These last three champions are largely interchangeable.
All of them are five-time winners, and all are great champions.
But choices must be made, and there are subtle differences between them that dictate my choices here.
At No. 3 I have Pete Sampras. While Sampras was busy dominating Wimbledon, he was also incredibly successful at the U.S. Open, winning the title five times.
His first title came in 1990, when he was seeded 12th. Sampras had not yet even hit his prime, but he was already good enough to beat the best the world had to offer.
His coming-of-age moment came in the semifinals, when he met John McEnroe, who was an unseeded surprise semifinalist. With the crowd solidly behind McEnroe, Sampras would shrug it all off and defeat McEnroe in four sets.
The final would feature an installment in one of the best rivalries in tennis for the next decade: Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi. Agassi, the No. 4 seed in the tournament, could not deal with the young Sampras, who won his first title in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3, 6-2.
It would be three years before Sampras captured his second title. Sampras came in as the No. 2 seed and really did not have much of a challenge as he stormed to his second title.
In the final, he would meet No. 15 seed Cedric Pioline, the man who had stunned No. 1 seed Jim Courier earlier in the tournament.
Pioline was no match for Sampras, who won his second championship in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, 6-3.
In 1995, Sampras would win title No. 3. After beating Courier in the semifinals, Sampras would again meet Agassi, who was the defending champion.
Sampras was again too much for Agassi, though, as he prevailed in four sets, 6-4, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5.
In 1996, Sampras would win the U.S. Open for the fourth time. It would be the only time he captured back-to-back championships. It would also be his toughest road to the championship yet.
Sampras, who had hardly been pressed much at all in winning his first three U.S. Open titles, was extended to five sets twice just to get to the final. Jiri Novak extended Sampras to a fifth set in the second round and unseeded Alex Corretja also went the distance with Sampras in the quarterfinals.
With that out of the way, though, Sampras would dispatch Goran Ivanisevic in the semifinals and would then beat fellow American Michael Chang in straight sets in the final, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 (3).
But, without question, it was championship No. 5 that had to be the sweetest for Sampras. Sampras was no longer a dominant force in tennis when the 2002 U.S. Open came around. He had dealt with injuries, upsets and consecutive losses in the final in 2000 to Marat Safin and then in 2001 to Lleyton Hewitt.
Many questioned whether Sampras still had enough in the tank to win a fifth U.S. Open.
Despite his No. 17 seed, Sampras was able to defeat the likes of Andy Roddick as he made it to the final for the third straight year. Waiting for him was his old friend/rival Agassi.
Once again, Sampras got the best of Agassi, beating him in four sets, 6-3, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
It would be the last Grand Slam title of Sampras’ career.
But what a career it was. With five U.S. Open championships to his name, spanning a 12-year period of time, against a literal who’s who of tennis’ best, Sampras has to be considered one of the greatest U.S. Open champions in history.R Soft Web Hosting