The results on the men’s and women’s side at this year’s US Open have produced plenty of cheers, tears and the occasional jeer from the crowd. But from Caroline Wozniacki’s career resurgence to Kei Nishikori’s history-making moment, this year’s US Open has produced plenty of feel-good moments that have left entire stadiums rallying behind a player.
Here are, in no particular order, eight players who have produced some of the most memorable feel-good stories of the 2014 US Open.
Cici Bellis – Playing in her first Grand Slam and only the fifth professional tournament of her career, the 15-year-old Californian stunned Australian Open finalist and No. 12 seed Dominika Cibulkova in the first round. Within 24 hours, the Girls’ 18s national champion became a trending topic on Twitter and the most-sought after player on the grounds due to her huge forehand and personality to match. Although she lost in three sets to Top 50 player Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan in the second round, even that result showed that she has plenty of promise for the future.
Victor Estrella Burgos – Playing in your first US Open at the age of 34 is impressive enough, but Estrella Burgos made history by becoming the first player from the Dominican Republic to win a round at a Grand Slam. With throngs of Dominican fans waving flags and cheering him on during his matches, the affable baseliner broke down in tears after reaching the third round. He eventually lost in three tiebreaks to No. 5 seed Milos Raonic, but became a national hero in his country in the process.
Mirjana Lucic-Baroni – Once touted as a future No. 1 and Grand Slam champion during the late 1990s, Lucic-Baroni’s career had been largely plagued by personal and financial troubles. But after coming through qualifying, she produced spectacular tennis to shock world No. 2 Simona Halep in the third round. She dropped her racquet and held her hands up in disbelief after match point, then broke down in tears as she called it the greatest day of her life. Despite losing in the fourth round to No. 13 seed Sara Errani, her story of redemption endeared her to fans both old and new.
Kimiko Date-Krumm – The ageless 43-year-old from Japan continues to achieve new milestones, this time by reaching her first-ever Grand Slam semifinal in doubles at this year’s tournament. She also showed that she still has plenty of game in singles, extending Venus Williams to three sets in the opening round. Date-Krumm has said that she has no plans to retire and will keep playing as long as she’s still enjoying life on the tour. For everyone’s sake, let’s hope she sticks around for a while longer.
Bob and Mike Bryan – The world No. 1 doubles team winning title No. 100 together seemed a question of when and not if, but it was particularly fitting for them to achieve that career milestone at the US Open. It’s hard to find anyone who isn’t a fan of what they’ve brought to the game of doubles, both with their high-energy game on the court and their fan-friendly personalities and charity work off the court. They’re committed to playing through the 2016 Olympics, so there are likely more titles in store for them in the coming years.
Martina Navratilova– The tennis icon has produced plenty of memorable moments on the court at the US Open, but created one off the court in between the two men’s semifinal matches by proposing to longtime girlfriend Julia Lemigova. The proposal was made in a TV suite and broadcast on the arena’s big screen as fans cheered when Lemigova accepted. Navratilova called the proposal an “out-of-body” experience but said she was “flying high” after. Congrats to the happy couple!
Caroline Wozniacki – The former world No. 1 became a tabloid fixture after her very public breakup to fiancé and golf champion Rory McIlroy, but channeled her emotions into her tennis and produced some of the best tennis of her career. She reached the final without losing a set before being stopped by Serena for the third time this summer, but showed that she is back to top form and will be a force to be reckoned with for the rest of the year.
Kei Nishikori – The No. 10 seed from Japan became this tournament’s version of The Little Engine That Could. After prevailing back to back in the two longest matches of the tournament, he weathered brutal conditions and the equally harsh play of No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic to prevail in four sets in the semifinals. After becoming the first Asian-born man to reach a Grand Slam singles final, we could be seeing the effects of his groundbreaking results for years to come as kids across Japan have already become inspired to pick up a tennis racquet.
Are there any other feel-good stories that we missed at the 2014 US Open? Let us know in the comments section!