Andre Agassi, 1999 US Open

With Sampras out due to injury, Andre Agassi was the man to beat at the 1999 US Open. Agassi dropped only two sets en route to the final: to Justin Gimmelstob in the third round and Yevgeny Kafelnikov in the semifinals. In the other side of the draw Todd Martin defeated Slava Dosedel in the quarterfinals and Cédric Pioline in the semifinals to advance to his second Grand Slam final.

From Agassi’s autobiography, Open:

I’m on the verge of being number one again. This time it’s not my father’s goal or Perry’s or Brad’s, and I remind myself that it’s not mine either. It would be nice, that’s all. […]

In the final I face Martin. I thought it would be Pete. I said publicly that I wanted Pete, but he pulled out of the tournament with a bad back. So it’s Martin, who’s been there, across the net, at so many critical junctures.
At Wimbledon, in 1994, when I was still struggling to absorb Brad’s teachings, I lost to Martin in a nip-and-tuck five-setter. At the US Open the same year, Lupica [1] predicted that Martin would upend me in the semis, and I believed him, but still managed to beat Martin and win the tournament. In Stuttgart, in 1997, it was my appalling first-round loss to Martin that finally pushed Brad to the breaking point. Now it’s Martin who will be a test of my newfound maturity, who will show if the changes in me are fleeting or meaningful.

I break him in the first game. The crowd is solidly behind me. Martin doesn’t hang his head, however, doesn’t lose any poise. He makes me work for the first set, then comes out stronger in the second, taking it in a tight tiebreak. He then wins the third set – an even tighter tiebreak. He leads two sets to one, a commanding lead at this tournament. No one ever comes back from such a deficit in the final here. It hasn’t happened in twenty-six years. I see in Martin’s eyes that he’s feeling it, and waiting for me to show the old cracks in my mental armor. He’s waiting for me to crumble, to revert to that jittery, emotional Andre he’s played so often in years past. But I neither fold nor yoeld. I win the fourth set, 6-3, and in the fifth set, 6-2, and walk away knowing I’m healed, I’m back, exulting that Stefanie [2] was here to see it. I’ve made only five unforced errors in the final two sets. Not once all day have I lost my serve, and it comes as I capture my fifth slam. When I get back to Vegas I want to put five hundred on number five at a roulette table.

In the press room, one reporter asks why I think the New York crowd was pulling for me, cheering so loudly.
I wish I knew. But I take a guess: They’ve watched me grow up.
Of course fans everywhere have watched me grow up, but in New York their expectations were higher, which helped accelerate and validate my growth.
It’s the first time I’ve felt, or dared to say aloud, that I’m a grown-up.

[1] Mike Lupica, journalist
[2] Steffi Graf. They were at the beginning of their relationship.

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.”

Read more:
The tennis birthplace of the Deutschland duo

Martina Navratilova and Conchita Martinez

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Conchita Martinez‘s victory at Wimbledon. Back then she was an underrated champion. She is now a respected and successful commentator and coach. Let’s go back in time…

By Diane Pucin, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER
POSTED: November 06, 1994

Conchita Martinez seems such a lonely champion. She will walk around the streets of Philadelphia this week, and no one will stop. No one will point. No one will ask for an autograph or try to snap a surreptitious picture.

Martinez will earn polite applause on the tennis court, perhaps. Her game is efficient, but not spectacular, and the crowd will give its emotions to Jennifer Capriati and the start of her public comeback, or to the extroverted Mary Pierce, whose life has been filled with trauma and family misery, or to Gabriela Sabatini, the sweet, smiling woman who is the perpetual and beloved underdog.

The Virginia Slims of Philadelphia tennis tournament will start tomorrow at the Convention Center. Martinez will be the No. 1 seed and the defending champion. She will be the reigning Wimbledon champion. She will be anonymous.

This is always how it’s been for Martinez.

Once she was a frisky 5-year-old in Monzon, Spain, a town of 16,000 people, an hour and a half from Barcelona. Martinez saw her father and her brother play friendly games of tennis, so she asked for a racket, and she got one.

Martinez fell in love. She was talented, too, but there weren’t many people in Monzon who played tennis, so she hit the ball against a wall hour after hour, and the wall always cooperated: The wall always sent the ball back.

This was when tennis was perfect for Martinez, private and quiet. Except people saw Martinez, saw that her forehand was sharp and heavy, seemingly able to chop down trees. Martinez was tagged as promising and told she should go away to Barcelona all week, to a special school, away from her family, her two older brothers, and mother and father.

Martinez did this.

And she was lonely.

And she was determined.

Now she is a champion, a champion who treasures a few close friendships, her music, her motorcycle and her anonymity.

Martinez’s tennis coach is Eric van Harpen, a loud, exuberant man who discovered her when she was 15 years old and persuaded her to move to Switzerland. He prods her, pokes her, screams and yells, and will tell anybody who asks about Martinez’s failings. But van Harpen is also fiercely protective. He is insulted that Martinez isn’t always recognized for her talent and her accomplishments.

