Once again, the US Open provided fans with a host of riveting story lines and fascinating plot twists – the very things that annually help to define this event as one of the most exciting in all of sports. Throughout this Flushing fortnight, the thrills multiplied as the days played out. Here, in no particular order, are 15 of the most memorable highlights of this year’s event:
1) In hot pursuit of history: In the end, women’s No. 1 Serena Williams finished two wins short of what would have been a historic Grand Slam, but every step of her chase up to that point focused the world’s sports spotlight on Flushing Meadows, brilliantly illuminating the Open – and the sport of tennis – for all the world to see.
2) A charming chat: After notching the win of her life in knocking out Williams in the semis, Roberta Vinci used the ESPN microphone to introduce herself and her singular sort of charm to the crowd in Arthur Ashe Stadium and in the TV audience. Clearly stunned by her own great play, the 32-year-old Italian was a delight, equally apologetic and adorable. “I’m in the final and I beat Serena. Sorry guys. … But for me, it’s an amazing moment. … Think best moment of my life.” She may have come into the match as a relative unknown, but she left as a new Flushing fan favorite.
3) Pennetta’s perfect: In 48 previous Grand Slam tournament appearances, Pennetta had reached the semis of a major exactly once. This year, the 33-year-old Italian put together two magical weeks in winning her first – and last – career major crown, announcing afterward that she plans to retire at year’s end.
4) Venus-Serena, Part 27: Venus and Serena Williams met for the 27th time in their careers in the quarters here, giving the second Tuesday night a second-Saturday sort of feeling. At this point in their respectively remarkable runs, any of these matchups could be the last time the two come together. In a tightly contested three-setter, younger sister Serena advanced in another spectacular chapter in a riveting sibling rivaly.
5) A brave defense: Defending US Open men’s champ Marin Cilic stumbled into this year’s Open on the heels of a so-so-season. But Cilic seemed revived by his return to Flushing, showing large helpings of heart and hustle in toughing out two five-setter en route to the semifinals, where he lost to eventual 2015 winner Novak Djokovic.
6) The Paes the thing: In claiming the mixed doubles crown with partner Martina Hingis, India’s Leander Paes notched his ninth major mixed doubles title, more than any other man in the Open era.
7) Oui, oui: France’s Pierre Hughes-Herbert and Nicolas Mahut won the men’s doubles title here, making them the first Frenchmen in the history of this event to win the doubles crown.
8) Raising the roof: Although it won’t be fully operational until the 2016 US Open, the roof superstructure on Ashe proved a hit with fans and players alike. Many spoke of the structure making the world’s largest tennis stadium feel more intimate, and players approved of the less-windy conditions on court and the improved sound of ball on racquet. Of course, next year, its greatest attribute will be converting damp into dry.
9) The write stuff: The USTA this year named the US Open Media Center in Arthur Ashe Stadium for longtime tennis journalist and historian Bud Collins, whose writing and TV work helped to popularize the sport across this country.
10) Keys to success: Madison Keys, one of America’s brightest young talents, played her way into the fourth round here before losing to Serena Williams. For Keys, 20, it was her best-ever US Open showing and, coming on the heels of her run to the semis in Australia and the quarters of Wimbledon, was further evidence that she might just be a major force at the majors for years to come.
11) One that got away: Before the start of the Open, American Mardy Fish announced that the US Open would be the last tournament of his career. Fish staved off retirement for one round, toughing our a four-set win there before losing to the No. 18 seed Feliciano Lopez n round two. Fish, long a grand ambassador for the sport and his country, was always a class act and a fan favorite.
12) Time flies when you’re playing tennis: The newly retired Fish, who began this Flushing fortnight playing in the men’s main-draw singles competition, concluded it competing in the Legends Doubles, partnering with fellow retiree Jim Courier.
13) It’s been Grand: One of the favorite venues of the Flushing fan base, the Grandstand, hosted play for the final year in 2015. A new Grandstand court will make its debut next year, relocated to the southwest corner of the grounds.
14) Hope on the horizon: For the first time since 2010, two American boys competed in the final of the US Open junior boys' championship. No. 1 seed Taylor Fritz defeated No. 5 seed Tommy Paul in three thrilling sets. The two also met earlier in the year in the final of the French Open, with Paul taking that title. For those who question the future of the American men’s game, Fritz, 17 and Paul, 18 are providing plenty of answers.
15) Two greats, too great: Fittingly, the tournament concluded with one of its most entertaining matches, as men's No. 1 seed Novak Djokovic knocked out second-seeded Roger Federer, evening their career head-to-heads at 21-all. This clash of all-time greats became an instant classic, as the 28-year-old Serb captured his 10th career Slam singles crown – and his second career US Open title.