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Best matches of the 2014 US Open

Roger Federer during his five set victory over Gael Monfils in the quarterfinals of the 2014 US Open.
By E.J. Crawford
Tuesday, September 9, 2014

In all, 254 singles matches were played at the US Open – 127 each for the men’s and women’s draws – delivering all the drama we associate with the Flushing fortnight. But when all was said and done, a few stood out above the rest.

Here is a look at the best matches of the 2014 US Open:

CiCi Bellis d. (12) Dominika Cibulkova, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4 – First Round

The sheer audacity of the 15-year-old Bellis made this one fun to watch. Facing the No. 12 seed and reigning Australian Open finalist Dominika Cibulkova in front of a raucous, capacity crowd on Court 6, the teenager never blinked, coiling her slight 5-foot-5 frame and blistering winners off both sides while Cibulkova struggled to gain control of the match. She never did. Bellis, who earned a wild card into the US Open by winning the USTA Girls’ 18s National Championships, stayed on the offensive throughout the third set, betraying no nerves in becoming the youngest player to win a singles match at the US Open since Anna Kournikova in 1996 and the unquestioned belle of the ball of the Open’s opening week.

(13) Sara Errani d. (19) Venus Williams, 6-0, 0-6, 7-6 – Third Round

In a match that was as bizarre as it was riveting, Sara Errani and Venus Williams traded bagels and traded blows, turning a laugher into a barnburner that ended with Errani screaming into the afternoon sky in delight. After a miserable start, Venus looked well on her way to a victory, running off with seven consecutive games at one point and serving for the match at 5-3 in the third set. But Errani is one of the toughest – and fittest – competitors on the women’s tour, and she wouldn’t relent, tracking down booming Venus forehands and unfurling an array of drop shots and looping backhands that kept the elder Williams sister on the move and off the attack. At 5-5 in the tiebreak, Errani snared what seemed a winning passing shot and answered with a well-placed backhand volley, and she advanced with a cross-court forehand winner that brought the crowd, in Venus’ corner throughout, to its feet.

(16) Victoria Azarenka d. Aleksandra Krunic, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 – Fourth Round

Krunic came into the US Open ranked No. 145 in the world, having never previously played in the main draw of a Grand Slam. But in the opening match of a marathon Monday night, the 21-year-old stood toe-to-toe with two-time US Open finalist Victoria Azarenka, bidding to become just the second women’s qualifier in recorded US Open history (Barbara Gerken, 1981) to advance to the quarterfinals. And she very nearly pulled it off. In a match of gritty baseliners with agile feet, Krunic and Azarenka pushed each other around the court for nearly two-and-a-half hours before the two-time Grand Slam champion finally prevailed, pumping her fist and yawping in celebration at the end. It was a final acknowledgement that Krunic, who defeated No. 27 Madison Keys and No. 3 Petra Kvitova en route to the round of 16, made her work for every single point.

(10) Kei Nishikori d. (5) Milos Raonic, 4-6, 7-6, 6-7, 7-5, 6-4 – Fourth Round

The nightcap that followed Azarenka-Krunic went late. Very late. So late it became early. The signs of a close contest were there from the start. Deuce games. Breaks reciprocated. Tiebreaks. And on and on it went, past midnight, past 1 a.m., past even 2 a.m. for just the fifth time in tournament history. When it was all over, more than four hours after it had begun, No. 10 Kei Nishikori had advanced to the quarterfinals at the US Open for the first time his career in the longest match of the tournament, having raised the drooping eyelids of the assembled throng and fought off the gargantuan serve of No. 5 Milos Raonic. The match tied the tournament record for latest US Open finish, at 2:26 a.m. ET, and helped to propel Nishikori’s stunning run to the final, as the Japanese followed it with another five-set marathon victory over No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka in the quarterfinals and a four-set stunner over No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semis.

(14) Marin Cilic d. (26) Gilles Simon, 5-7, 7-6, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 – Fourth Round

This match did not garner much attention at the time, but it turned out to be Cilic’s toughest test of the fortnight. The Croat had never previously defeated Simon in four attempts, in fact falling to him at the Australian Open, also in five sets, earlier in the year. But Cilic would not be denied on this day. Showing the improved serve – and nerve – that would carry him to the men’s singles title, Cilic fired aces and played solid, consistent, confident tennis to thwart the counter-punching Frenchman in an affair that clocked in at 4 hours, 13 minutes, which registered as one of the longest – and most compelling – matches of the tournament.

(2) Roger Federer d. (20) Monfils, 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2 – Quarterfinals

This one looked over after two sets, and then certainly again in the fourth. But time and again Federer exhibited a champion’s mettle, battling out of a two-set hole in a stunning display of grit over grace. Monfils was a shot-making wonder in the early going, blowing through Federer in the opening two sets, playing him tough in the third and gaining two match points on Federer’s serve in the fourth. But the Swiss fought off each match point to pull even at 5-5 in the fourth stanza, then took over the match from there. While the five-time Open champion surged, Monfils sagged, playing a disappointing fifth set that didn’t live up to the standard of the first four. Still, it was a riveting match between two of the most stylish, athletic players on tour, and when it was all said and done, with Federer advancing to his first Flushing semifinal since 2011, there was one lonely Frenchman on court, heartily disappointed with the result of the encounter.