Once again, the US Open proved itself as one of the world’s greatest sporting spectaculars, as tennis’ top talents served up daily doses of high drama and unforgettable entertainment to a worldwide audience of eager fans. Throughout the Flushing fortnight, the thrills multiplied as the storylines played out. Here, in no particular order, are 15 of the 2013 US Open’s most memorable moments:
Opening Night: Rocker Lenny Kravitz helped to launch the tournament on a high note with his opening night performance of “Are You Gonna Go My Way?” Accompanied by a brilliant light and video show that turned the great stage of Arthur Ashe Stadium into a visual kaleidoscope, the performance got US Open fans on their feet – and the play of Serena Williams and Roger Federer kept them standing.
Duval’s Dynamic Debut: Playing in her first-ever main draw at a major, 17-year-old Victoria Duval shocked the world when she took out the 2011 US Open champ and No. 11 seed Samantha Stosur in the opening round. Though she was eliminated in round two, the up-and-coming young American talent dazzled with her game and delighted with her personality, quickly becoming the talk of the town – and all of tennis.
Blake’s Goodbye: James Blake, one of the game’s greatest ambassadors and truest gentlemen, chose this year’s US Open to say goodbye to the sport. It was a tough exit for the Flushing fan favorite, losing a two-set lead and dropping a five-set first-rounder to Ivo Karlovic. But as he had throughout his career, Blake personified class in his goodbye, saying, “Now I'll go back to being a normal person that doesn't have people cheering for him, just changing diapers and hoping to get 18 holes in on a given day. And that's OK with me.”
Wawrinka Wows ‘Em: At the onset of this event, Stanislas Wawrinka didn’t figure to be the Swiss who’d advance farthest in the men’s draw. But the 28-year-old’s run to his first career Slam semifinal allowed Wawrinka to step out of the shadows of his more famous countryman, Roger Federer, and enjoy his own time in the limelight.
Hewitt Turns Back the Clock: Fiery Aussie Lleyton Hewitt, US Open champ in 2001, pulled off a brilliant Benjamin Button impersonation here, cranking back the clock with a remarkable display of shot-making and movement, taking out the No. 6 seed Juan Martin del Potro in the second round before losing a thrilling five-setter to Mikhail Youzhny in the fourth.
Gasquet Gets Tough: France’s Richard Gasquet offered up a resounding reply to all those who’d questioned whether he had the toughness to drive deep in the draw of a major. The Frenchman displayed grit, guts and plenty of game in toughing out back-to-back five setters to reach just his second career Slam semi.
Robredo Takes Down the Greatest: Spain’s Tommy Robredo had been 0-10 against five-time US Open champ Roger Federer prior to their fourth-round encounter. But the Spaniard refused to be intimidated by either opponent or occasion here, ousting the men’s all-time Grand Slam title leader in straight sets. Proving (to paraphrase the late Vitas Gerulaitis), “Nobody beats Tommy Robredo 11 times in a row!”
One Potent Pairing: A win here would have made the team of Bob and Mike Bryan the first doubles team to win a calendar year Grand Slam since 1951, but a semifinal encounter with Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek dashed that dream, as the No. 4 seeds took out the brilliant brothers in a three-set thriller. Fittingly, the giant killers went on to claim the title – their second Slam win as a team.
Czech This Out: On the tournament’s second Friday, Czech Andrea Hlavackova teamed with Max Mirnyi to win the mixed doubles, then she and her partner and countrywoman Lucie Hradecka headed back on court later in the day to oust the team of Venus and Serena Williams in the semis of the women’s doubles competition. All in a day’s work.
A Wheel Achievement: Africa’s Lucas Sithole won the quad wheelchair singles championship at this year’s event, making the 26-year-old the first from his country to claim a US Open title.
Tornado Warning: Junior wild card Tornado Alicia Black, a 15-year-old tempest from Boca Raton, Fla., took the girls’ competition by storm, planting the No. 4 and No. 7 seeds en route to the final, which she lost in a thrilling three-setter to the No. 2 seed, Ana Konjuh of Croatia.
Italian Cooking: Unseeded Italian Flavia Pennetta took out four seeds, including countrywomen Sara Errani (No. 4) and Roberta Vinci (No. 10) in reaching her first career Slam semifinal. The 31-year-old also ousted 2004 US Open champion Svetlana Kuznetsova in her remarkable run, which finally ended with a semifinal loss to Victoria Azarenka.
Courting Greatness: Monica Seles, who captured back-to-back US Open crowns in 1991-92, was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions. “I love it here at the Open,” said Seles. “I only wish I were coming back as a player instead of an honoree.”
Still the 1: In winning her fifth US Open crown and 17th major of her career, Serena Williams put an exclamation point on her greatness. Now just one Slam shy of tying Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova in total titles, Williams continues to make history every time she steps on court.
Serving Notice: Men’s champion Rafael Nadal played his way to his 13th career Grand Slam singles title losing just two sets – and dropping his serve only four times throughout. Nadal will still be No. 2 when the rankings come out, but there’s little doubt he’s on the fast track to retaking the top spot in the men’s game.