By Dylan Butler
After 14 long days and nights, the 2001 U.S. Open is finally over and Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will be back to its usually tranquil self. Now that the tournament has concluded, it is time to look back at some of the most memorable moments, good and bad, of the 2001 Open.
5) Ugly racial overtones. Dominating the headlines the first week of the Open was a pair of incidents where race issues were brought to the forefront. On the first day of the U.S. Open, a controversial Time Magazine cover story was the talk of the day. In the article, Martina Hingis and former women’s legend Martina Navratilova said the Williams sisters receive preferential treatment because they are black.
Later in the week, Australian Lleyton Hewitt, who went on to beat Pete Sampras in straight sets in the men’s final, was embroiled in controversy in a five-set match against James Blake, a black American player. Angry over a pair of foot faults called against him by Marion Johnson, a black baseline judge, Hewitt went to chair umpire Andreas Elgi, demanding Johnson’s removal.
“Look at him, mate, and look at him,” said Hewitt, who pointed to both Blake and Johnson. “And you tell me what the similarity is.”
The International Tennis Federation decided not to punish Hewitt, as Grand Slam referee Brian Earley said after watching a videotape of Hewitt’s comments that they were “inconclusive.”
4) Andy Roddick vs. Lleyton Hewitt. A night after arguably the most memorable men’s quarterfinal match in the history of the U.S. Open (see memorable moment No. 1) two of the sports young stars took center stage and gave the fans a second straight night of high drama. Hewitt, 20, defeated Roddick, who turned 19 during the first week of the U.S. Open, in a sensational five-set thriller, 6-7 (7-5), 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 that lasted three hours and 40 minutes.
3) Andy Roddick’s run. A year after winning the U.S. Junior Open, Andy Roddick burst onto the scene at the 2001 U.S. Open. He leaves Flushing Meadows as one of the sports superstars and the country’s top rising star. Wearing a backwards hat and providing an explosive forehand, Roddick is clearly the future of the men’s tour, which had been lagging behind the women’s game in recent years.
2) The women’s final. It certainly wasn’t one of the best played U.S. Open women’s finals, but it will go down as one of the most memorable in the history of women’s sports. No longer was it sandwiched between the men’s semifinals, as for the first time the women’s final was played on a stage of its own.
The first prime-time women’s final was also a celebration of the black athlete, appropriately enough in the stadium named for one of the black pioneers of the sport and on the 44th anniversary of Althea Gibson’s historic U.S. Open win, when she became the first black athlete to win a U.S. Open crown.
1) Andre Agassi vs. Pete Sampras. Andre Agassi and Pete Sampras’ quarterfinal clash was a truly magical night of sport, the standard all other matches from here on should strive to meet. The two thirty-something superstars, who own 21 Grand Slam titles between them, played a match for the ages.
Sure the Open trophy would be given to Hewitt four days later, but for those lucky enough to be at the National Tennis Center and for the record-setting cable television audience, this was the final.
For three hours and 33 minutes, Agassi and Sampras played the game at an unbelievably high level, as neither lost serve during the epic match, which featured four tie-breakers. Every point was played as championship point and celebrated by the capacity crowd, .
Finally at 12:14 Thursday morning, the heavyweight bout was over. It’s no wonder that, during lulls in action over the final four days of the Open, USA Network and CBS replayed portions of the match.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at TimesLedger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.