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Most Iconic Moments in U.S. Open History – NBC Los Angeles

The U.S. Open is underway and Flushing Meadows, N.Y., is about to see some serious action.

Stars like Ons Jabeur, Emma Raducanu and Coco Gauff will take on the legendary Billie Jean King hardcourts for the 44th iteration of the annual tournament. 

Will these new stars match the potential of some historic legends, like Serena and Venus Williams, who sparked the interest of the masses at the event?

Before we hop into the madness, let’s take a look at some of the most iconic moments in U.S. Open history.

What are the top 10 most iconic moments in U.S. Open history?

Here are the most spectacular moments in U.S. Open history:

  1. Williams sisters face off

In 2001, tennis superstar Serena Williams battled her younger sister, Venus Williams in a fierce feud. Venus, who now has two U.S. Open singles titles under her belt, beat Serena in the first Grand Slam singles final that featured two siblings in more than 100 years. 

But this wasn’t the only history made that day. The Venus-Serena faceoff was the first time two Black players faced off in a Grand Slam final.

Serena went on to be a 23-time Grand Slam singles champion and Venus went on to earn seven Grand Slam singles titles.

2. Arthur Ashe makes history

At the 1968 U.S. Open, Arthur Ashe became the first African-American man to win the tournament, after defeating Tom Okker. He won the U.S. Open, the Australian Open and Wimbledon throughout his career. The icon was ranked World No. 1 before retiring in 1980.

3. Borg vs. McEnroe

During the 1981 final, the tennis rivals Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe battled one another in one last match. McEnroe won the match after four sets, making it their 22nd appearance together. In fact, the moment was so iconic that Hollywood made it into a movie starring Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason called Borg vs. McEnroe. 

You can stream Borg vs. McEnroe on Hulu, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV.

4. Rod Laver’s second slam

Australian tennis mogul Rod Laver made history during the 1969 U.S. Open. He beat Tony Roche in four sets on grass courts and became the one and only player to ever win all four Grand Slams in the same year, also known as the Calendar Slam, two times. He pulled off the feat in 1962 and 1969.

He also made his mark by earning 198 singles titles, which is the most in tennis history.

5. Andre Agassi’s goodbye

Eight-time major champion and Olympic gold medalist Andre Agassi made an impact with his farewell at the 2006 U.S. Open. It was well-known that the 2006 tournament would be the final competition of his career, but Agassi was not prepared for the emotional turbulence that day. 

Despite losing, the former World No. 1 American received a standing ovation that lasted four minutes. Soon after, Agassi cried into his chair and later blew kisses to the crowd as he walked across the court one last time.

6. Golden Slam completion

German tennis superstar Steffi Graf made history as the only tennis player to clinch a Golden Slam – meaning that in 1988, she won all four major titles and also the gold medal at the Seoul Olympics. She capped off the achievement with a win over Gabriela Sabatini at the 1988 U.S. Open finals. 

No athlete has completed a Golden Slam since.

7. Spectator goes down

The 1977 U.S. Open was questionably humorous considering audience participation was involved. However, it wasn’t exactly voluntary. 

During a third-round match between Eddie Dibbs and McEnroe (yes, him again), a spectator was unfortunately pinned in the leg with the ball. The man who faced the Dibbs-McEnroe ball was carried out in a stretcher but survived. 

8. The 18 minutes of chaos

The 1979 U.S. Open was a memorable time for lovers of the sport. Two rivals, McEnroe and Ilie Nastase, battled during a second-round match, which ended in complete turmoil.

After a controversial ruling, Nastase showed off his humor by pretending to sleep on the baseline, using his racket as a pillow. This resulted in a penalty and a point to McEnroe, which then angered Nastase even more. Eventually, the match was given to McEnroe and the crowd went wild. This was known as the “18 minutes of chaos.”

9. Tracy Austin’s win at 16 years old

The tennis legend got to the U.S. Open quarterfinals at the mere age of 14 and made her big breakthrough at the 1979 U.S. Open. There, she beat Martina Navratilova and Chris Evert to clinch her first Grand Slam title at only 16 years old. 

She remains the youngest winner of the U.S. Open, as well as the third youngest winner of a Grand Slam tournament in the Open Era.

10. Kim Clijsters’ unexpected win

During the 2009 U.S. Open, something extremely exciting happened for Belgian tennis star Kim Clijsters. Despite not playing in the U.S. Open since 2005 and retiring in 2007 due to a series of challenging injuries, Clijsters came back to win it all. 

And it doesn’t stop there. The icon got married, had a child and then returned to competition as a wild-card entrant. And yet, she beat No. 3-ranked Venus Williams and No. 2-ranked Serena Williams to earn the title.

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