Each year, the US Open provides 15 days of thrills and magic that produces the sort of memories that last a lifetime. The electricity generated here during the course of the event sends a surge through the sporting world that brilliantly illuminates the game of tennis for everyone to enjoy. So as we close the book on another unforgettable US Open, here are just a few of the things that made this Flushing fortnight one we’ll all be talking about for years.
Serena sizzles: After getting shut out at the season’s first three Slams, Serena Williams came into New York on a mission to make this US Open her own. She did just that, playing her way to her sixth US Open title and 18thGrand Slam singles crown without the loss of a set. Her 6-3, 6-3 win over Caroline Wozniacki in the women’s final put an exclamation mark on what was a remarkable run. Throughout this event, Williams was the definition of dominant, and at its end, she was just that much closer to defining herself as the greatest of all time.
First time for everything: No. 10 seed Kei Nishikori and No. 14 seed Marin Cilic squared off in the men’s final — the first Grand Slam singles final for both men. It was the first time the US Open final had hosted two first-time finalists since Patrick Rafter beat Greg Rusedski in 1997. Cilic's win was the first major triumph for a Croatian man since his coach, Goran Ivanisevic, won Wimbledon in 2001.
From China, at love: China’s No. 3 women’s player Peng Shuai looked very much like someone with designs on the top with the way she played through this tournament. Peng, 28, played with a singular tenacity and toughness, tearing through the draw without losing a set in reaching her first career Slam semifinal. There, she looked very much like a player who’d been there before, going shot-for-shot with Wozniacki before being forced to retire with heat-related illness. If she can maintain that level of play, Pen should be a major factor at the majors in the coming year.
Upset Saturday: The day once known as “Super Saturday” was in fact just that for Nishikori and Cilic, who planted the top two seeds in the men’s draw on this single day. First, Nishikori took out top seed Novak Djokovic in four sets, then Cilic dismissed Federer in an easy three. In two matches, 24 total Grand Slam singles titles were swept away in a mere seven sets. This event has never hosted a day quite like it.
Marathon man: Though much was made over these two weeks of Caroline Wozniacki training for the New York City Marathon, Nishikori ran a marathon of his own over the course of this event, playing two of this event’s three longest matches. Nishikori followed a five-set, 4-hour, 19-minute fourth-round win over No. 5 seed Milos Raonic with a five-set, 4-hour, 15-minute victory over No. 3 seed Stan Wawrinka in the quarters. And somehow, he still had plenty left in the tank to take out five-time US Open finalist and seven-time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic — this tournament’s top seed — in four sets in the semis.
Bryans reach the century mark: Bob and Mike Bryan, the American sibling sensations that have spent their careers re-writing the doubles record book, chose a fitting stage upon which to claim their 100th career doubles crown. Their 6-3, 6-4 final-round win over Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez not only brought them to the century mark in terms of titles, but further enhanced their reputation as the most prolific pairing in the game.
Woz, the great and powerful: Although she lost in the final to a steamroller named Serena, Caroline Wozniacki turned this year’s US Open into something of a coming-out party for herself, knocking out the No. 5 seed and five-time Grand Slam singles champ Maria Sharapova in the fourth round en route to her first major final since she was a finalist here in 2009. Wozniacki is once again playing with a focus and fire that suggest she’ll be a serious factor at future Slams.
Bellis is Belle of the Ball: In taking out No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova, this year’s Australian Open runner-up, 15-year-old wild card CiCi Bellis displayed a personality, poise and presence that belied her age and experience. Bellis not only was impressive on court, but also in the myriad interviews that followed the biggest win of her young career. Though she lost in the second round, she’d already won the hearts of fans and media.
Monfils, seriously: France’s Gael Monfils has long been one of the game’s top talents — from the neck down. But he’d never really been able to combine his remarkable movement and shot-making skills with the sort of singular focus required to string together seven matches over the course of two weeks. But this year, we got to see a different Monfils, a much more focused competitor who reached the quarters without losing a set. Unfortunately, his focus went AWOL after dropping the two match points he held against Roger Federer in that match and he wound up losing in five. But to that point, he’d seemed locked in, forgoing the show for the shot. This is the Monfils we always knew was there; it was exciting to see him here.
Ageless grace: At 43, Kimiko Date-Krumm gave two-time US Open champ Venus Williams all she could handle in the first round of the women’s singles, taking the first set before Williams rallied for the three-set win. Just for good measure, the ageless wonder partnered with Barbora Zahlavova Strycova to reach the semis of the women’s doubles competition. They say tennis is the sport for a lifetime — and Date-Krumm is one player who’s clearly taken that notion to heart.
A champion’s champion: Two-time U.S. Nationals champ Tony Trabert was inducted into the US Open Court of Champions this year. Trabert, who won the U.S. Nationals in 1953 and 1955, later enjoyed a 30-year career with CBS Sports in which he broadcast this event and helped to raise its profile and popularity.
Bye American: In her first three matches here, Serena Williams knocked out three of her fellow Americans, dismissing Taylor Townsend, Vania King and Varvara Lepchenko in order. Doing the math, that adds up to a single-handed dismissal of 17.6 percent of the American contingent in the women’s draw.
Familiar faces: The four men’s semifinalists here, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, Nishikori, and Cilic each were coached by men who’d themselves experienced Grand Slam glory, with six-time Grand Slam singles champ Stefan Edberg coaching Federer; Boris Becker, winner of six majors, mentoring Djokovic; former French Open champ Michael Chang advising Nishikori; and Goran Ivanisevic, Wimbledon winner in 2001 guiding Cilic. On court and in the players’ box, that’s a pretty impressive lineup of talent. All told, these guys hold more titles than the Dewey Decimal System.