ESPN’s Tennis Team: My Favorite US Open Memory
First-Ever Coverage Begins with Brackets Announced Live on ESPNEWS Aug. 27;
Action Begins Aug. 31
ESPN will become the first U.S. network to present tennis’s four Grand Slam tournaments in a single year with the addition of the US Open beginning Monday, Aug. 31. ESPN2 will televise approximately 100 hours, with more on ESPN360.com and other ESPN platforms. In addition, ESPNEWS will televise live the announcement of the men’s and women’s brackets in a commercial-free half-hour show Thursday, Aug. 27, at noon ET. Chris McKendry will host with Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez. The show will include live interviews via satellite with defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams.
ESPN’s tennis team recalls their favorite US Open memories:
Darren Cahill – Andre’s Final Stand
“My favorite memory is just three years ago, when I was coaching Andre Agassi. At Wimbledon he had announced his retirement, saying the US Open would be his final event. He was 36 and struggling mightily with a bad back. In the second round, he played Marcos Baghdatis, who had enjoyed a strong year, in a match that started late and went back and forth for five sets, with Andre winning the fifth set 7-5 near 1:30 in the morning. The whole experience was surreal. A couple points here and there and it would have been the end of his career. I was his coach, but enjoyed that match as a fan. It was the most rewarding and best tennis experience I’ve ever had.
“But I have to add the US Open has always been my favorite major, going back to my days as a player. I love the people, the sounds, the smells, the city and even the heat, humidity and chaos. The fans there love a good fighter. They get behind someone who puts up a good fight, so I always thought I could get them behind me.”
Mary Carillo – The Ageless Jimmy & Incomparable Sisters
“I’d have to say 1991 – Jimmy Connors’ amazing run to the semis. That was tremendous, including a thrilling five-setter on his 39th birthday, edging Aaron Krickstein in the fourth round 3-6, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6. Furthermore, he was playing in a place that for a long time didn’t appreciate him. It took a long time for New York to warm up to him and when they did they helped carry him.
“The other important development I have to mention is how the Williams sisters created the Saturday night women’s final. Because of them, CBS said, ‘this is prime-time stuff.'”
Cliff Drysdale – “The Senator would like to meet you.”
“In 1965, I was waiting to play in the final against Manuel Santana of Spain and there was a long rain delay. I fell asleep in the locker room and someone came up and touched me and said ‘The Senator would like to meet you.’ Right behind him was the late, great Robert Kennedy, then the junior senator from New York. We spoke for a few minutes and he wished me well.”
Mary Joe Fernandez – Rallying with the Fans’ Help
“As a fan, some of Andre Agassi’s matches stand out — his last year in 2006 he was so brave, and the final against Pete Sampras in 2002 was tremendous. But as a player a couple night matches were memorable. Once, I was down against Arantxa Sanchez Vicario and the fans really rallied behind me and got me going as only true New Yorkers staying late can. It was a great atmosphere.”
(Editor’s Note: Mary Joe is being somewhat modest, seeing as she could have mentioned what she accomplished in 1985: at the age of 14 years and eight days, she became the youngest person to win a match at the US Open, defeating Sara Gomer in the first round, 6-1, 6-4.)
Brad Gilbert – Andre’s Title and Super Saturday
“Obviously, I’m biased, but Andre Agassi winning the 1994 Open with me as coach is my top memory. He was unseeded and defeated five seeded players en route to the championship. I had only been coaching him for six months and he hadn’t won a major since Wimbledon in 1992. It was so unexpected, added to the way he did it, it was a blast.
“But I also have to mention Super Saturday in 1984, with Ivan Lendl and Pat Cash going five sets, followed by the women’s final with Martina Navratilova defeating Chris Evert in three sets, and finally John McEnroe beating Jimmy Connors in five sets. I had played in the tournament – and had already lost, of course – and didn’t leave my hotel room for 12 hours watching it all. It was an epic day for tennis.”
John McEnroe – Standing (upside down) By His Word
“My favorite US Open memory is from a first-round match in 1994 between Richard Krajicek and Jan Siemerink. Krajicek led the match by two sets to one and was up 6-0 in a fourth set tiebreaker. I was calling the match with Ted Robinson so I said, ‘If Krajicek loses this set, I’ll stand on my head.’ Sure enough, Richard lost in the tiebreaker, 10-8. The following day, I called a match upside down for a few minutes, until the blood rushed to my head and I couldn’t take it any longer.”
Patrick McEnroe – “Give me a good one.”
“I’ve had the rare opportunity to experience the US Open on many levels. As a kid growing up in Queens, the most exciting time of the year was running around from court to court at Forest Hills, the West Side Tennis Club. As a teenager, I served as a ball boy, and eventually was lucky enough to enjoy a little bit of success myself on the court. Of course, as a fan and brother, I watched with pride as my brother John won the title four times, and since 1996 I’ve been there as a broadcaster and have witnessed so many great matches.
“But my favorite memory comes from 1981 when I was a ball boy for a fourth-round match on the grandstand court. The late Vitas Gerulaitis – who I knew well through my brother and someone I looked up to – was on the verge of a major upset. It was match point against Ivan Lendl, who starting the next year would appear in seven consecutive finals, winning three straight at one point. Vitas needs a ball to serve out the match and he looks at me and says, ‘Give me a good one.’ Like many tennis players, he was superstitious, and I had given him the ball for the previous point, which he had won. I will never forget that moment – at 5-4 in the fifth set he was asking me to pick the ball to finish the match – or my friend Vitas.”
Pam Shriver – Youngest Women’s Finalist
“In 1978, I was only 16 and still an amateur but was seeded #16 in my first US Open and the draw opened up for me wonderfully. I beat the eighth seed in the fourth round, Kerry Melville Reid, and then another Aussie, Lesley Hunt, who was unseeded but had beat the player who upset Virginia Wade. In the semis I played Martina Navratilova, who had won Wimbledon earlier in the summer and had captured the #1 ranking. While the match was straight sets it could not have been closer, as I won in two tie-breakers. We both served and volleyed on about every point. I played with the oversized Prince Classic, introducing the oversized racket to elite pro tennis. There were rain delays. Airplanes flew low over head throughout.
“Because of the rain, I had to wait until Saturday to find out that Chris Evert would be my opponent. I had never played Chris in singles before. Because of rain we were scheduled to play at 4 p.m. Sunday, just before the men’s final, Connors vs. Borg. I was the youngest woman ever in the US Open final and extremely nervous. I traveled out to the brand new National Tennis Center via the #7 train. I never took transport the entire Open. I had chances to win the first set and our points were great because of the contrasting serve and volley (me) and baseline styles (Chris). I lost 7-5 6-4 and would never get back to a major singles final again. Because the men’s final followed our match, not one person left the stadium and were seated for our on-court speeches. Mine began with a simple “hello….” and a pause that was filled with appreciative New York City roars.”