The Men’s Final was far from the only classic match to take place at the 2000 US Open. During arguably one of the greatest periods in the history of the Womens Tennis, the tour’s two best athletes collaborated to produce one of the greatest tennis matches in recent memory.
Having been sidelined for the first four months of the year with tendonitis in both wrists, Venus Williams mounted a fabulous summer comeback in 2000; ticking off her first Grand Slam title, and then picking up the Olympic Gold in Sydney for good measure. She came into the 2000 US Open on a 23 match win streak, and in the form of her life. A year earlier she had fallen to Martina Hingis in a dramatic semi-final under the lights. She had had the Swiss Miss on the ropes, chomping down energy bars and visibly exhausted, but Venus failed to put her away. Serena would go on to beat Martina in the final for her first Grand Slam title. That whole affair would eat at her for a long time.
A year later and they were back in exactly the same position. The match was hyped to an unbelievable extent and the excitement was unbearable. Many saw it as the “de-facto” final, and fireworks were expected. At the beginning of the match, the match looked destined to disappoint. Martina weaved her web; using her trademark variety in the way that only she knew how to. She varied the trajectory, spin and speed of the ball sporadically – keeping Venus off-balance and squeezing errors out of her like a soaked sponge. Hingis took the first set 6-4.
This semi-final was one of the few times the US Open Crowds have really gotten fully behind Venus, and as they screamed for her to come to life, a new Venus took to the court for set two. Suddenly the level of play was reaching astounding heights. Every single point was seemingly over 20 strokes long, with Venus looking to attack and move into the forecourt to put away drive volleys, while Martina continued in her efforts to pin Venus at the back of the court and draw errors out of her. The contrast in styes created something magical, as both seemed to better each other with every point. Venus would cover the court three straight times before unleashing a thunderous backhand pass, and then in the very next point Martina would do exactly the same thing, before unleashing a vicious lob to cruelly steal the point from her rival’s grasp.
As the rallies raged on, Hingis eventually found herself up a break in the third set. She raced to a 5-3 30-15 lead and working her way into the ascendency of yet another gruelling point, she had a chance to put a smash away for double match point. It was by no means an easy smash, but visibly tense, she guided it into court rather than putting it away. That was all Venus needed as she chased down the smash and unleashed a crashing backhand down-the-line winner to take the point. Even though Hingis was still two points away from the match, the dramatic momentum shift was felt by all. And sure enough, Venus snatched the game and then reeled off the next three games to win the match. And that was that.
To this day, this US Open semi-final remains one of my favourite matches of all time. With such contrasting gamestyles and an unbelievable fierce rivalry on and offcourt, many matches between the two have been classics, but I feel that transcends even those matches. The shotmaking, the athleticism, the unbelievable rallies… Nothing short of amazing.
Gotta love the commentator’s reactions.