The US Open was held first in 1881. However, it was not until 1887 that women were allowed to participate. From 1887 till date barring an 11-year spell from 1891 to 1901, the event has always been decided in a best of three-set format. From 1891 to 1901, women were required to compete in 5 sets just like Men. The US Open is the only Grand Slam today which uses a tie-break system to decide the winner in cases where the match does go all the way.
The only Grand Slam to have been played on 3 different surfaces (1887 to 1974 on grass, 1975 to 1977 on clay, 1978 - present on hard courts), the US Open was also the first Grand Slam to offer equal prize money to women competitors vis-a-vis Men players. All other Grand Slams followed suit much later. The only woman to have won the US Open on 2 different surfaces is Chris Evert. Evert won the title on all the 3 years that the tournament was played on clay. She later would go on to win 3 more titles on the hard courts of New York.
In the Open Era, Chris Evert and Serena Williams hold the record for the most US Open titles won with 6 a piece. Players belonging to 17 different countries have won the tournament.
Our focus here is on 4 great players who deserved a US Open crown but fell short of winning one :
#1 Mary Pierce
Canadian born French woman Mary Pierce is the last women's player from France to have won the French Open title. She did so in the year 2000. Prior to that, her performance at a Grand Slam was winning the Australian Open in 1995 following which she rose to a career-high ranking of World Number 3. In her best years, Pierce never made it past the 4th round at Flushing Meadows. In the fag end of her career at the age of 30, Pierce hit a purple patch as she made the finals at Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of Wimbledon Singles' for the first time in 10 years and won the Mixed Doubles title at the same competition.
Carrying the same form, Pierce went into the US Open seeded 12th. She had a remarkable run to the final beating higher ranked players like Justine-Henin, Amelie Mauresmo and Elena Dementieva en-route. She however finished runner-up to Kim Clijsters. Battling injuries, Pierce retired from professional tennis the following year.
#2 Amelie Mauresmo
The second French woman on the list is Amelie Mauresmo. Mauresmo who rose to the top of the WTA rankings in 2004, couldn't sustain the momentum in 2005 slipping to Number 3 in the year-end rankings. Her only Major title of 2005 was the WTA Finals Championship.
2006 was probably the best year of Mauresmo's career as she won her maiden Grand Slam trophy Down Under beating Justine Henin. She would go and win Wimbledon beating Henin again in the final. At Flushing Meadows, she progressed to the semi-finals where she lost to then 17-year-old teenage sensation Maria Sharapova.
Prior to that, Mauresmo's best performance at the US Open was a semi-final appearance in 2002. Seeded 8th in the tournament, Mauresmo beat 3rd seed Jennifer Capriati and 7th seed Kim Clijsters in 3 sets each to set-up a clash against 2nd seed Venus Williams. Having won two arduous 3 set encounters against Capriati and Clijsters, Mauresmo just didn't have enough in the tank as she lost to Venus in 3 sets.
Mauresmo didn't feature in the 2007 US Open due to injury. A 4th round loss in 2008 and a 2nd round loss in 2009 followed before her retirement from professional tennis.
#3 Jennifer Capriati
The winner of 3 Grand Slam Singles titles, the Olympic Gold at the Barcelona Olympics and former World Number 1 Jennifer Capriati could have possibly gone on to win a lot more titles considering that she rose to stardom while still in her mid-teens.
In 1990, Capriati became the youngest player to reach the semis of the French Open at the tender age of 14. Following her exploits at Roland Garros, she became the youngest ever player to be ranked in the WTA top-10 at 14 years and 235 days.
The 1991 US Open semifinals featured the future of women’s tennis as two teens, Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati, demonstrated raw aggression and power. Seles, on her way to her third Grand Slam singles crown of the year, won their match in an epic third set tiebreaker. Following her remarkable rise, Capriati battled a lot of personal issues taking a long sabbatical from the Sport. She never regained her form until the turn of the millennium following she re-discovered her mojo to win 3 Grand Slam titles.
Her second semi-final appearance at Flushing Meadows came 10 years after her first in 2001. She would make the semis in New York again in 2003 and 2004 before retiring from the Sport in 2004.
#4 Evonne Goolagong Cawley
Evonne Goolagong Cawley is probably Bjorn Borg’s equivalent on the women’s circuit in a sense that despite making the Finals of the US Open multiple times neither could cross the final hurdle to lift the trophy. Goolagong won 68 WTA titles (6th in the all-time charts) and reached 18 Grand Slam finals (5th highest of all-time), winning seven of them. But in New York, she always fell just short.
Evonne Goolagong Cawley reached the finals of the US Open on 4 successive years between 1973 to 1976 inclusive. In 1973 final, she lost to Margaret Court Smith in 3 sets. In 1974 and 1975, she lost her finals match to Billie-Jean King and Chris Evert in 3 sets each. On both these occasions, she lost after winning the first set. A straight sets loss to defending champion Chris Evert followed in 1976 as her dream of winning the elusive US Open continued.