The US Open finals have provided some of the most compelling and historic matches in the Open era. Here is a look at the top ten finals, in chronological order.
Laver, who was going for a second career calendar Grand Slam, faced fellow Australian Tony Roche in the 1969 finals at what was then known as the US Championships. With the event still played on grass courts, both men used their serve and volley games to the max. While Roche’s forehand did damage in the opening set, it was Laver who took control to easily win the last three sets.
Laver won 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 to win the title and earn his second career calendar Grand Slam. “I’m the luckiest guy here,” said Laver after accepting the winner’s trophy.
Connors entered the 1977 US Open as the defending champion and boldly proclaimed it was his title and someone would have to take it from him. Enter Argentina’s Guillermo Vilas who before the tournament began had won 132 matches including that year’s French Open.
Connors was the local favorite and took the opening set on the clay courts of Forest Hills, Queens where the tournament was played. But it was Vilas who used a combination of precision passing shots along with fine net play to not only level the match and win a crucial third set tiebreak, but then pull ahead in the fourth set.
A final groundstroke error from Connors sealed the unlikely yet popular 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-0 victory for Vilas.
With the event now played on hard courts, Borg and McEnroe continued their classic rivalry. With the American entering as the defending champion, the Swedish great still looked for his first ever US Open title.
McEnroe used his trademark serve and volley game to win the first set in a tiebreak. Though McEnroe would easily take the second set, Borg would fight back to take the next two sets. With the fifth set going into the night, McEnroe would get the key break with a passing shot Borg could not handle. McEnroe went on to win 7-6(4), 6-1, 6-7(5), 7-5, 6-4 and secure his second of four US Open titles.
In their 61st career meeting tied at 30-wins each, Navratilova as defending champion was the heavy favorite to win having beaten Evert in their last twelve meetings. Evert surprised many by taking the opening set, her first against Navratilova in over a year. But Navratilova would recover to take the next two sets and complete the 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory that would forever be known as a part of “Super Saturday”.
Wilander capped off an incredible year by winning three of the four majors that season. That included defeating Lendl 6–4, 4–6, 6–3, 5–7, 6–4 who at that time had won the US Open title three years in a row.
The 1988 final was also notable in that it was the longest US Open men’s final in history at four hours and fifty-four minutes, a mark it would hold until the 2012 final.
Pete Sampras (Bio) vs. Andre Agassi (Bio) – 2002
Both the men’s and women’s finals in 2002 proved significant with each being All-American contests. Each would signal both the end and beginning of two distinct eras in pro tennis.
Despite being a former champion, few gave Pete Sampras, at age 31, any chance of winning another Grand Slam title. Yet Sampras, seeded No. 17 that year, reached the finals where he faced No. 6 seed Andre Agassi.
Sampras took the first two sets, and though Agassi fought back to take the third, it was Sampras who used his trademark serve and volley style to win his fifth and final US Open title 6–4, 4–6, 6–3, 5–7, 6–4. The victory would be Sampras’ final career match as well.
Though Serena Williams easily defeated her older sister Venus 6-4, 6-3, their 2002 final was notable since it was the first ever US Open women’s final played at night during primetime television viewing hours.
Though Roger Federer was the heavy favorite, Argentina’s Juan Del Potro, who used his massive forehand to upset Rafael Nadal in the previous round, was not intimidated by playing in his first ever major final.
Del Potro used his big forehand, especially with precision down the line winners, to level the match at one set each. Though Federer looked poised to win in four sets, it was Del Potro who took control by winning a tiebreak and then running away with the final set to post the stunning 3-6, 7-6(5), 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-2 victory to earn his first ever major title.
After Williams easily won the first set, it appeared the American would breeze to her fourth US Open title. Instead, a spirited fightback from Azarenka allowed her to claim the second set and push ahead to 5-3 in the final set.
But Williams did not relent and surged to take the last four games. Williams sealed the 2-6, 6-2, 7-5 victory that ended a remarkable 2012 season for her that including winning Wimbledon, Olympic gold and the US Open making her only the third woman in history to do so. The women’s final was also the first to go three sets since 1995.
Murray, seeking his first ever major title, took the first two sets against defending champion Djokovic in a match where both battled each other and extreme wind.
Each man pushed the other in grueling rallies, one that included a 54-shot marathon. Though Murray held a two sets to love lead, nervy errors and improved play from his opponent allowed Djokovic to take the next two sets.
The final set saw Murray look the fresher of the two as he secured an early break. Murray hung to his advantage to seal the 7-6(10), 7-5, 2-6, 3-6, 6-2 victory and with it his first U.S. Open title.
At four hours and 54 minutes, the match tied the record for the longest U.S. Open final.