The US Open has been blessed with plenty of great players playing great matches over the years. Here are the five best women’s US Open matches since the Open Era began in 1968:
5. Justine Henin-Hardenne over Jennifer Capriati in the 2003 semis, 4–6, 7–5, 7–6 (4)
Capriati, once a 14-year-old phenom on the circuit back in 1990, was in the midst of a late-career revival, having won three majors the previous two years heading into this match—yet the US Open still eluded her. Henin-Hardenne, on the other hand, had won the French Open earlier in the year for her first major. The matchup featured two of the harder-hitting women on the circuit and lasted more than three hours. After Capriati took the first set, she was within two points of closing out both the second and third sets 11 times, but Henin-Hardenne escaped every time and eventually closed out the match. After the grueling win, she beat Kim Clijsters for the title.
4. Serena Williams over Venus Williams in the 2008 quarters, 7–6 (6), 7–6 (7)
It’s always a memorable event any time the two sisters match up, but few had the excitement of this one. Coming into their fourth (and last) tilt in Flushing, Venus was just two months removed from topping her sister at Wimbledon to even their grand slam head-to-head record at five wins apiece. Venus actually was in control of both sets, but the match was marked by Serena’s incredible comebacks. Trailing 5–3 in the first, Serena fought back to force a tiebreak, in which she saved two set points before prevailing. In the second, Venus held a 5–2 lead and had triple-set point at 5–3 only to have Serena save all three. Then at 6–5, Serena saved another set point to force the tiebreak. If that wasn’t enough, Serena came back from a second triple-set point in the tiebreak, winning seven of the final eight points to clinch an incredible match.
3. Martina Navratilova over Steffi Graf in the 1991 semis, 7–6 (2), 6–7 (6), 6–4
The sixth-seeded Navratilova was 34 and had lost four straight to the 22-year-old, top-seeded Graf heading into this encounter, but she pulled out a turn-back-the-clock performance one more time. Navratilova cruised through the first tiebreak and fought off four set points in the second before Graf finally closed it out to even the match. In the third set, Navratilova held a 4–1 lead, but then had to save two break points at 5–4 to turn back a hard-charging Graf for the win. Unfortunately for Martina, she went on to lose to Monica Seles in the finals.
2. Steffi Graf over Monica Seles in the 1995 final, 7–6 (6), 0–6, 6–3
When Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova’s combined hold on women’s tennis finally loosened in the late ’80s, Graf was there to grab it, winning 9 of 12 majors from 1987 to ’90. But soon her hold was loosened by Seles, who won seven of nine grand slams from 1991 to ’93, until a crazed Graf fan actually stabbed her on court in April 1993. With Seles inactive, Graf was back in the driver’s seat, immediately winning the next four majors. After a two-and-a-half-year layoff, though, Seles returned to the courts and this was only her second tournament since, and it was a good one. In the first-set tiebreak, Seles actually thought she had won it on an ace at 6–5 that was called out, but Graf came back to win it. Seles then dominated the second set, before Graf closed out the match in the third for her 18th (of 22) major titles.
1. Martina Navratilova over Chris Evert in the 1984 finals, 4–6, 6–4, 6–4
Maybe the greatest rivalry in the history of women’s tennis, Evert and Navratilova each won an incredible 18 majors and played each other a total of 80 times—Navratilova won 43 of them. At the time of this match, the rivalry was decidedly in Martina’s favor having won 12 straight over her chief rival, 54 straight matches overall, and five straight majors—including the previous one over Evert. But the 29-year-old Evert came out and took the first set—thrilling the crowd. Evert had her chances in the second set but was unable to convert a double-break opportunity while trailing 5–4. Though Navratilova closed the door on her in the third, the loss actually was a turning point in the rivalry as Evert won the next time out and the rivalry soon evened out. Meanwhile Navratilova’s winning streak eventually ended at 74 matches and 6 majors.