At home, in Spain, Martinez is always in the shadow of Arantxa Sanchez Vicario, who plays tennis with a smile and a giggle and who makes friends easily.

Away from home, Martinez is just ignored. She isn’t No. 1 like Steffi Graf, the imperious queen who never smiles, but who is a graceful, unbeatable athlete, so good that she can’t be ignored. Martinez isn’t the elder stateswoman like Martina Navratilova, and doesn’t have the troubles of Capriati or Pierce. Martinez is just the person who always seems to be in the semifinals.

“For sure, she is overlooked,” van Harpen said. “For sure, she doesn’t like this. Even in Spain. She is not the people’s darling. It is bad luck a little that Conchita is behind Arantxa, but Conchita should deserve more recognition for what she has accomplished.”

Martinez is a Wimbledon champion, for goodness’ sakes. That should guarantee a certain dollop of fame. But it was Martinez’s destiny to win her first Grand Slam tournament at the Wimbledon that will go down in history as belonging to Navratilova. Navratilova, a nine-time champion, made a fabulous run to the final. Thirty-eight years old and on the verge of retirement, she played three taut sets with Martinez. Then Navratilova lost and cried and plucked a piece of grass to keep forever, and Martinez was in the background again, just a prop with a big trophy.

“It would be nice at Wimbledon, I think, if the crowds had cheered maybe a little more for the winner and a little less for Navratilova,” van Harpen said.

Martinez wouldn’t say that. The people at Wimbledon treated her very well, Martinez said, and Wimbledon was very wonderful, even for that nervous moment when Martinez had to curtsy in front of Princess Di before the match.

Martinez beat Navratilova, and that wasn’t the popular result. This did not result in immediate fame or any more fortune: no endorsements, none. That’s what Martinez said, and she didn’t sound angry or disappointed. This is normal.

It bothers van Harpen. But about this, van Harpen can do nothing. About Martinez owning only this one Grand Slam title so far, even though she is 22 years old and a pro for almost seven years, about that, van Harpen would like to do something.

Van Harpen thinks Martinez could be the best, better than Graf or Sanchez, who are ranked Nos. 1 and 2. He posed this question:

“What would be easier, for Graf to get the topspin backhand that she needs, and has been working on forever, which Conchita has? Or for Arantxa to get the forehand like Conchita? Or for Conchita to get the legs that Steffi and Arantxa have?”

This is the answer van Harpen wants. He wants Martinez to get the legs. He means by this that he wants Martinez to get in shape. Van Harpen thinks Martinez could be much fitter, and that, if she got much fitter, she would be No. 1.

When van Harpen first saw Martinez as a kid, he took a breath of shock. He saw a little, untrained girl who could think out a match, play the angles, plan the points. He taught this little girl a one-handed backhand, and he helped the little girl keep pummeling the other little girls with the heavy forehand. Now he wants the little girl to grow up and be No. 1.

“Of course, I want it,” Martinez said. She sounded angry for a moment when asked if she, really, truly, wants to be No. 1. “Of course, I do,” she said. “I am working with a trainer. I want to be No. 1, but it’s not so easy.”

It is not easy. And even if she does become No. 1, will that make Martinez popular? Will she be on Letterman, like Arantxa and Steffi and Martina? Will she be on magazine covers or in television commercials or billboards?

These are questions to be asked, but it is too late. Martinez must go. She has talked enough, and the phone clicks before you can even say thank you.

A lot of changes at Roland Garros this year: a new stadium entrance, a new Place des Mousquetaires and a new 5,000 seat court, Court Simonne Mathieu … but still no roof, we’ll have to wait at least till next year. I’m eager to discover all these new features in a few weeks time!
In the mean time, check out our Roland Garros guides, relieve some of the biggest defeats and triumphs of the past, and of course share your pictures, videos and stories!

Roland Garros visitor’s guide:

A trip down memory lane:

1956: First time at Roland Garros for Rod Laver

1960-1969:
Portrait of Manuel Santana, first Spaniard to capture a Grand Slam title in 1961
1967: Françoise Durr defeats Lesley Turner
1969: Rod Laver defeats Ken Rosewall

1970-1979:
Portrait of 6-time Roland Garros champion Bjorn Borg
Portrait of Adriano Panatta, the only player to beat Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros
1978: Virginia Ruzici defeats Mima Jausovec
1978: Bjorn Borg defeats Guillermo Vilas
Roland Garros 1978 in pictures

1980-1989:
1982: At the request of Monsieur Wilander
1982: first Grand Slam for Mats Wilander
1983: Yannick Noah defeats Mats Wilander
1984 French Open: Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe
1985 French Open: Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova
Roland Garros 1985: Mats Wilander defeats Ivan Lendl
Roland Garros 1988: bold Leconte swept aside by a Mats for all surfaces
Portrait of Natasha Zvereva, 1988 runner-up
Portrait of Arantxa Sanchez, 1989 French Open champion
Portrait of Michael Chang, 1989 French Open champion

