1. Pete Sampras
Although most fans associate the Sampras aura with Wimbledon, his success at the U.S. Open remains truly remarkable. His appearance in eight finals is a record that will be hard to match, although Federer is still active and within two of reaching that mark.
In the Open era Sampras, with five championships, remains tied with Jimmy Connors and Roger Federer for the most victories at the U.S. Open, where Sampras holds an 88.75 winning percentage (71-9).
Sampras played at the U.S. Open 14 times, beginning in 1988, missing only one appearance in 1999 due to injury.
Sampras won his first title at age 19 and his last at age 31, both at the U.S. Open. In 1990, Sampras captured his first win over Andre Agassi in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-2. Pistol Pete won his second U.S. Open title in 1993 over France’s Cedric Pioline, seeded 15th. Sampras won back-to-back championships in 1995-1996 defeating fellow American Andre Agassi.
In 1996 Sampras defeated Michael Chang 6-1, 6-4, 7-6 to pick up his fourth U.S. Open title. The next title would not happen for six long years and would mark Sampras' fifth and final U.S. Open title in 2002. Standing across the net was the man he had beaten twice before for the title, Agassi.
The two Americans fought hard for four sets with Sampras coming out on top. After the 2002 U.S. Open concluded, Sampras decided to call it a career after winning his 14th major.
To date, Sampras holds the mantle in the eyes of most tennis authorities as the best so far to play the game of tennis at the U.S. Open on the center court at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center.
Sampras also won two Australian Open titles in 1994 and 1997 as well as seven Wimbledon titles won in 1993-1995 and 1997-2000. Sampras won 14 Grand Slam Singles titles but never managed to capture the French.
In all, most regard Sampras as the greatest U.S. champion.
2. Andre Agassi
Andre Agassi became the athlete who refused to quit.
Although Agassi could fit into the decade of the 1990s as well as the 2000s, the most significant part of his career came during this decade.
He appeared at the U.S. Open 21 consecutive years with an 80.6 total winning percentage (79-19).
Agassi played his first U.S. Open at age 16 in 1986 and his last in 2006 at age 36. In the end Agassi remained a favorite of the New York crowds, who grew to embrace this champion as Agassi matured.
His first U.S. Open victory came in 1994 as Agassi defeated German Michael Stich 6-1, 7-6, 7-5. Then in 1999, Agassi came out on top against fellow American Todd Martin 6-4, 6-7, 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 in a thrilling five-set match, which Agassi refused to lose.
Agassi also lost in his last final appearance against Roger Federer in 2005 when Federer won his second consecutive New York title.
Agassi also won the Australian Open title in 1995, 2000, 2001, 2003 as well as the French Open in 1999 and Wimbledon in 1992. Plus, Agassi won a gold medal for men's tennis in 1996 during the Summer Games in Atlanta.
The win in Paris in 1999 gave Agassi a career Golden Slam.
Agassi will always be remembered for his competitive spirit, his brilliant return game, and his aggressive ground strokes.
3. Jim Courier
Current U.S. Davis Cup coach, Jim Courier is a former world No. 1 player who was born in Sanford, Florida. He reached the No. 1 ranking in 1992.
Courier, who reached his peak in the early 1990s, played right-handed and employed a two-handed backhand.
A steady and thoughtful player, Courier became a rare American who excelled on the red clay at Stade de Roland Garros.
A contemporary of Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi, Courier maximized his strengths and worked his way to the top of the men’s game.
He won the Australian Open twice in 1992-1993, defeating Stefan Edberg in both years.
Courier also won the French Open twice in 1991-1992, defeating Andre Agassi and Petr Korda, respectively.
During his career, Courier won 23 titles, and was ranked No. 1 for a total of 58 weeks.
Courier retired from tennis in 2000.
4. Michael Chang
Michael Chang was the youngest player ever to win a grand slam when he won the 1989 French Open at the age of 17. He defeated Stefan Edberg in a five-set final.
But most remember his epic five-set battle with Ivan Lendl in the fourth round. After winning that war, the young American advanced all the way to the championship match.
In 1996 Chang also reached the finals of the Australian Open and the U.S. Open losing to Boris Becker and Pete Sampras, respectively.
Chang had tremendous foot speed and remained tireless on court. Standing only 5’9", Chang often had to run for his life to keep pace with his taller competitors.
During his peak years, Chang remained in the top ten of men’s tennis.
His highest ranking was world No. 2, which he achieved in September of 1996.