Boris Becker at the 1989 US Open

Two months after their wins at Wimbledon, Steffi Graf and Boris Becker, who know each other since childhood captured the US Open crown.

From The Bud Collins History of tennis:

Becker and Graf had been raised in nearby towns in the southeastern corner of West Germany and had known each other since they were children.

“I used to be the worst in the boys and she was the best in the girls,” Becker recalled with good humor. “So, when I was maybe nine and she was eight, I would have to hit with her.”

Each had to grown up to be a Wimbledon champion but not in the same year. In 1989, on the All England Club, they became the Teutonic Twosome. Even the weather cooperated, in a fashion. Rain pushed back the women’s final one day so that Graf and Becker might receive their awards at Centre Court on the same afternoon.

Graf and Becker each left Flushing Meadow with another major title. They had to work harder than at Wimbledon, and they had to share the spotlight with a departing champion.
Graf was severely tested twice, by Sabatini in the semifinals, 3-6 6-4 6-2, and, once again by Navratilova in the ultimate match. Navratilova appeared to have the final won on at least a couple of occasions. She was only two games from victory in the second set – confidently, prematurely waving two fingers at friends in the stands – before double-faulting away a service game. Then she had a break point for a 5-4 lead and squandered that. Seeing the opening, Graf mobilized her gifts and won, 3-6 7-5 6-1.

“I was so close,” said Navratilova, her face streaked with tears. “I was as close as you get.”

Becker almost didn’t make it out of the second round, where he faced two match points against vagabond Derrick Rostagno in a fourth-set tiebreaker. On the second, his running forehand ticked the net and hopped over the Californian’s waiting racket. Becker took that bit of luck and won the next two points for the set, and the arduous match that had looked lost long before, 1-6 6-7 6-3 7-6 6-3.

Connors‘ 16th trip to the quarters was unrewarded as Agassi made a surprising charge to score his own first victory in a five-set trial 6-1 4-6 0-6 6-3 6-4. Jimmy, with the crowd straining behind him, gave them hope as Andre served for it at 5-2. Flashing the old moxie, the champ seized nine of 10 points to 5-4 0-15 – but had nothing more to give. McEnroe, seeded fourth, didn’t get that far, banished from the second round by a qualifier, number 110 Paul Haarhuis 6-4 4-6 6-3 7-5. “Where are you from?” a reporter asked the anonymous Dutchman. “Mars”, was the smiling reply, and Mac may have believed it.
Defending champ Wilander, fifth-seeded, undoubtedly wondered about the provenance of his kid conqueror, 5-7 6-3 1-6 6-1 6-4, also in the second round. The 18-year-old’s name was Pete Sampras, who in 12 months would illuminate the Meadow, and continue to do so, passing Mac and Wilander, Connors and others in the matter of majors – eventually holding the record himself at 14.

Lendl took care of Agassi in one semi, 7-6 6-1 3-6 6-1, and Becker cruised past Aaron Krickstein in the other, 6-4 6-3 6-4. In the final, Becker needed three hours and 51 minutes to defeat Lendl, 7-6 1-6 6-3 7-6.
Ivan was appearing in his eighth consecutive final, a Tilden-tying achievement. But after Becker got a full head of serving-and-volleying steam, neither Ivan nor the ghost of Big Bill could stop him. “He just has more power in his game than I do.” Lendl said. For Becker, the victory proved he was more than splendor in the grass, that he was able to be a world-class field somewhere other than Wimbledon. He had filled in the gaps in his game since the summer of ’85, firmed his groundstrokes along with his tenacity. Now he was a worthy challenger for the honor of top-ranked men’s player on the planet.

“If I’m not number one,” he said, “then I’m quite close to it.”

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Jimmy Connors, 1991 US Open

Excerpt of Top 100 greatest days in New York City sports by Stuart Miller:

Jimmy Connors won five U.S. Opens on three different surfaces at two different places, yet he’s best remembered for a tournament in which he didn’t even reach the finals. That 1991 performance was the third and final act for Connors, who had won as the brash bully of the 1970s and as the curmudgeonly craftsman of the 1980s. This time Connors, seemingly washed up, transformed himself into a feel-good story for a society built on both a Peter Pan complex and the worship of true grit. This aging inspiration captivated even the most casual sports fans, attaining a new level of celebrity and forging an unforgettable legacy with his classic American blend of tenacity and showmanship.

That tournament, Connors said later, was “the most memorable 11 days of my career. Better than the titles.”

And he gave his growing legion of fans not one but three classic matches.

So which is your favorite? Bet you can’t choose just one.

You could select the first-round comeback against Patrick McEnroe on August 27.

Because it seemed incredible that Connors was even there. His iron man records—109 pro titles, 159 straight weeks at number one, 12 straight Open semifinals, and 16 straight years in the top 10—were in the past. Connors had played and lost three matches in 1990 before submitting to wrist surgery. He’d plummeted to 936th in the world, defaulted at the French Open in 1991 owing to a cranky back—the defining symbol of old age—and lost in the third round of Wimbledon; he was ranked just 174th by Open time and needed a wild-card berth just to gain entrance to his “home court.”

Jimmy-Connors 1991 US Open Tennis

Because he beat a McEnroe. Sure, Patrick, ranked just 35th, lacked the skill and artistic temperament of his famous older brother, but he was an Australian Open semifinalist and had beaten Boris Becker that summer.

Because this was the first time we saw Connors’s vibrant Estusa racket flashing through the night, proclaiming the return of the king.

Because he overcame the greatest deficit of all, dropping the first two sets to the steady McEnroe 6–4, 7–6, then falling behind 0–3 in the third. Connors was limping (an act, perhaps, lulling his prey or laying groundwork for an alibi), and the stadium was emptying, everyone writing Connors off. By the next game there’d be perhaps 6,000 loyalists from the original sellout crowd. According to Joel Drucker’s biography-memoir Jimmy Connors Saved My Life, even Connors’s staunchest supporter, his mother and first teacher Gloria, turned away from the television.

Then, at 0–40, one mistake from oblivion, Connors finally turned it on. And once he did, McEnroe could not finish off tennis’s Rasputin, who drew his lifeblood from the screaming, stomping, bowing fans that remained. Connors held, saved two more break points at 2–3, won five of six games for the third set, then snared the fourth set 6–2 and finished McEnroe off 6–4 in the fifth. The 4-hour-18-minute epic ended at 1:35 a.m. “The crowd won it for me,” Connors said. “The crowd was an awful heavy burden for Patrick.”
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