The US Open has seen its share of amazing accomplishments since opening its doors to both pros and amateurs at the dawn of the Open era in 1968. In this week’s Best of 3, we take a look at the Open era women’s marks that stand out above the rest. (Click here for last week’s Best of 3 on the most outstanding men’s accomplishments.)
Chris Evert: 16 Consecutive Singles Semifinals
Chris Evert was the original US Open tennis sensation. Unseeded and just 16 years old, she burst onto the scene in 1971 and made a stunning run to the semifinals before falling to eventual champion Billie Jean King. Along the way she inspired a legion of diehard fans and kicked off one of the most impressive streaks in tournament history: 16 consecutive years in the US Open’s final four.
During her 16-year ride, Evert racked up won 88 of her US Open record 101 match wins, captured an Open era record-tying six women’s singles titles and reached an Open era record nine singles finals. She defeated everyone from King and Rosie Casals to Martina Navratilova and Monica Seles.
Evert’s semifinal streak ended in 1987 with a three-set loss to countrywoman Lori McNeil. The 18-time Grand Slam champion would return to the semifinals again in 1988 before finally stepping away from the game in 1989 – following a second quarterfinal loss, this time to Zina Garrison.
Martina Navratilova: Titles in Four Different Decades
Martina Navratilova’s singles triumphs at the US Open were limited to a relatively brief period in the mid-1980s: four titles in five years from 1983 to 1987. But her Open legacy began a decade before that – and extended far longer.
Navratilova won her first US Open title in 1977, teaming with Betty Stove to capture the women’s doubles title. The net-crashing lefty would go on to dominate the women’s doubles in New York in the ensuing decade-plus, teaming with Billie Jean King for two more titles (1978, 1980), plus four with Pam Shriver (1983-83, 86-87) and one each with Hana Mandlikova (1989) and Gigi Fernandez (1990). Throw in a pair of mixed doubles championships – with Heinz Gunthardt (1985) and Emilio Sanchez (1987) – and Navratilova’s place in the Open annals was well-assured.
Then came 2006. Sixteen years after her last championship – and an astounding 29 years after her first – Navratilova teamed with Bob Bryan to win the mixed doubles for her Open era record 16th US Open title, a mark that easily outpaces men’s leader Bryan (nine) women’s runner-up Margaret Court (10).
Serena Williams: Singles Titles in Three Different Decades
When Serena Williams first broke through at the US Open, she was bubbly teen with her hair in braids, capturing the mixed doubles title in 1998 at age 16 and her first singles title in 1999 at 17. That she might dominate the next decade seemed utterly reasonable and, as it turns out, undeniably correct. That she would continue to reign as the queen of New York nearly 20 years later is what makes her one of the game’s greats.
In total, Serena has won six women’s singles titles, matching Chris Evert for the most in the Open era. But no one can match Serena’s longevity in doing so. She has won singles championships in the 1990s, the 2000s and the 2010s – with the difference between first and last titles stretching 15 years. By comparison, the previous women’s record belonged to Steffi Graf, at eight years.
Of course, Serena is likely to enter the US Open as the top seed once again in 2016, making a record-extending 17-year stretch a definite possibility – and making a singles title in 2020s seem not that crazy at all.