Sky Sports recall some classic matches from the US Open ahead of this year's tournament
By Raz Mirza
Last Updated: 25/08/15 3:38pm
The Americans like to do things big and when it comes to tennis, nothing comes bigger than what is traditionally the final grand slam tournament of the year.
Since the start of the Open Era in 1968 some of the legends of the game have ruled the hard-courts.
The names roll off the tongue with the likes of Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Pete Sampras and Martina Navratilova all landing grand slam titles.
But at some point they've all been involved in humdingers and when it comes to great matches, we all remember the classics from yesteryear.
The tournament has a bit of history of producing razzmatazz tennis of the highest order - usually helped by the partisan crowd in 'The Big Apple', who enjoy being entertained by the entertainers.
Here, Sky Sports recall some of the most memorable matches from the US Open at Flushing Meadows ...
Arthur Ashe v Tom Okker & Virginia Wade v Billie Jean King - 1968
The start of the Open Era saw Ashe make history by not only becoming the first black male to win a grand slam singles title. He was the only player in history to win the US Amateur and Open championships in the same year. He won the inaugural title with a classic serve and volley technique helped by his big bludgeoning serve. The 25-year-old smashed 26 aces on his way to a five-set victory against 'The Flying Dutchman' Tom Okker 14-12 5-7 6-3 3-6 6-3. Because of his amateur status Ashe was ineligible to receive the first prize of $14,000, instead picking up $280 in expenses.
It's not often we get to say it, but 1968 was also a great year for British tennis as Virginia Wade won the women's title. The slender 23-year-old from Dorset defeated home favourite Billie Jean King 6-4 6-2 at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills back when the tournament was still being played on grass. And it all happened just months after she suffered a first-round exit at Wimbledon too. Wade would go on and add a further two grand slam titles to her CV and she still remains the last British female winner of a major crown following her Wimbledon triumph in 1977.
John McEnroe v Bjorn Borg - 1980
When these two icons of the game went head-to-head, tennis intellects knew there was a strong possibility that it would end up becoming a classic. At Wimbledon it was Swedish sex symbol Borg who came out on top in a five-set epic, including a fourth set tie-breaker which is still regarded as one of the greatest ever. Just months later the rivals met in the final again - this time at US Open - and on McEnroe's home turf in New York. The tournament had eluded Borg but he was determined to add to his French and Wimbledon titles which he had already won that year following a devastating run of form. However, the athleticism of the young American along with some dominant serve-volleying proved too much for the faltering Borg in a dramatic 7-6 (7-4) 6-1 6-7 (5-7) 5-7 6-4 victory.
Martina Navratilova v Chris Evert - 1984
Two warriors of the women's game collided in the final in Olympic year - a repeat of the previous year's final which the Czech-born Navratilova won in a one-sided match. Despite having played each other an incredible 80 times over the course of their careers, this clash is still regarded as one of the finest ever. Navratilova was in the midst of a 74-match winning streak and had already captured the French Open and Wimbledon titles earlier that year. Six-time champion Evert was out to prove that she was still top dog in The Big Apple, but the younger Navratilova was a smooth operator who only knew how to win. Despite losing the opening set she went on to secure her second straight singles title at Flushing Meadows with a 4-6 6-4 6-4 win.
Mats Wilander v Ivan Lendl - 1988
Two of the hardest competitors in the game slugged it out for four hours and 54 minutes in the joint-longest final in US Open history along with Andy Murray against Novak Djokovic in 2012. In the end it was the Swede who prevailed after a five-set tug-of-war, 6-4 4-6 6-3 5-7 6-4. It was game set and match for heartthrob Wilander who landed his third grand slam title and ended the Czech's three-year reign as the Open champion and No 1 player in the world. Lendl, who was playing in his seventh consecutive final, come into the match as firm favourite, but 83 unforced errors and a stronger mental approach from his opponent cost him his chance of becoming the first player since Bill Tilden to win as many as four Opens in a row.
Martina Navratilova v Steffi Graf - 1991
The grand old lady of tennis was out to prove a point at Flushing Meadows. Navratilova's mettle and powerful serve came out on top at the German's expense in a high-quality, tight and tension-filled semi-final showdown, 7-6 (7-2) 6-7 (8-6) 6-4. Graf, who had beaten the veteran in the 1989 final, was determined to cement her position as world No 1 by intimidating her opponent through the use of her powerful groundstrokes from the back of the court. But this year she failed to read the script as 34-year-old Navratilova, holder of 18 major titles, rolled back the years to play with the fearlessness of a teenager to end their grand slam rivalry 5-4 up. The match took the wind out of Navratilova who failed to produce a repeat performance in the final against Monica Seles, losing 7-6 (7-1) 6-1.
Pete Sampras v Andre Agassi - 2001
This quarter-final meeting between two greats of the game was about as good as it gets. In a draining nail-biter of a night match on a raucous Arthur Ashe Stadium, 'Pistol Pete', who had lost the previous three meetings between the two was out to restore a semblance of order. He prevailed in a four set tiebreaker fest - 6-7 (7-9) 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-2) 7-6 (7-5).
The match was an exhibition of tennis overflowing with elegant winners and rallies of the highest calibre. Both men were playing at the peak of their powers and deservedly received a standing ovation from the 23,000 strong crowd as they awaited the start of the fourth set tie-break which made the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.
