Saturday School: Players who have won the US Open titles thrice on a trot in the Open Era

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In its 138th edition since its inception, the US Open has rebuilt the Louis Armstrong stadium, introduced hawk-eye on every court and has a serve clock installed to make the proceedings more interesting. Being the last slam of the year, the US Open is one of the most challenging slams to win considering that the players’ fitness is often tested at the tail of the season. Winning the US Open once is an achievement, twice is incredible and thrice is dreamy. Ever since the Open Era started in 1968, only five players (from both men’s and women’s category) have managed to achieve that nostalgic feeling of winning the US Open thrice in a row. Two out of the five players have taken the count beyond three in a row. Let us us see chronologically, the players who won a hat-trick of US Open titles.
CHRIS EVERT

 

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After completing the channel slam in 1974, Chris Evert successfully defended her title at Roland Garros in 1975. The same year, the US Open shifted its surface from grass to clay. Billie Jean King did not return to defend her title and Evert headed in as the top seed. From 1971 to 1974, Evert reached four semi-finals in a row at the US Open but was unable to proceed any further. However, in 1975, she defeated Martina Navratilova in straight sets in the semi-final to set up a finale clash against Evonne Cawley. In her maiden US Open final, Evert dropped the first set 7-5. But the American shifted gears and won the next two sets to defeat her Australian opponent 5-7 6-4 6-2. This was Evert’s fourth grand slam title and her first one at US Open.
The following year, Evert won the Wimbledon title and was looking to back it up with a successful title defense at the US Open. Seeded third, Martina Navratilova crashed out in the opening round to compatriot Janet Newberry, thereby clearing the draw for Chris Evert and Evonne Cawley. Evert and Cawley yet again reached the finals for the second year in a row. This time, a much more jubiliant Evert dropped only three games in the entire final to clinch her second US Open title in a row. 1977 saw Evert not participating at the French and the Australian Open. She came back to Wimbledon for her title defense but lost to Virginia Wade in the semis. Both Evert and Navratilova were deficient of a slam up until the 1977 US Open. Yet, Evert managed the top seeding while Navratilova was seeded second at the US Open. Both players reached the semi-finals without dropping a set. But in a twist, Australia’s Wendy Turnbull who was seeded twelfth, defeated Navratilova after dropping the first set. Evert was into the finals after defeating Betty Stove. That year, Evert recorded five bagel sets and was a heavy favourite for the title. She justified her No.1 ranking and won in straight sets against Wendy Turnbull to become the first player (both men and women) in the Open Era to win three back-to-back US Open titles. It was also the last year when US Open was played on clay. The following year, it permanently shifted its surface to hard courts. Evert was untouched even despite the change in turf and she captured a fourth consecutive US Open title defeating Pam Shriver in the finals.
JOHN MCENROE
In the mid-70s, Bjorn Borg had taken tennis to a whole new level, which forced his competitors to upgrade their levels if at all they wanted to have a shot at defeating him. It was Jimmy Connors who posed as the biggest and earliest threat to Borg’s reign. From 1974 up until 1878, Connors recorded five consecutive appearances in the finals of the US Open wherein he won thrice (twice defeating Borg) and lost twice. In 1979, Connors walked in as the defending champion and second seed whereas Borg gained the top seed after winning Wimbledon earlier that year. John McEnroe was slowly gaining on the rankings and the tour in general as a player to watch out for. Seeded third, he was given a walkover in the third round (against John Lloyd) and a mid-match retirement from Eddie Dibbs propelled him into the semis of the US Open to face Jimmy Connors. Connors was looking forward to enter his sixth consecutive US Open final. However, McEnroe defeated his compatriot in straight sets of 6-3 6-3 7-5 to enter the finals of the US Open and have a shot at his first ever grand slam title. In the finals, McEnroe yet again emerged as the triumphant player after he defeated Vitas Gerulaitis in straight sets.
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The following year in one of the most historic Wimbledon finals of the 20th century, Bjorn Borg defeated second seed John McEnroe to clinch his fourth Wimbledon title in a row.  They contested the finals of the US Open that year and this time McEnroe got a revenge of his Wimbledon finals loss by defeating Borg in five sets. It was the first ever instance in the US Open that a men’s singles title had been successfully defended in the Open Era. McEnroe was in full flight in the 1981 edition of Wimbledon, defeating Borg in the finals. As the two-time defending champion and the top seed, McEnroe had a huge task at hand with the likes of Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Bjorn Borg in the draw. This was Borg’s last year in tennis and the Swede went on to reach the finals dropping only two sets en route. McEnore on the other hand had to strive a bit more, dropping four sets to reach the finals. Borg took the opening set in the final 6-4 and it appeared that Ice Borg would make it a nostalgic victory to win in his final slam appearance. However, McEnore fought back and took the next three sets 6-2 6-4 6-3 to win his third consecutive US Open title. He became the first man in the Open Era to achieve this feat.
