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US Open Top Five Moments: Raducanu completes unique success

The US Open has thrown up a plentiful supply of memorable moments over the years, with the final Grand Slam of the year having been on the tennis calendar since 1881.

In the Open era Pete Sampras, Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer have all claimed five men’s singles titles, while in the women’s event Chris Evert and Serena Williams have gone one better by securing six titles each.

But other champions have also thrown up some more memorable individual moments on their way to glory and we have picked out five of the best from the archives.

WhatUS Open
WhereUSTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Flushing Meadows, Queens, New York
WhenMonday, August 28th - Sunday, September 10, 2023
How to watchESPN
Odds

Men: Novak Djokovic +120, Carlos Alcaraz +175, Daniil Medvedev +900

Women: Iga Swiatek +240, Aryna Sabalenka +400, Coco Gauff +650

Teenager Austin stuns the best (1979)

A 16-year-old Tracy Austin stunned the tennis world in 1979 as she took the US Open title, beating both Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert in the process.

In fairness the precocious Austin was the number three seed, but still her efforts are somewhat remarkable, especially as the dominant Evert was seeking a fifth successive US Open success.

Austin jumped for joy and raced to the net to shake hands with her compatriot after a weak Evert forehand found the net to leave the teenager the winner, 6-4 6-3.

She would go on to become the youngest world number one in the history of the sport, as well as securing a second US Open title in 1981, this time edging out the legendary Navratilova in three sets in the final.

Sadly, injuries would bring an early end to Austin’s career, but the joy on her face as she triumphed at Flushing Meadows the first time lives long in the memory.

Sampras bows out in perfect style (2002)

Given the dominance of Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic in recent times, it is easy to forget just what a tennis legend Pete Sampras became.

The big-serving American bowed out on the highest possible high as he won the US Open for the fifth time in 2002, in his final match as a professional, beating long-term rival Andre Agassi 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-4.

Sampras already had a record 13 Grand Slam titles in the bag before his Flushing Meadows finale, but his chances of making that 14 seemed to have slipped away in the previous two years.

He was beaten in the 2000 and 2001 US Open finals, both times being on the receiving end of straight-sets defeats, at the hands of Marat Safin and Lleyton Hewitt respectively.

However, he conjured one final piece of magic as he won the first two sets against Agassi, before his compatriot broke in the 12th game of the set to take the third.

Sampras, seeded as low as 17 for the tournament, recovered in the fourth, broke Agassi and showed a rare flash of emotion as a back-hand volley landed in an unguarded court to give him the perfect send-off to an amazing career.

Del Potro ends the reign of Federer (2009)

Roger Federer was for a time unstoppable at the US Open, claiming five titles in a row between 2004 and 2008, so when he reached the 2009 final to face Juan Martin Del Potro, most pundits expected a sixth successive success for the Swiss maestro.

However, Del Potro would become the first player other than Nadal to defeat Federer in a Grand Slam final as he used his huge forehand to great effect in a five-set thriller.

The immensely likeable Argentinian eventually prevailed 3-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 6-2 and dropped to the court in joy as a final Federer backhand drifted long.

Unfortunately, injuries would mean that that was the only Grand Slam title which came the way of Del Potro, although he reached the US Open final again in 2018, only to be defeated by Djokovic.

Djokovic defaulted in disgrace (2020)

John McEnroe defeated Bjorn Borg in an all-time classic final at Flushing Meadows in 1980 to push the Swede towards his early retirement form the game, while Andy Murray became a Grand Slam champion for the first time in 2012 as he defeated Djokovic in another five-set marathon.

However, the now record 23-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic gets the nod for the next of the top five moments and this time it’s for all the wrong reasons.

At the 2020 tournament, Djokovic had skated through to round four to extend his seasonal record to 26-0, with Pablo Carreno Busta the next man standing in his way.

The Spaniard broke serve to lead 6-5 in the first set, at which point Djokovic hit a ball back towards the baseline as he walked towards his chair, only to turn and see it strike a line judge in the throat.

An apology quickly followed, but there was no escape for Djokovic as he was defaulted and left the empty arena in shame. This would be a rare true low in a career that has seen him break records with regularity and he is +150 to win the US Open again in 2023.

Faultless Raducanu make history (2021)

Emma Raducanu enjoyed a perhaps matchless march to glory at Flushing Meadows in 2021, as she became the first British woman to take the title since Virginia Wade back in 1968 and the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam.

Raducanu was ranked at 150 in the world prior to the tournament and so had to make it through three rounds of qualifying, which she did without dropping a set.

That run of success just kept rolling on and on in the main draw, as Stefane Vogele, Shaui Zhang, Sara Sorribes Tormo and Shelby Rogers were all dispatched in straight sets.

Things were expected to get much tougher in the quarter-finals, but by now Raducanu was seemingly invincible and 11th seed Belina Bencic was beaten 6-3 6-4, before a final spot was secured with a 6-1 6-4 success over 17th seed Maria Sakkari.

That just left fellow teenager, Canada’s Leylah Fernandez, standing in the way of Raducanu completing a unique achievement.

A nerveless Raducanu took the first set 6-4 and then broke the Fernandez serve in game six of the second set with a stunning forehand pass on the half-volley which was one of the greatest single shots ever struck at Flushing Meadows.

From there she held her nerve, fired an ace out wide to seal the win and her huge smile at the end betrayed a little bit of disbelief as well as understandable joy.

Like Austin and Del Potro before her, Raducanu was then struck down by injury woes and she is +6600 to win the US Open this year, which in fairness is a much shorter price than she was when she began her 2021 march to glory.

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