"It was a very chilling moment to have the crowd stand on their feet and applaud what we were doing out there but it was also fun to be part of it. I thought going into the match it would be a classic and I think it was," said the usually stoical Sampras. Two years later they met again - this time in the final. It would be a last hurrah for two of the games finest performers on the biggest stage and once again it was Sampras who came out on top, winning 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-4.
Venus Williams v Serena Williams - 2001
The all-Williams clash was the first grand slam final between siblings in 117 years. Sadly the match was overtaken by the hype surrounding the historical nature of the occasion with the fact that it was the first singles final between two black players.
As for the action, well Venus emerged an easy 6-2 6-4 winner in a measly 69 minutes under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Serena's 36 unforced errors proved costly as defending champion Venus ushered in the era of the evening final with a fourth major title to her name.
She also became only the sixth woman in history to win the singles titles at both Wimbledon and the US Open in consecutive years.
Andy Murray v Rafa Nadal - 2008
This was a big breakthrough for Murray, as not only was it his first Grand Slam semi-final but he had lost to Nadal, the man who probably poses the biggest questions of his game out of everyone on the ATP Tour, the previous five times he had played him.
He was required to play unbelievably well to beat the Spaniard 6-2 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 6-4 and the fact the match was switched to Louis Armstrong because of rain played into the British No 1's favour although it's not a court he particularly likes.
Murray proceeded to play two of the best sets of tennis ever seen, swinging from the hip and hitting winners to all parts of the court. There was nothing that Nadal could do and that breath-taking display showed us all how great a player the Dunblane-born star was going to become.
The rain came at the start of the third set and Murray had to come back the next day on Arthur Ashe with a pumped-up crowd and a slower court and his opponent was right back in it, especially after taking the third.
When Murray failed to capitalise on break-point chances in the fourth and was broken himself there was a feeling we could have a Tim Henman-Goran Ivanisevic situation from Wimbledon in 2001.
But Murray kept fighting and toughed it out with some great tennis and for possibly the first time in his career was able to stay with the great Spaniard, who has the arguably the best forehand in the game with its speed and top spin, and compete physically in the extended rallies.
"It's awesome to beat him, a great feeling," said Murray afterwards. "He's beaten me five times in a row, so that was tough, and to do it in a semi meant it was really difficult."
Juan Martin del Potro v Roger Federer - 2009
The gentle giant from Argentina became the King of New York as Juan Martin del Potro ended the five-year unbeaten monopoly of Roger Federer in a five set epic to walk away with the title - 3-6 7-6 (7-5) 4-6 7-6 (7-4) 6-2.
The Swiss maestro had been hoping to become the first man to win six successive US Open titles since Bill Tilden in the 1920s and also the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to win the French Open, Wimbledon and US titles in the same year.
But it was Del Potro, on his first appearance in a grand slam final, who produced some magic hitting to record an astonishing victory over an opponent who had won 15 major titles.
Nicknamed 'The Tower of Tandil', the shy but extrovert 20-year-old followed up his demolition of Rafael Nadal for the loss of just six games in the semi-finals by fighting back from two sets to one down to complete a memorable victory. 'Delpo' became only the second Argentinian to win the US Open, following in the footsteps of Guillermo Vilas, who triumphed at Forest Hills in 1977.
Novak Djokovic v Roger Federer - 2011
This semi-final will be remembered for the unquenchable spirit shown by the dogged Djokovic just when it seemed a lost cause. The Serb, who was eyeing his third grand slam win of the year, was two sets to love down and seemingly on the way out as Federer looked to continue his charge to a sixth US Open title in their fifth consecutive meeting at Flushing Meadows.
However, there was to be a remarkable turnaround in fortunes when Djokovic ripped a crosscourt forehand off a Federer first serve for a winner on the first of two match points. The remarkable reaction speed of Djokovic had the crowd on their feet. The world No 1 smiled in the face of adversity by raising his arms to soak it all in. The Swiss star then lost the next point with an uncharacteristic unforced error.
Djokovic broke, held serve, broke again and served out the match. He won the last four games and, counting the two match points he saved, he took 17 of the final 21 points to win an extraordinary encounter, 6-7 4-6 6-3 6-2 7-5. Some of the rallies beggared belief with both men trading blows of up to 25 groundstrokes on a regular basis.
Djokovic went on to beat the 16-time grand slam champion for the second straight year in New York. It had also been the second time in less than three months that Federer lost a two-set lead after going 178-0 in his entire career before the Wimbledon quarter-finals that year where he lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.
Andy Murray v Novak Djokovic - 2012
This was the moment when Murray ended Britain's 76-year wait and 237 grand slam tournaments for a male singles champion and the relief was palpable from his birth place Dunblane to Lands End. After four failures in major finals, Murray joined Fred Perry alongside the pantheon of greats with a memorable 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2 win on Arthur Ashe.
It took no less than four hours and 54 minutes to get the job done against the flexible Serb who had won 27 grand slam hard-court matches in a row. An astonishing 55-shot rally in the sixth game of the opening set was one for the highlights reel and from then on the standard of play just got better and better.
The crowd were on their feet again in the fourth set to salute one majestic 30-stroke rally that ended with a Murray forehand winner as Djokovic fell to the floor. With Mr 007 himself Sean Connery and Sir Alex Ferguson cheering on their fellow Scot, it was the calming face of coach Ivan Lendl, and a timely bathroom break just before the start of the deciding set which helped Murray calm his nerves and dig deep to make history.
"Relief is probably the best word I would use to describe how I'm feeling just now," Murray said, adding: "You do think: Is it ever going to happen?" He had just joined the grand slam club!