1990-1999:
1990 French Open: Opposites attract, Gomez defeats Agassi
Roland Garros 1990: Defending champion Sanchez loses in the first round
Roland Garros 1990: Edberg and Becker lose in the first round
1991 French Open 3RD: Michael Chang defeats Jimmy Connors
1991 French Open final: Jim Courier defeats Andre Agassi
1996: An unflinching Edberg causes a grand upset
Roland Garros 1996: Pete Sampras run through the semi-finals
1997: Going ga-ga over Guga
Steffi Graf – Martina Hingis Roland Garros 1999

2000-2009:
2000: Mary Pierce finds peace and glory
2004: Coria vs Gaudio: the egotist vs the underdog
2005: Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta
2006: Nadal defeats Federer, wins second Roland Garros title

2010-2018:
A look back at Roland Garros 2011
A look back at Roland Garros 2014
A look back at Roland Garros 2015
3 days at Roland Garros 2017: Rafa, Andy, Petra and more
Day 2 at Roland Garros 2018: Djokovic, Nadal and Wozniacki

Pictures and Recaps:

Fashion and gear:

Polls:

Who will win Roland Garros 2019?

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Who will win Roland Garros 2019?

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Dominic Thiem Roland Garros outfit

It’s that time of the year again, Roland Garros is just around the corner! Rafa Nadal will go for the undecima, a mind-blowing 11th Roland Garros title, while Simona Halep will be looking to finally win her maiden Grand Slam title.
Check out our Roland Garros guides, relieve some of the biggest defeats and triumphs of the past, and of course share your pictures, videos and stories!

Roland Garros visitor’s guide:

A trip down memory lane:

1956: First time at Roland Garros for Rod Laver

1960-1969:
Portrait of Manuel Santana, first Spaniard to capture a Grand Slam title in 1961
1967: Françoise Durr defeats Lesley Turner
1969: Rod Laver defeats Ken Rosewall

1970-1979:
Portrait of 6-time Roland Garros champion Bjorn Borg
Portrait of Adriano Panatta, the only player to beat Bjorn Borg at Roland Garros
1978: Virginia Ruzici defeats Mima Jausovec
1978: Bjorn Borg defeats Guillermo Vilas
Roland Garros 1978 in pictures

1980-1989:
1982: At the request of Monsieur Wilander
1982: first Grand Slam for Mats Wilander
1983: Yannick Noah defeats Mats Wilander
1984 French Open: Ivan Lendl defeats John McEnroe
1985 French Open: Chris Evert defeats Martina Navratilova
Roland Garros 1985: Mats Wilander defeats Ivan Lendl
Roland Garros 1988: bold Leconte swept aside by a Mats for all surfaces
Portrait of Natasha Zvereva, 1988 runner-up
Portrait of Arantxa Sanchez, 1989 French Open champion
Portrait of Michael Chang, 1989 French Open champion

1990-1999:
1990 French Open: Opposites attract, Gomez defeats Agassi
Roland Garros 1990: Defending champion Sanchez loses in the first round
Roland Garros 1990: Edberg and Becker lose in the first round
1991 French Open 3RD: Michael Chang defeats Jimmy Connors
1991 French Open final: Jim Courier defeats Andre Agassi
1996: An unflinching Edberg causes a grand upset
Roland Garros 1996: Pete Sampras run through the semi-finals
1997: Going ga-ga over Guga
Steffi Graf – Martina Hingis Roland Garros 1999

2000-2009:
2000: Mary Pierce finds peace and glory
2004: Coria vs Gaudio: the egotist vs the underdog
2005: Rafael Nadal defeats Mariano Puerta
2006: Nadal defeats Federer, wins second Roland Garros title

2010-2017:
A look back at Roland Garros 2011
A look back at Roland Garros 2014
A look back at Roland Garros 2015
3 days at Roland Garros 2017: Rafa, Andy, Petra and more

Pictures and Recaps:

Fashion and gear:

Polls:

Who will win Roland Garros 2018?

  • Rafael Nadal (79%, 15 Votes)
  • Sascha Zverev (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Someone else (11%, 2 Votes)
  • Grigor Dimitrov (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Marin Cilic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Juan Martin del Potro (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Kevin Anderson (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Dominic Thiem (0%, 0 Votes)
  • John Isner (0%, 0 Votes)
  • David Goffin (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Pablo Carreno Busta (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 19

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Who will win Roland Garros 2018?

  • Simona Halep (35%, 6 Votes)
  • Elina Svitolina (24%, 4 Votes)
  • Someone else (18%, 3 Votes)
  • Garbine Muguruza (6%, 1 Votes)
  • Jelena Ostapenko (6%, 1 Votes)
  • Caroline Garcia (6%, 1 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (6%, 1 Votes)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Karolina Pliskova (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Venus Williams (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Sloane Stephens (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 17

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