadows was introduced to another youngster who would go on to become tennis royalty. Pete Sampras, an inconsistent 19-year old in 1990, put together a streak of greatness to defeat Ivan Lendl and John McEnroe to reach the finals against Andre Agassi. Sampras played yet another great match, easily defeating Agassi in straight sets to become the youngest Men’s champion.
The following year found Jimmy Connors, once the tour’s young gun, on the back end of his career. At age 39 and ranked 174th in the world, he was given little chance for success. However, for two weeks he found the fountain of youth and won match after match, including an epic five-setter against Aaron Krickstein. He eventually lost to Jim Courier in the semis, but for two weeks the old man gave fans one last thrill at the Open.
After his magical run to the 2005 finals, Andre Agassi returned for one last hurrah at the 2006 tournament. Fans and players knew he would be retiring after the tournament, win or lose. He made it to the third round before losing to qualifier Benjamin Becker in four sets. However, it wasn’t the match that fans remember. Instead, it was Agassi’s farewell speech to the crowd that left no dry eyes in the stadium. Thanking the crowd for their inspiration and long-time support, Agassi left Flushing Meadows as one of the classiest players to ever set foot on the court.