IVAN LENDL
After McEnore completed his triple crown at US Open, Jimmy Connors roared back into the circuit to win back to back slams at the US Open in 1982 and 1983. In both the finals he defeated Ivan Lendl in four sets. Seeded second, Lendl yet again reached the finals of the US Open in 1984, however, John McEnore won his fourth US Open title to forbid Lendl from having a shot at the US Open title. The following year, Lendl and McEnroe would reach the finals of the US Open yet again. This time around, Lendl defeated McEnroe to win the first of his three US Open titles. The Czech would reach the US Open finals for the fifth year in a row in 1986 and would be victorious for the second consecutive time after defeating countryman Miloslav Mecir in straight sets.
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In 1987, Lendl was the top seed at the US Open yet again. By 1987, Swedish tennis was on the rise, with Mats Wilander and Stefan Edberg desperate to carry forward Borg’s legacy. Lendl was however looking in fine shape not dropping a set until he reached his sixth consecutive US Open final. Mats Wilander took the first set against Lendl in the finals in a tiebreaker that saw the Czech failing to win a single point. Lendl would however bounce back and prevent Wilander from winning a single game in the second set. He continued his rhythm forward into the match and took the next two sets to win his third and final US Open title. Lendl would go on to reach the finals for two more years in a row but would lose to Boris Becker and Mats Wilander.
ROGER FEDERER
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After winning his maiden slam in 2003 at Wimbledon, Roger Federer started becoming a threat for veterans like Andre Agassi, Lleyton Hewitt and Andy Roddick. The Swiss won the Australian Open and Wimbledon titles in 2004 and was a strong contender for the US Open title that year. As the defending champion and second seed, Andy Roddick fell to Joachim Johansson in the quarter-finals. Fourth seeded Lleyton Hewitt reached the finals to face Roger Federer. Federer won the match dominantly, defeating Hewitt 6-0 7-6 6-0 to win his maiden US Open title. The following year, Federer and Nadal were the top two seeds at the US Open. Nadal lost in the third round to James Blake. Blake lost to Agassi in the quarter-finals and the latter would go on to face defending champion Roger Federer in the finals. Agassi had won the US Open twice before but to win it for the third time as a 35 year old against a fearless Federer was a difficult task. The Swiss Meastro won the final in four sets and successfully defended his title.
The following year, Federer and Nadal were yet again the top two seeds. The rivalry of the two heavyweights of the game was showcased in the earlier held slam that year where Nadal won against Federer at the finals of Roland Garros whereas Federer won against Nadal in the Wimbledon finals. Nadal’s run at US Open was halted in the quarterfinals by Mikhail Youzhny. Federer would face ninth seeded Andy Roddick in the finals. By reaching the finals Federer became the sixth man in the history of tennis to reach the finals of all four grand slams in a calendar year. He defeated Roddick in four sets to win three US Open titles in a row. The current World No.2 would go on to win the titles at US Open in 2007 and 2008 and would remain unbeaten at the US Open until the finals of the 2009 edition. Juan Martin Del Potro would defeat Federer in the finals in five sets to win his maiden grand slam title. Federer reached the finals of the US Open in 2015 as well but lost Novak Djokovic in four sets.
SERENA WILLIAMS
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Before 2012, Serena Williams was a 13-time grand slam champion. At the 2011 US Open she lost to Samantha Stosur in the finals. The following year, Serena would reach the finals of the US Open for the sixth time in her career. Earlier that year, she had won the Wimbledon title by defeating Agnieszka Radwanska in the finals. At the US Open finals, she faced top seeded Victoria Azarenka. The match went to a deciding set and Serena won the set 7-5 to clinch her fourth US Open title. In 2013, Serena ascended as the top seed whereas Azarenka was placed second. Both players would contest the finals match for a second year in a row. This was the first occasion since 2002 that the finalists of the previous year would contest the finals for a second consecutive year. Williams won against Azarenka yet again in three sets to win her fifth US Open title but the first instance to win back-to-back US Open titles.
Azarenka slipped in the rankings and as a result in 2014, she was seeded sixteenth. Petra Kvitova, who won her  second Wimbledon title that year was seeded third whereas 2014 Roland Garros runner-up  Simona Halep was seeded second. Both Kvitova and Halep lost in the third round and it was tenth seed Caroline Wozniacki who made it to the finals to face Serena Williams. This was Serena’s fourth consecutive appearance at the US Open finals. She defeated Wozniacki 6-3 6-3 in the finals to win her third consecutive US Open title and her 18th Grand Slam title. Williams would never drop a set in the entire tournament and won every set by dropping not more than three games in a single set. Williams also equalled Evert’s tally of six US Open titles.
Williams won the Australian Open, Roland Garros and Wimbledon titles in 2015. She was a heavy favourite for the calendar slam that year but Roberta Vinci created a massive upset in the semifinals at the US Open to prevent Serena from completing a calendar year slam.

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