The US Open brings with it the end of the tennis Grand Slam season.
When the likes of Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Serena Williams hit the 7 train to Flushing on Monday (ha, as if any of them would ever step foot on the subway!), they’ll loop the thread on what has been a narrative arc stretching back to the Australian Open in January, through Roland Garros in May and past Wimbledon in July.
With that thought of continuity and story arc in mind, we decided to celebrate the US Open with one of our favorite party games: Six Degrees of Separation.
Being only four years younger than Wimbledon (started in 1877), the US Open dates its rich history back to 1881. So let’s take a trip back to the days of the Gilded Age, and see if we can’t find our way back to 2013 on the hardcourt.
They might as well have renamed the competition the "Richard Sears Open" in the tournament’s early years. The American won the first seven US Open titles, his reign lasting from 1881-87 and still standing today as the most consecutive US Opens won.
Sears did win all seven titles in a row, but he’s not the only person to win seven trophies overall. It’s a mark equaled by William Larned (1901, 1902, 1907-11) and Bill Tilden (1920-25, 1929; above; Getty Images), putting them all on even footing for most US Open singles titles won by a man.
While a few individual males dominated the early days of the US Open, one woman stood above the rest in the early part of the century. Molla Mallory surpassed Tilden & Co. with her record eight US Open singles titles won, still the most of anyone ever. She conquered the field in 1915-18, 1920-22, and lastly in 1926.
Mallory’s four straight US Open wins are the most consecutive Open singles titles by a woman, later matched by Helen Jacobs (1932-35) and Chris Evert (1975-78), who takes us to the Open Era.
Evert (above; Getty Images) was no US Open specialist, though – her 34 Grand Slam singles finals appearances are the most ever, male or female, with 18 victories coming in those matches. Her male counterpart in the history books? Roger Federer, whose 24 Grand Slam finals appearances (and 17 wins) are the most ever by a male player.
One of those Grand Slam wins came at the 2005 US Open, when Federer equaled Ivan Lendl’s 1985 record for largest margin of victory in a US Open final tiebreak, 7-1, en route to defeating Andre Agassi. As for the most contested tiebreaker we’ve ever seen at Flushing? Andy Murray’s 12-10 first-set marathon over Novak Djokovic was the longest tiebreaker in US Open history – at last year’s competition, of which Murray is the defending champion.
So there you have it! We zipped more than 130 years faster than a Samuel Groth ace!
This year may see a fourth different male winner in four Grand Slams, while Serena looks to carry the torch again for the Americans on home turf. And who knows what records might be on the horizon – enjoy the US Open!