As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we look back at the 50 champions who have left an indelible mark on this inimitable event.
Winning a Grand Slam singles title is tough enough, with two weeks of win-or-go-home-tension-filled matches.
Beating the world’s No. 1 and No. 2 players in successive matches is nearly impossible. Only a handful of players in the Open era have achieved the rare feat.
At the 1985 US Open, Hana Mandlikova did just that to win her only singles crown in Flushing Meadows.
Up first in the semifinals was world No. 1 Chris Evert. The American star had already beaten Mandlikova in the 1980 and 1982 Open finals. This time, Mandlikova rallied to win, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
The next day in the final, she squared off against world No. 2 Martina Navratilova, the 1983 and 1984 Open champion, in a match-up featuring two Czech-born players with similar aggressive styles of play.
In a fierce battle, Mandlikova held on to beat Navratilova, 7-6, 1-6, 7-6, raising her game in the tiebreaks by hitting go-for-broke winners.
This was Mandlikova’s third Grand Slam singles title, in addition to winning the 1980 Australian Open and 1981 French Open, but she acknowledged that this one was a bit more special. “Beating two champions in one tournament is a treat,” she said.
At 5-foot, 8-inches, Mandlikova was a supremely gifted athlete and fearless shot-maker. She moved with grace and speed around the court, was comfortable serving and volleying, and her groundstrokes were smooth and punishing.
Mandlikova was adept on any surface, reaching every major final. She won the Australian Open (grass) twice, the French Open (clay) once and the US Open (hard) once. She reached two Wimbledon (grass) finals.
Mandlikova was a model of consistency in her career, staying in the Top 10 from 1980-87 and reaching a career high of No. 3 in 1984 and 1985. She was a cornerstone for the Czechoslovakian Federation Cup team from 1978-87, leading her country to three consecutive titles, from 1983-85.
Her career cut short by injuries, Mandlikova retired at the age of 28 in 1990. She was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1994.
50 Fact: Mandlikova teamed with Navaratilova to win her only Grand Slam doubles crown at the 1989 US Open, beating Pam Shriver and Mary Joe Fernandez, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in the final.