Pete Sampras, 1990 US Open

From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:

“I remember watching Lendl in all those Open finals,” Sampras said. “I was eleven when he played his first one, and everyone was against him. So I rooted for him.”

Six years later, when Lendl was No.1 in the world and Sampras was a brand-new seventeen-year-old pro, Lendl invited him during the week of the Masters. Lendl likes to have young players work with him. They are eager, attentive, and challenging. Sampras didn’t disappoint Lendl and Lendl didn’t disappoint Sampras.

“He taught me what it means to really be a pro,” he said. “There were times I hated him because he made me ride the bike or run until I was about to drop, but I learned from him. He also told me over and over to worry about one thing in tennis: the Grand Slams. He said he wished he had learned that when he was younger.”

As much as he respected Lendl, Sampras had a quiet belief he could beat him. Everyone in tennis knew that the Wimbledon loss had damaged Lendl’s psyche. The hunger to win every single match and every single tournament wasn’t there anymore. He had played in only one tournament prior to the Open and had lost his first match – to Malivai Washington – in New Haven.

Sampras has watch him play Michael Stich in the second round. Stich was a tall, twenty-one-year old German who was quietly moving up the computer. But he certainly wasn’t a match for Lendl on hard court. And yet, Stich kept Lendl on court for four difficult sets.

“It wasn’t like the difference was huge,” Sampras said. “The guy was still great. but he wasn’t quite at the same level as I remembered in the past.”

Sampras was hyper the day of the match, wandering from the locker room to the players lounge to the training room and back to the players’ lounge. Lendl sat quietly in the locker room with Tony Roche, waiting to play. Remarkably he had been to eight straight Open finals. This was not new to him.

The match was a roller coaster ride. Sampras, coming up with huge serves at all the key moments, won the first two sets. But Lendl didn’t roll over at this stage of his career, not in a Grand Slam. He came back to win the next two sets. Sampras felt tired, frustrated. Lendl seemed to be getting stronger. But, down 0-4 in the fourth, Sampras found a second wind. He came all the way back to trail 5-4 and even two break points to get to 5-5. Lendl saved those and served out the set, but Sampras felt as if he was in the match again.

Lendl, having come back to even the match, felt pretty good about his chances, too. But, serving at 1-2, he got into trouble – with his thirteenth double fault. Sampras had returned so well that Lendl felt he had to make his second serves almost perfect and, as a result, had missed a few. Lendl saved that break point and had two game points of his own. Sampras kept coming, though. He got to break point again and bombed a crosscourt forehand that Lendl couldn’t touch. Lendl swiped his racquet angrily at the ground. He was down 3-1 and knew that breaking Sampras again would be difficult.

Sampras was trying hard to stay in the present.

“I just had this feeling I was going to win the match, that it was meant to be,” he said. “I really felt that way. But I didn’t want to think about any of that before it was over.”

He had one scary moment when Lendl had a break point with Sampras up 4-2. Sampras took a deep breath and served a clean winner. He followed that with an ace – his twenty-third of the match – and closed the game with another service winner. With a chance to get back into the match, Lendl hadn’t put a ball in play for three straight points. The look on his face told the story. Six points later, it was over. Sampras hit one more solid backhand. Lendl chased it down and threw up a weak lob. As Sampras watched it float toward him, he felt chills run through his body. “Just hit the ball,” he told himself. He did, cleanly, and his arms were in the air in triumph.

It was another four-hour marathon and another stunning upset. Sampras was the young American most fans hadn’t heard of, but they knew who he was now.

Like it or not, Sampras’ life had just changed for ever. He was no longer a prospect or a rising young American. He was now a star, a just-turned-nineteen US Open semifinalist – one who had beaten Ivan Lendl to get there.

Andre Agassi, 1990 US Open

From Hard courts: real life on the professional tennis tours, by John Feinstein:

Two men took center stage during the first week of the Open. Andre Agassi was expected to win his matches and move on to the second week, and he did – but not without a fire storm of controversy. No one knew what to expect from John McEnroe – controversial or otherwise – and what he did produce was entirely unexpected.

But not quite as unexpected as the performance Agassi put on during his second-round match, against Petr Korda. Agassi had gone home after Indianapolis to rest (and get stronger) prior to the Open, and he showed up for his first-round match, against Grant Connell, in a new outfit that looked like something designed to glow in the dark. It was some sort of lime-green, black-and-white concoction, with a shirt that hung down long in the back but was cut short in the front. Agassi had insisted that it be designed this way so his stomach would be revealed for all to see every time he hit a forehand.

