Founded in 1881, the U.S. Open is one of the greatest events in tennis. This year, the prestigious event in Flushing Meadows, New York will have the biggest prize pool in Grand Slam history: over $57 million. Competition does heat up when money is involved. This has led to some of the craziest moments in U.S. Open history. Though there are too many to count, these five stand out above the rest.
5. Juan Martin del Potro upsets Roger Federer (2009)
Juan Martin Del Potro was a 20-year-old Argentinean without a Grand Slam title to his name. In the 2009 U.S. Open finals, he faced Roger Federer, one of the greatest tennis players of all time. Federer hadn’t lost a U.S. Open match since 2003, winning five consecutive finals in Flushing Meadows. That same year, the Swiss legend also won Wimbledon and the French Open. This match was the definition of “David and Goliath.”
After mounting a big lead, Federer lost the second set. The typically cool athlete lost his composure with an outburst at the umpire. Underdog Del Potro went on to upset Federer, winning the only Grand Slam of his career.
4. Monica Seles vs. Steffi Graf (1995)
In 1993, during a tournament in Germany, a mentally ill fan of Steffi Graf attacked Monica Seles. The crazed person did so because he wanted Graf to regain the world No. 1 ranking that 19-year old Seles held.
Two years later, Graf and Seles met in the finals of the 1995 U.S. Open. It was only Seles’ second event since her return a week earlier. She cruised to the finals only to face Graf. While it was a hard-fought match, Graf defeated Seles. The emotional match culminated with the two rivals embracing.
3. Calls go against Serena and change the sport (2004)
In 2004, Serena Williams was the victim of one very bad call and several other bad calls in her quarterfinal match against Jennifer Capriati. This happens from time to time, but these were so egregious they led to several cascading events, according to Bleacher Report.
Post-tournament, an official apologized to Williams. Then, the U.S. Tennis Association banned the umpire from officiating the U.S. Open again. Finally, the tennis world began utilizing instant replay to correct mistakes. In her post-match press conference, the classy Williams declined to blame her loss on the officials despite all evidence to the contrary.
2. Andre Agassi says goodbye (2006)
One of the best tennis players of the ’90s and early 2000s, Andre Agassi had eight career Grand Slam victories when he competed in the 2006 U.S. Open. All good things must come to an end, and Agassi knew it was time to retire. His swan song drew a lot of attention, and he received more when he won his first two matches.
Agassi needed painkillers to get through his first two matches due to severe back pain. By the time he faced Benjamin Becker in his third match, he was absolutely spent. Despite fighting valiantly, Agassi fell to Becker. The most memorable part of this U.S. Open was not the match but Agassi’s tearful goodbye to fans. Here’s a portion of his emotional speech via ABC News:
The scoreboard said I lost, but what it doesn’t say it is what I have found over the last 21 years … I have found loyalty. You have pulled for me on the court and life. I have found inspiration and you have willed me to win. Over the last 21 years I have found you and I will take you with me for the rest of my life.
1. Jimmy Connors defies the odds (1991)
A tennis great from the ’70s, Jimmy Connors was in the last stages of his career by 1991. He was ranked 174 headed into that year’s U.S. Open. Despite the ranking and his age, 39 years old, he managed to stage an almost impossible run.
Connors defeated Patrick McEnroe, Michiel Schapers, Karel Novacek, Aaron Krickstein, and Paul Haarhuis before falling to Jim Courier in the semifinals. It was a truly remarkable run. Connors had the New York crowd worked into a frenzy over the possibility of a shocking upset.