Week 35-36 (US Open)


Margaret Court clinched her 24th and last major title half a century ago. She no longer stands as the sole record holder, as Novak Đoković has matched her achievement with his fourth US Open title. The tournament witnessed several upsets, but the three standout players of the season, Đoković, Daniil Medvedev, and Carlos Alcaraz, reached the semifinals, replicating their feat from Wimbledon ’23. However, there was a notable difference this time: Alcaraz had easily defeated Medvedev in the Wimbledon semifinal, but in New York, he succumbed to the Russian, losing 1-3.
For the first time since 1995 (Wimbledon), four players ranked outside the Top 100 advanced to the fourth round of a Slam tournament. Among them, left-handed [128] Dominic Stricker‘s journey stood out. He ousted Stefanos Tsitsipas in the second round after a fiercely contested four-hour match. Stricker had saved a match point in a qualifying round.
One intriguing season story revolves around Ben Shelton. The young American, armed with a potent left-handed serve (149 mph), often loses in the early rounds this year but excels in Grand Slam tournaments. Following his quarterfinal appearance at the Australian Open, he continued his impressive run with a semifinal berth at the US Open. Shelton introduced a unique celebration during the fortnight, the ‘hang-up call’ which drew some playful mocking from Đoković after their semifinal clash.
In a significant retirement announcement, John Isner [157], one of the tallest players in tennis history, decided to conclude his career, 16 years after his professional debut. The 38-year-old giant’s farewell match embodied his career style, featuring multiple tie-breaks. Unfortunately, he squandered a match point, marking his 33rd (!) defeat of this kind (5th “best of five”), an infamous record. Also 31-year-old Jack Sock announced his retirement, but he appeared only in doubles. Meanwhile, Andrey Rublev, the 26-year-old Russian, continues to hold an infamous record of his own. He has lost all nine of his major quarterfinals, three of them to his compatriot and close friend Medvedev, always falling in straight sets despite promising starts in the opening set.


The tournament was marked by a series of peculiar and unusual occurrences: within the span of an hour during the first round, two of the four longest (at the time) Grand Slam tie-breaks in history took place (Mats Wilander and Goran Ivanišević emerged as victors, with scores of 18/16 and 20/18 respectively). During the fourth round, Wally Masur achieved the remarkable feat of winning the sole recorded Grand Slam match after trailing 0:5 in the deciding set. Wilander also played a role in creating the latest finish in the US Open history, with the match concluding at 2:26 a.m. This record would later be matched in both 2012 and 2015. Another enduring record was set when big servers Richard Krajicek and Todd Martin engaged in a marathon match lasting 5 hours and 11 minutes (each of them won 193 points)  – a feat that still ranks among the longest matches in the tournament’s history three decades later.
Seeds fell unexpectedly, with eliminations particularly notable, such as the two-time defending champion Stefan Edberg exiting in the second round. Adding to the intrigue, a player wielding an aluminum racquet (Prince Magnesium): 24-year-old Cédric Pioline, who had never secured an ATP title – astonishingly reached the final surviving tight five-setters in the two opening rounds. This achievement mirrored that of Mikael Pernfors from the French Open ’86, who partnered with his renowned compatriot Wilander to create the late-finish match in New York ’93. Wilander had entered the event with a ‘wild card’ and a ranking of 558, courtesy of Jimmy Connors‘ withdrawal.
Pete Sampras stood above all, basking in the pinnacle of his career (a span extending from Key Biscayne ’93 to Rome ’94), and clinching his second US Open title with relative ease. His most formidable rival during that period, Jim Courier, was ousted by Pioline in the fourth round. In hindsight, this marked the inception of the decline of what appeared to be an intriguing rivalry in the 90s. Ultimately for Sampras, the prominent rival of the decade was Andre Agassi, who experienced an early-round exit. Despite losing to the emerging star Thomas Enqvist, Agassi’s disappointment was palpable. Faced with wrist problems, he made the decision to conclude his season at the three-quarter mark, with plans to make a comeback to the tour in February ’94… Sampras managed to overturn a previously unfavorable trend against Michael Chang, one of the four prominent American players born in the 1970s. Despite having a challenging Head-to-Head record of 2:6 against Chang, Sampras emerged victorious in the quarterfinal clash. This triumph marked the initiation of a remarkable six-match winning streak for Sampras over Chang. Interestingly, a similar pattern would unfold a decade later in the Roger Federer vs. Lleyton Hewitt rivalry (Hewitt led 7:2 before losing 15 straight times… it started here).
…Finals 2023…
US OPEN (hard semi-outdoors)
(2)🇷🇸Novak Đoković d. (3)🇷🇺Daniil Medvedev 6-3, 7-6(5), 6-3
…Finals 1993…
US OPEN ($4M; hard outdoors)
(1)🇺🇸Pete Sampras d. (15)🇫🇷Cédric Pioline 6-4, 6-4, 6-3
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