Greatness at the US Open isn’t achieved by a singular success. It’s the product of years at the top of the game, playing deep into the Flushing fortnight and routinely contending for US Open titles.
By that measure, no man has achieved greater glory at the US Open than Jimmy Connors. The feisty left-hander reached the semifinals in New York for 12 consecutive years, from 1974 to 1985, the longest such streak of any man in tournament history.
Connors’ first foray into the final four came in what is considered his best season, 1974, when he won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open but was denied a shot at the calendar-year Grand Slam when the French Open barred participants who competed in World Team Tennis. From there, he returned to the US Open Finals Weekend again and again, winning five titles in all (1974, 1976, 1978, 1982-83) and reaching two additional finals, in 1975 and 1977.
Perhaps most impressive is that Connors’ streak spanned three surfaces – grass in 1974, green clay from 1975 to 1977 and hard courts thereafter. He remains the only player, man or woman, to win US Open singles championships on all three surfaces.
Connors’ run came to an end in 1986, when he lost in the third round to fellow American Todd Witsken. He subsequently returned to the semis in 1987, reached the quarters in 1988 and 1989 and, most memorably, made a run to the 1991 semifinals as a 39-year-old wild card.
As impressive as it is, Connors’ mark is currently under threat. Novak Djokovic has reached the US Open semifinals or better for 10 years running.