21st century stars
We take a look at the best US Open finals since the start of millennium
By Alex Williams. Last Updated: 09/09/13 12:48pm
Juan Martin Del Potro: Came back to beat Roger Federer in memorable 2009 final
Finals at Flushing Meadows are unique in tennis and several down the years have become some of the grandest occasions in sports.
Staged at Arthur Ashe Stadium, opened in 1997 and the largest purpose-built tennis venue in the world, the matches often begin in the afternoon but stretch into the night as the drama unfolds.
With over 20,000 fans on hand to witness the action and a bumper television audience watching in America the exposure is huge, and here we look back on those who have revelled in the limelight since the turn of the century.
Serena Williams v Venus Williams (2001)
Venus wins 6-2 6-4
Grand slam finals between the Williams sisters may have become commonplace over the last 10 years, but in 2001 it was a new phenomenon. The first major final between siblings in more than a century was one of the most eagerly-anticipated tennis matches in history and marked the first time a women's grand slam final had been shown live on prime time network television in the United States.
Six months earlier at Indian Wells, Venus had pulled out of her semi-final with Serena in the wake of claims from some that the results of their matches were pre-determined. That incident, and the controversial backlash that followed, only heightened the intrigue heading into the final at Flushing Meadows, but in the end the match did not live up to the hype as a contest and Venus cruised to victory.
Pete Sampras v Andre Agassi (2002)
Sampras wins 6-3 6-4 5-7 6-4
Many champions do not get to go out on their own terms as age and fatigue make them a shadow of their former selves. It looked as if Pete Sampras would be another one of these cautionary tales, the seven-time champion having just been dumped out in the second round of Wimbledon by George Bastl amid a run that had seen him go past the fourth round of a grand slam just once in his last seven attempts.
But those who had written him off reckoned without a fairytale run at Flushing Meadows which culminated in his last-ever match with famous rival Andre Agassi. Sampras dominated the contest behind his trademark serve, having to deal with only a minor blip during the third set. He stopped playing soon after.
Roger Federer v Andre Agassi (2005)
Federer wins 6-3 2-6 7-6 6-1
Much like Sampras three years earlier, Agassi delighted the home crowd with one last run at Flushing Meadows in 2005. At the grand old age of 35 the American faced off against Roger Federer in the final, a player who had won four of the last seven grand slam titles. The Swiss was the favourite and opened up a one-set lead but the crowd was firmly in Agassi's corner.
The veteran baseliner used the inspiration to level the match and when he went a break up in the third set, it seemed as though the amazing run might have a dream ending. But Federer eventually reasserted himself and dominated the rest of the contest to take the title.
Kim Clijsters v Caroline Wozniacki (2009)
Clijsters wins 7-5 6-3
The US Open has always been a special tournament for popular Belgian Kim Clijsters, Flushing Meadows the venue at which she took her first grand slam title before her retirement in 2007. But two years later she was back on the circuit and was given a wildcard entry to the final major of the season.
The time away from the court seemed to bear no ill effects as she beat both Venus and Serena Williams on the way to the final, where she went up against emerging 19-year-old Caroline Wozniacki. Clijsters made her experience count as she took a straight-sets victory. The triumph made her the first wildcard champion in US Open history and also ensured she achieved the rare feat of winning a grand slam title after becoming a mother.
Roger Federer v Juan Martin del Potro (2009)
Del Potro wins 3-6 7-6 4-6 7-6 6-2
Federer had already established his candidature for the best player of all-time by the 2009 US Open. The Swiss master had a record total of 15 grand slam titles to his name and Rafael Nadal was the only player deemed capable of challenging him at the major events.
When he went two sets to one up against Del Porto he seemed set for a sixth straight crown at Flushing Meadows, but the big-hitting Argentine proceeded to pull off one of the most stunning comebacks in grand slam history. Some Federer errors in the fourth-set tie-break allowed Del Potro to level things up and he dominated with his blistering forehand in the fifth to end Federer's 40-match winning streak at the tournament.
Novak Djokovic v Rafael Nadal (2011)
Djokovic wins 6-2 6-4 6-7 6-1
Djokovic's miraculous 2011 season came to head in an incredible contest with Nadal in the final at Flushing Meadows. Before the showdown they had played five times during the year, with Djokovic winning all five to usurp the Spaniard as the world No 1. That pattern looked set to continue without too much fuss as he went two sets up after bettering everything Nadal could throw at him.
However, the defending champion finally found an opening in an epic third set, which he won in a tie-break. Djokovic then received treatment for a back injury but amazingly returned stronger than ever to win the fourth set and with it the match. Many observers labelled it the most physical tennis match they had ever seen, until their clash in the Australian Open final four months later proved to be even more gruelling.
Serena Williams v Victoria Azarenka (2012)
Williams wins 6-2 2-6 7-5
The women's final in 2012 pitted world No 1 Azarenka against Wimbledon champion Williams, who had won nine of the 10 matches between the two. It looked like it would be another comfortable victory for the American when she wrapped up the opening set in double-quick time.
But in the second it was Azarenka who was dictating play and soon the match was taken into a dramatic decider. The top seed went a break up and served for the match at 5-3, but she capitulated to let Williams back in. Azarenka would not win another game as the errors piled up to let Williams take a fourth singles title at Flushing Meadows.
Novak Djokovic v Andy Murray (2012)
Murray wins 7-6 7-5 2-6 3-6 6-2
The match that ended Britain's 76-year wait for a male grand slam singles champion was a terrific contest as well as being significant for historical reasons. The importance of the match for Murray, having lost his first four grand slam finals of his career, cannot be overstated. Having been defeated in the final of Wimbledon two months previously, another loss on the biggest stage could have been disastrous, but he did not look in danger of crumbling when he showed great mental strength to win two close sets early on.
The doubts started to creep in when Djokovic fought back to level the match and the momentum was undoubtedly with the Serbian heading into the final set. However, Murray took himself off for a bathroom break to gather his thoughts and when he re-emerged he managed to take control again. He broke Djokovic at the first opportunity in the fifth set and hardly allowed his opponent another look in as he completed the win in four hours and 54 minutes.