Basking in the attention given his new clothes, Agassi seemed to be well past the funk he had been in during August. But Korda was not the easiest of second-round matches. No one on the tour could figure him out. He was Czech, left-handed, and, according to everyone, nuts. He could be brilliant, as against Brad Gilbert in Davis Cup when he had wiped him out in three sets, or awful, depending on his mood. He had gotten as high as twenty-second on the computer but had slipped back to thirty-third after a mediocre summer.

The match was at night – the USTA making sure TV got its Agassi fix – and was taut and tense for two sets. Agassi won the first, but late in the second he exploded in a manner that brought back memories of McEnroe at his worst.
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2015 US Open coverage

2015 US Open

Relive some of the best moments in the US Open history and follow our coverage on Tennis Buzz:

If you attend the Open and wish to share your stories or pictures, please leave us a comment below.

Fashion and gear:

A trip down memory lane:

Top 5 strange events at the US Open
US Open biggest upsets
1970 US Open: Margaret Court completes the Grand Slam
1971 US Open: Chris Evert becomes the “It Girl”
1972 US Open: Ilie Nastase defeats Arthur Ashe
1973 US Open: Margaret Court defeats Evonne Goolagong
1978: the US Open moves to Flushing Meadows
1978 US Open: 4th consecutive US Open title for Chris Evert
1978 US Open: Jimmy Connors defeats Bjorn Borg
79 US Open 2nd round: McEnroe vs Nastase, chaos on court
1979 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Vitas Gerulaitis
1980 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg
1981 US Open: Tracy Austin defeats Martina Navratilova
1981 US Open: John McEnroe defeats Bjorn Borg: Borg’s last Grand Slam match
1983 US Open: Career Grand Slam for Martina Navratilova
1984 US Open: John McEnroe last Grand Slam title
1990 US Open: Linda Ferrando upsets Monica Seles
1990 US Open: Alexander Volkov upsets Stefan Edberg
1990 US Open, the spitting incident
1991 US Open: Connors, 39 qualifies for the semifinals
1991 US Open: Seles and Capriati introduce power in womens tennis
1991: Monica Seles first US Open title
1991 US Open: playing to perfection, Edberg grabs first Open
1991 US Open: Edberg’s final dominance doesn’t diminish Courier
1992: Stefan Edberg defeats Pete Sampras
1992 US Open: Edberg takes Sampras, US Open, No.1 ranking
1993 US Open: Pete Sampras defeats Cédric Pioline
1994 US Open 4th round: Jaime Yzaga defeats Pete Sampras
1994: first US Open title for Andre Agassi
1995: Pete Sampras defeats Andre Agassi
1996 US Open: Class act Edberg making one last run at US Open
2001 US Open: Venus defeats sister Serena
2001 US Open QF: Andre Agassi – Pete Sampras
2001 US Open: Lleyton Hewitt defeats Pete Sampras
2002 US Open: last Grand Slam title for Pete Sampras
2004 US Open: First time to NYC for a French fan of Agassi
2005 US Open: Roger Federer defeats Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi gives the Open crowd one more thrill ride, August 31st, 2006

Reports:

Polls:

Who will win the 2015 US Open?

  • Roger Federer (47%, 74 Votes)
  • Novak Djokovic (28%, 44 Votes)
  • Rafael Nadal (10%, 15 Votes)
  • Andy Murray (8%, 12 Votes)
  • Stan Wawrinka (3%, 4 Votes)
  • Other (2%, 3 Votes)
  • Kei Nishikori (1%, 2 Votes)
  • Tomas Berdych (1%, 2 Votes)
  • David Ferrer (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Marin Cilic (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Milos Raonic (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 156

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Will Roger Federer win another Grand Slam title before the end of his career?

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Who will win the 2015 US Open?

  • Serena Williams (70%, 63 Votes)
  • Maria Sharapova (9%, 8 Votes)
  • Other (8%, 7 Votes)
  • Simona Halep (7%, 6 Votes)
  • Lucie Safarova (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Ana Ivanovic (2%, 2 Votes)
  • Caroline Wozniacki (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Garbine Muguruza (1%, 1 Votes)
  • Petra Kvitova (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Karolina Pliskova (0%, 0 Votes)
  • Carla Suarez Navarro (0%, 0 Votes)

Total Voters: 90

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Extract from Hard Courts by John Feinstein

The person many people were picking to win was the new No.1 – Edberg. he was, without question, the hottest player in the world. In fact, he had not lost a match since the Bruguera debacle in Paris – a streak of twenty-one matches and fou tournaments. He had won all three events he had entered after Wimbledon: Los Angeles, Cincinnati, and the Hamlet Cup, on Long Island, the week prior to the Open.

