Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
A couple of familiar names captured titles in New York last week (actually this week), as Roger Federer nailed down a fifth straight U.S. Open championship, while Serena Williams landed in the winner's circle there for the first time in six years.
Just in case anybody thought that Federer was "done," check again, because his winning streak at the U.S. Open is now up to 34 matches. He's the first player in the Open Era (since 1968) to corral five straight U.S. Open titles, and the first male since "Big" Bill Tilden to secure five straight titles at America's Open since Tilden piled up six in a row from 1920-25.
Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras each won five U.S. Open titles, but not in succession. And no woman has won it more than four times in a row (Molla Bjurstedt Mallory 1915-18, Helen Jacobs 1932-35 and Chris Evert 1975-78).
By the way, Dick Sears holds the all-time record with seven straight U.S. Open championships, from 1881-1887.
Roger Federer poses with his U.S. Open trophy atop New York's Empire State Building.
Federer is also the first man ever to win two different majors five times in a row. But is he the best ever? No doubt fans of the likes of Sampras, Tilden, Bjorn Borg, Rod Laver, Pancho Gonzalez, Donald Budge, Lew Hoad and Jack Kramer would have something to say about that.
It's hard to give the nod to Federer right now, considering he's a dismal 6-12 lifetime against his biggest rival, Rafael Nadal.
I do know that Federer has beaten five different men in the last five finals in Flushing, and this year's victim was rapidly-rising Brit Andy Murray, who succumbed in straight sets on Monday. The men's final was pushed back to Monday because of severe weather conditions along the East Coast on Saturday, which was unfortunate, considering the tournament enjoyed near-perfect weather throughout the first 12 days of the fortnight.
The 27-year-old Federer, who beat Novak Djokovic in last year's U.S. Open final, beat the reigning Aussie Open champion Djokovic in the semis this year to secure a spot in his 17th Grand Slam title tilt.
No, the mighty Fed didn't beat Nadal in the final, but it's not his fault the Spanish superstar failed to reach the lucrative round.
The world No. 2 Federer upped his major title tally to 13, leaving him only one shy of Sampras' record 14. And he pushed his career prize money over $43 million, joining Sampras as the only other player to do that. Sampras piled up $43,280,489, while Federer currently stands at $43,138,419.
Note: Federer has played in a record 18 straight Grand Slam semis.
Serena Williams became a three-time U.S. Open champ.
Serena, meanwhile, snapped a U.S. Open drought by claiming her first victory there since 2002. She handled Serbian Jelena Jankovic in straight sets in Sunday's women's finale, propelling herself back into the world No. 1 position for the first time since 2003. That's what you'd call killing two birds with one stone.
Jankovic, by the way, finally reached her first-ever Grand Slam final after going winless, including 0-2 this year, in four previous major semifinals.
For the 26-year-old Serena, it marked her third U.S. Open title and ninth overall major championship. It was her first major title since last year's flawless run at the Aussie Open, and she improved to 9-3 in her career major finals.
Serena's biggest test came in the quarters last week, when she snuck past her big sister Venus in a pair of tiebreaks. The two-time U.S. Open and seven-time major champion Venus is the reigning two-time Wimbledon champ, having beaten Serena in the final at the All England Club back in July.
(I picked Serena to reign supreme in Flushing. It guess it worked out.)
The U.S. Open was perhaps a breakout major for Scotland's ultra-talented Murray, who had never reached a major semifinal before last week. His biggest victory in New York came over two days, as he shocked the world No. 1 Nadal in four sets in a semi that commenced Saturday and ended on Sunday.
Andy Murray played in his first career major final.
The ever-improving Murray, who has eight wins over Top-10 players this season, is trying to give Britain its first male major champion since Fred Perry way back in 1936. He'll play in his first-ever Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai in November.
As for the five-time major titlist Nadal, he's still seeking that elusive first-ever trip into the U.S. Open final (0-for-6). The strapping Spaniard, however, is still the reigning Wimbledon, four-time French Open and Olympic champion. He beat Federer in this year's Wimbledon and French Open finals, with that epic Wimbledon matchup going down as one of the best sporting events in history.
Nadal was trying to become only the fourth man in the Open Era to win three straight Grand Slam events (Laver, Sampras and Federer, who's done it twice).
(I picked Rafa to win in Flushing. I guess it didn't work out.)
Note: Nadal is 16-5 against fellow Top-10ers this year, while Federer is 5-7.
The 22-year-old Nadal and Federer reached at least the semifinals at all four majors in 2008.
Surging Argentine Juan Martin del Potro may have failed to win his fifth straight tournament, but the 19-year-old did make it to the quarterfinals in Queens, where he ultimately gave way to Murray and is now inside the Top 10 for the first time in his blossoming career.
Jelena Jankovic landed in her maiden Grand Slam finale.
And kudos to American Mardy Fish and Luxembourg's Gilles Muller, who both made it to the round of eight last week. Fish's run ended against Nadal, while Muller bowed out against Federer. No shame in those setbacks.
If you want to talk upsets in New York, the biggest was world No. 188 Frenchwoman Julie Coin's three-set victory over then-No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in the second round. The French Open titlist and Aussie Open runner-up Ivanovic became the earliest top-seeded women's loser in New York in the Open Era. The last time a top-seeded woman lost "wicked early" in New York was Billie Jean King in the third round in 1973.
A pair of high-flying Russian women suffered semifinal losses in Flushing, as Olympic gold medalist and 2004 U.S. Open runner-up Elena Dementieva was shown the door by Jankovic, while Dinara Safina was unable to get past Serena. The French Open and Olympic runner-up Safina had reached finals in six of her previous seven tourneys.
As for the American men, their titleless drought in NYC will be at six years this time next year. Top American contender Andy Roddick succumbed to Djokovic in the quarterfinals at the sprawling USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center (or USTA BJK NTC).
Note: Only five men played in the four Grand Slam finals this year -- Federer (3), Nadal (2), Djokovic, Murray and Aussie Open runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while the women filled the eight berths with six different players -- Serena (2), Ivanovic (2), Venus, Jankovic, Maria Sharapova and Dinara Safina. An injured Sharapova was forced to skip the U.S. Open, which she captured in 2006.
This Week's Question: How is Stanislas Wawrinka ranked No. 9 in the world?
Best Answer (from a layperson): Who is Stanislas Wawrinka?
This year's Open set yet another attendance record (720,000 fans) and simply continues to be one of the world's great sporting extravaganzas.