Hurricane Donna

At Least The US Open Final Won’t Be Delayed Another Seven Days

It’s official. The US Open will finish on a Monday – at the earliest. For the second year in a row, rain has played havoc to the final weekend of the US Open and has pushed the tournament into a third week. Last year’s men’s final between Roger Federer and Andy Murray, which started at 5 pm on the third Monday of the event, was the first Monday final since 1987, when Ivan Lendl defeated Mats Wilander to win his third straight U.S. title. However, as excerpted from my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), the two most delayed U.S. finals were as follows…

From September 17, 1960 – In the most delayed conclusion to a major tournament in the sport’s history, Neale Fraser of Australia and Darlene Hard of the United States win the singles titles at the U.S. Championships – one week after winning semifinal matches to advance into the championship match. The U.S. Championships at Forest Hills are delayed a full seven days as Hurricane Donna slams New York and soggies up the grass courts at the West Side Tennis Club. Fraser finally defends his 1959 title, defeating fellow Aussie Rod Laver 6-4, 6-4, 10-8, becoming the first repeat men’s winner at Forest Hills since fellow Aussie Frank Sedgman in 1951 and 1952. Hard finally breaks through and wins her first U.S. singles title, upsetting defending champion Maria Bueno of Brazil 6-3, 10-8, 6-4. Fraser and Hard both win semifinal matches on September 10 – Fraser beating Dennis Ralston and Hard beating Donna Floyd – before the rains come. The Fraser-Laver final is a rubber match for the two Aussies, who split their two previous meetings in major finals on the year – Laver winning the Australian title in January for his first major singles title and Fraser turning the tide on “The Rocket” at Wimbledon. Fraser also ends Laver’s 29-match winning streak securing on the Eastern grass court circuit following his loss to Fraser at Wimbledon. Hard finally breaks through and wins her first U.S. title after five previous attempts to win the title. Says Hard, “I never thought I would do it, “ says Hard. “That girl (Bueno) never gives up. She hits winners when she least expects it. It’s been a long time coming. It’s great.”

From September 23, 1938 – After a delay of six days due to a hurricane hitting the New York area, play is resumed at the U.S. Championships at the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills as Don Budge keeps his dream of being the first player to win a Grand Slam alive by beating 1931 Wimbledon champion Sidney Wood 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the men’s semifinals. Advancing to play Budge in the final is his unseeded doubles partner, Gene Mako, who defeats Australia’s John Bromwich 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the other men’s semifinal. In women’s singles semifinals, Alice Marble beats Sarah Palfrey Fabyan 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, saving two match points at 2-5, 15-40 in the second set, while Nancye Wynne defeats Dorothy Bundy 5-7, 6-4, 8-6.

Hurricanes and the US Open

As Hurricanes Hanna – and its remnants – threaten play on Super Saturday at the US Open, it’s interesting to remember how hurricanes have impacted play at the U.S. Championships.

As documented in the new book On This Day In Tennis History ($19.95, New Chapter Press) in 1960, in the most delayed conclusion to a major tournament in tennis history, Neale Fraser of Australia and Darlene Hard of the United States won the singles titles at the U.S. Championships – one week after winning semifinal matches. The U.S. Championships at Forest Hills are delayed a full seven days as Hurricane Donna slams New York and soggies up the grass courts at the West Side Tennis Club. Fraser finally defends his 1959 title, defeating fellow Aussie Rod Laver 6-4, 6-4, 10-8, becoming the first repeat men’s winner at Forest Hills since fellow Aussie Frank Sedgman in 1951 and 1952. Hard finally breaks through and wins her first U.S. singles title, upsetting defending champion Maria Bueno of Brazil 6-3, 10-8, 6-4. Fraser and Hard both win semifinal matches seven days earlier on September 10 – Fraser beating Dennis Ralston and Hard beating Donna Floyd – before the rains come.

On September 23, 1938, after a delay of six days due to a un-named hurricane hitting the New York area, play is resumed at the U.S. Championships at the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills as Don Budge keeps his dream of being the first player to win a Grand Slam alive by beating 1931 Wimbledon champion Sidney Wood 6-3, 6-3, 6-3 in the men’s semifinals. Advancing to play Budge in the final is his unseeded doubles partner, Gene Mako, who defeats Australia’s John Bromwich 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the other men’s semifinal. In women’s singles semifinals, Alice Marble beats Sarah Palfrey Fabyan 5-7, 7-5, 7-5, saving two match points at 2-5, 15-40 in the second set, while Nancye Wynne defeats Dorothy Bundy 5-7, 6-4, 8-6. The following day, Budge achieves the first “Grand Slam” of tennis, when he defeats Mako 6-3, 6-8, 6-2, 6-1 in the final. Writes Allison Danzig of The New York Times of the final “The book was closed yesterday on the greatest record of success ever compiled by a lawn tennis player in one season of national and international championships competition.” Mako, who also wins the U.S. doubles title with Budge, was the only player to win a set from Budge in the tournament. Their final is played in great spirits and with a high quality of play, despite the fact that many of the crowd of 12,000 is certain that Budge, the overwhelming favorite, would easily win the match. Writes Danzig, “The play was animated with friendly manifestations across the net whose contagion was communicated to the gallery, particularly in the third set when the crowd was roaring with mirth as the doubles champions trapped each other repeatedly with drop shots. But there was no holding back on either side and there was no trace of amiability in the scorching forehand drives with which Mako caught Budge in faulty position inside the baseline or the murderous backhand and volcanic service which Budge turned loose.” In the women’s final, Marble defeats Wynne 6-0, 6-3.