Top 7 US Open Upsets of All Time

Published 08/31/2017, 6:43 AM EDT
Roger Federer

The US Open has seen some incredible matches over the years and to back up that fact, there have been a number of upsets, ones that have made the tournament all the more dramatic to watch. While one would expect routine wins from the top athletes, certain unheralded players and wildcards have responded with stunning wins over them.


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 1. Roberta Vinci def. Serena Williams 2-6, 6-4, 6-4

Roberta Vinci (above) of Italy stunned Serena Williams is arguably one of the greatest upsets of all time.

Picture this. You are the World No.1 and in the hunt to achieve one of the most prestigious titles in your sport. Serena Williams was in this very situation when she faced unseeded Roberta Vinci in the 2015 US Open semifinals. The home favorite was seeking to become the first player since 1988 to complete a ‘Grand Slam’, one of the most remarkable achievements in modern tennis, where one wins all the four Grand Slams in a given year.


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In arguably one of the biggest upsets in recent times, Serena was beaten at home, and left the tournament with a loss so traumatic, that she had to take the rest of the season off. A once in a lifetime opportunity gone for the American, as an ecstatic Vinci made her best Grand Slam showing, finishing runner up at the tournament to fellow Italian Flavia Pennetta. Certainly, an upset of the ages.

 2. Marin Cilic def. Roger Federer 6-3, 6-4, 6-4

Marin Cilic of Croatia.

Prior to their meeting at the 2014 US open semifinals, Marin Cilic had managed to take just the two sets off Roger Federer in their previous five meetings. A shocking win for Cilic was the result, as he served his way past a ‘hapless’ Federer. Federer, the No.2 seed, just couldn’t crack the code to Cilic’s Game, as the latter powered his way into the finals in straight sets.

Federer was seeking a sixth US Open title and his first Grand Slam Title since 2012. A clear favorite heading into the match, all that could be said was that Cilic had played the game of his life. Cilic went on to win the title, beating Kei Nishikori of Japan in the final, and record a career-best result.

 3. Arnaud Clement def. Andre Agassi 6-3, 6-2, 6-4

Andre Agassi made a shock exit at the hands of Frenchman Arnaud Clement.

Arnaud Clement of France entered the 2000 US Open as the 37 seed and was faced with the task of playing one of the most dominant players of his era in the second round. Andre Agassi was the World No.1 and the defending champion at the tournament, and a normal win was expected from him.

Having one-two of the Grand Slams tournaments that season, Agassi was the outright favorite. But Clement had other plans, for he had shut the curtains down on a tennis giant, in a straight-sets defeat of him at the Flushing Meadows. Though Agassi exacted revenge in the 2001 Australian Open Final, this result will go down in history as one of the greatest upsets at the US Open.

 4. Alexander Volkov def. Stefan Edberg 6-3, 7-6, 6-2

Then World No.1, Stefan Edberg lost to Alexander Volkov of Russia in the first round of the 1990 US Open.

Stefan Edberg won his first US Open title in 1991. Rewind a year back, when Edberg was World No.1, ended up losing to Russian Alexander Volkov in straight sets in the first round of the tournament. A monumental shock, as Edberg was touted as a favorite to win the title. It marked the first time the Top Men’s seed had been eliminated in the first round of the US Open since 1971 when Jan Kodes defeated John Newcombe.

5. Del Potro defeats Nadal and Federer to win US Open Title

US Open 2009

The year 2009 belonged to Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. Even though Nadal’s loss at the French Open that year was the biggest shock there could be, he had won the Australian Open, while rival Federer won the French Open and Wimbledon.

As expected, either of them had to make the final, if not both. But Del Potro came as a surprise package. Rising to prominence as a 19-year-old, Del Potro appearing in the semifinals itself was a surprise. But thrashing Nadal in the semis 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 made a statement: Federer should be wary.

The final witnessed a battle of epic proportions. The Argentinian, Juan Martin del Potro beat five-time defending champion and World No.1 Roger Federer in the most thrilling five-setters. The scoreline read 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2 in Del Potro’s favor. Defeating Nadal and Federer in the same tournament is a special achievement, and Del Potro achieved the same in the most sensational style, especially when the former were at their dominant best.

  6. Fabio Fognini def. Rafael Nadal 3-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4

Fabio Fognini (right) became just the second player to defeat Rafael Nadal thrice in the same season. Image Courtesy- US Open official website

Even though the Italian Fabio Fognini had been beaten twice that year (2015), as the match progressed, Nadal seemed to be in control, until the third set. Nadal had never lost a Grand Slam match in his life whenever he was up two sets to love. But that was to change, as Fognini found his spark, and started playing some of the most scintillating hard court tennis ever seen that season.


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High octane winners here and there, as he ripped forehands past Nadal, Fognini thus became only the second player in history to defeat Nadal thrice in a single season. The loss also marked the first time since 2004 that Nadal ended the season without a Grand Slam. Truly, a monumental upset.

7. John Millman def. Roger Federer 3-6, 7-5, 7-6, 7-6

Roger Federer

The Swiss legend, Roger Federer was destined to face Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals of the US Open 2018, but a World Number 55, John Millman gate-crashed their last eight round meeting at the Flushing Meadows and reached his first-ever Grand Slam quarterfinals.


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The Arthur Ashe Stadium was claustrophobic and there was no proper ventilation during their pre-quarterfinal match which concluded around 1 am (EDT). The humid conditions in New York favored the Brisbane boy, Millman, and however, after his victory over his hero, Federer, he said the tournament conditions were “pretty brutal”.



Rahul Prakash

42 articles

Rahul is a tennis enthusiast and loves to write about sports in general. His inspirations are Rafael Nadal, Michael Phelps and Roger Federer.