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.
For the first eight years of his career, Flushing Meadows bedeviled Stefan Edberg. Only twice had he made it past the fourth round, and twice he had made a first-round exit. It seemed that the noise, the night matches, the Big Apple hustle and bustle had gotten the better of the soft-spoken, stylish Swede.
That was until 1991, when Edberg broke through to the US Open champions’ circle in convincing fashion.
After waiting so long to get to the final, Edberg didn’t waste any time in lifting the winner’s trophy, running through Jim Courier, 6-2, 6-4, 6-0, for the title.
Edberg lost just 15 points on his serve against the usually tenacious Courier. “He played a nearly flawless match,” said Courier. Edberg called it “the best match of my life.”
The final punctuated an almost perfect fortnight for Edberg, who won five of his seven matches in straight sets, including a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 thumping of Ivan Lendl in the semifinals.
Edberg returned to the final and the winner’s circle the following year, beating 1990 champion Pete Sampras, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6, 6-2.
Getting to the final this time was a struggle. In the previous three matches, Edberg had been pushed to five sets, coming back from a service break down in the last set in each of them. In the semifinals, Edberg outlasted Michael Chang in a five-hour, 26-minute marathon. “It was a bumpy road,” said Edberg. “I really earned it this year.”
The title was Edberg’s sixth and the last major of his Hall of Fame career. He also won two Australian Open championships (1985, 1987) and two Wimbledon crowns (1988, 1990).
Edberg was a superb serve-and-volley player. He had a big kick serve and wicked slice delivery that he followed up with crisp and technically sound volleys. From the baseline, his one-handed backhand was a picture of beauty.
He was a mainstay on Sweden’s Davis Cup team, winning the title four times in 1984, 1985, 1987 and 1994.
50 Fact: Edberg won the 1987 US Open doubles title with compatriot Anders Jarryd. It was one of three career major doubles titles for Edberg.