In the past, Edberg had played two weeks before the Open and then taken off the week before it began. He had changed that this year because of a new touring-pro deal he had signed with the Hamlet, a golf/tennis resort that had once employed Jimmy Arias as its touring pro. Part of the deal – which was worth $2 million for four years – was that the touring pro played in the Hamlet tournament. Edberg not only played, he won it, playing three matches the last two days because of rain delays.

That may have had nothing to do with what happened to him on the second morning of the tournament. After all, his pre-Open preparations in the past had not produced sterling results, so a change might not have been a bad idea. Or maybe it was.

In any event, Edberg showed up for his match with Alexander Volkov with the hangdog look he had worn in Paris. He didn’t play quite as poorly as he had against Bruguera, but he came close. Once again he was bounced from the first round of a Grand Slam and once again it was in straight sets.

“I just never felt comfortable,” Edberg said. “I can’t tell you why. I thought I would do well here. But it’s all over now.”

Volkov had been so certain he would lose that he had committed to play in German League matches that weekend.

“I was supposed to fly out of here tomorrow,” he said. “I was surprised Stefan played so poorly.”

Volkov made it to his German League commitment. The day after beating Edberg, he lost to Todd Witsken in straight sets – winning only seven games.
Almost everyone had expected an Edberg-Lendl semifinal in the top half of the draw. Now that was out of the question. But the craziness was just beginning.

Extract from Hard Courts by John Feinstein

Almost without fail, the shocking upsets during the first week of a Grand Slam take place on the men’s side. The top women are just too strong to lose an early round match.
The Open began exactly that way: Monica Seles, playing the first match of the tournament, started with a 6-0 6-0 victory over Elena Pampoulova. Steffi Graf dropped two games in her first match; Martina Navratilova dropped four; Zina Garrison, four; and Gabriela Sabatini, two. By the end of the first week, though, the women had the kind of delightful chaos on their hands that’s usually reserved for the men. The first to fall, in what may have been the single most stunning upset of the year in the women’s game, was Seles.

There had been some hints that Seles might be vulnerable. She had shown up in Los Angeles wielding a Yonex racquet, part of a huge multiyear, multimillion-dollar deal she had signed with the company after Wimbledon. This was all well and good, but Yonex had insisted, as part of the deal, that Seles use the racquet at the Open.

Seles had been playing with a Prince – with pretty fair results – and to ask her to change racquets two weeks before a Grand Slam was a mistake. But Yonex wanted to make a splashy pre-Open announcement, and IMG ans Seles’ army of advisers didn’t want to chance losing the deal.
So, they chanced losing the Open. Seles had won Los Angeles, beating Navratilova in a wonderful final. But it had been clear there that she wasn’t hitting the ball with the same authority as in Europe. She was still plenty good and would no doubt get better as she grew accustomed to the racquet, but a lot of people wondered if it would affect her at the Open.

It did. Seles lost in the third round to Linda Ferrando, a twenty-four year old Italian ranked eighty-second in the world – seven spots below Elena Pampoulova. Seles had practiced with Ferrando earlier in the year, in Chicago, but had completely forgotten the session. She expected her to stay back.
Ferrando, after dropping the first set 6-1, began attacking on almost every point. She won the second set 6-1 and led throughout the third. She even had three match points but couldn’t convert them, making choky errors on each one. It looked as if Seles would escape when they went to a tiebreak in the final set. Only, she didn’t.
Ferrando jumped ahead in the tiebreak, and when she got to match point again, she made sure she didn’t choke. She charged in behind a backhand return, and Seles, trying to hit a perfect shot, smacked a backhand into the net tape. She let out a tiny shriek of surprise and anguish, then dealt with the defeat graciously.

“I never thought she would come back after I won the first set 6-1,” she said. “I think I just got nervous at the end.”

Ferrando was still in a little bit of shock.

“I can’t tell you why I won,” she said. “Maybe I can tell you tomorrow.”

In tennis, you have to come up with the answer today because, by tomorrow, you may be forgotten. Ferrando was a case in point: two days after beating Seles, she lost in straight sets to Leila Meshki.