For tennis fans, perhaps nothing is more scintillating than a historic comeback. Players at the U.S. Open tennis tournament go into their matches hoping to get off to an early lead rather than having to stage a comeback. However, the script doesn’t always play out that way.

As the 2023 tournament draws closer, let’s take a look back at 10 of the biggest U.S. Open comebacks in tennis history.

Who has won the US Open tennis finals from two sets down?

In the post-1968 Open Era, the only man to win a U.S. Open final after trailing by two sets was Dominic Thiem in 2020. The Austrian impressively came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat Alexander Zverev.

Ranking the Top 10 Greatest Comebacks in U.S. Open Tennis History

  1. 2022 Women’s Semifinals: No. 1 Iga Swiatek defeats No. 6 Aryna Sabalenka

Match Result: 3-6, 6-1, 6-4

Polish tennis superstar Iga Swiatek finally emerged as the world No. 1 in 2022 after an impressive run to the French Open title. To maintain that ranking, needed to make a deep run at the U.S. Open.

Swiatek met unseeded Jule Niemeier in the fourth round and promptly dropped the first set 2-6. She battled back, however, and advanced to the quarterfinals. Then in the semifinals, she again trailed early after dropping the first set to Aryna Sabalenka. Swiatek immediately roared back -- dominating the second set 6-1 before advancing.

Swiatek remains No. 1 in the world and is the favorite to win the 2023 U.S. Open.

  1. 1999 Men's Final: No. 2 Andre Agassi defeats No. 7 Todd Martin

Match Result: 6-4. 6-7 (5-7), 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 6-2

Two-time defending champion Pat Rafter retired from his first match at the 1999 U.S. Open, and world No. 1 Pete Sampras had to withdraw from the event. That made this tournament No. 2-ranked Andre Agassi’s to lose, and he found himself facing friend and countryman Todd Martin in the final.

Agassi would take the first set, but heartbreak followed. The second and third sets went to tiebreakers, and Agassi dropped both of them. Would he blow perhaps his last chance to secure another U.S. Open title?

The American star stormed back to win in five sets, mainly on the back of his strong serve. In fact, despite losing two sets, Agassi’s serve was amazingly never broken during the match, and he managed to surprise even himself.

“I don’t remember any five-setter that I didn’t lose my serve,” he remarked afterward.

  1. 2014 Men’s Quarterfinals: No. 2 Roger Federer defeats No. 20 Gael Monfils

Match Result: 4-6, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, 6-2

Frenchmen Gael Monfils is a showman -- he often gets the crowd on his side with flashy displays and puts his body on the line to win points. Against Roger Federer in the 2014 U.S. Open quarterfinals, Monfils jumped out to a two-set lead and seemed poised to reach the semifinals for the first time in his U.S. Open career. But that’s when something seemed to shift.

“He (Federer) starts with chipping very low. I think I handled it good,” Monfils explained after the match. “So, then he sticks with longer points. It was 50-50, and then he tried to come to the net like very often. It was a bit better for him…then suddenly he started to mix everything. That's why he's the greatest player -- because he can do everything.”

Yes, he can. Federer saved off a match point in the fourth set but remained composed, coming back to win a dramatic five-setter. He went on to again drop the first two sets in the semifinals against Marin Cilic, but this time there would be no comeback as Cilic prevailed to win the 2014 U.S. Open.

  1. 1974 Women’s Final: No. 2 Billie Jean King defeats No. 5 Evonne Goolagong

Match Result: 3-6, 6-3, 7-5

From 1973 to 1976, Australian tennis star and former world No. 1 Evonne Goolagong made four straight trips to the final of the U.S. Open -- the only major she needed to win to complete her career Grand Slam.

Unfortunately, Goolagong never took home that elusive U.S. Open title. She came the closest in 1974, when she matched up against an aging Billie Jean King, who was looking for her fourth title. Despite a dominant first-set victory, Goolagong began to fade. The third set was even at 5-5 before a late break sealed the championship for King.

In the 1975 U.S. Open final, Goolagong again won the first set. This time, however, she would lose to Chris Evert.

  1. 2009 Men’s Final: No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro defeats No. 1 Roger Federer

Match Result: 3-6, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2

Roger Federer entered the 2009 U.S. Open as the tournament’s five-time defending champion. He breezed through the early rounds, dropping a total of only two sets, and steamrolled Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the semifinals. The last hurdle would be Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, who was making his first appearance in a Grand Slam final.

A topsy-turvy affair saw Federer go up 2-1 in sets before the match entered a tiebreak in the fourth. A Federer double-fault helped del Potro even the match. He then took over the start of the fifth set by breaking the Swiss legend early to go up 3-0. Federer had no bite left, and the Argentinian underdog became a stunning U.S. Open champion.

  1. 2009 Women’s Fourth Round: Kim Clijsters defeats No. 3 Venus Williams

Match Result: 6-0, 0-6, 6-4

It’s important to remember the dramatic nature of Belgian world No. 1 Kim Clijsters' return to competitive tennis. Clijsters had been out of the sport for nearly two years before the 2009 U.S. Open due to injuries, a pregnancy, and grief over the death of family members.

She entered the 2009 tournament as a wild card and drew world No. 3 Venus Williams in the fourth round. Remarkably, the duo exchanged bagels in the first two sets. Despite dropping the second set 0-6, Clijsters rebounded for a stunning victory. She then beat Serena Williams in the semifinals and went on to win the entire thing.

In Clijsters’ case, the 2009 tournament gave fans two comebacks for the price of one.

  1. 1949 Men’s Final: No. 3 Pancho Gonzales defeats No. 1 Ted Schroeder

Match Result: 16-18, 2-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-4

Richard “Pancho” Gonzales relied on his grit to pull out a stunning victory over fellow American Ted Schroeder at the 1949 Men’s U.S. National Championships (later renamed the U.S. Open).

According to, “The first set was a record tiebreaker, lasting 34 games and 73 minutes…. Gonzales served 17 aces, but it was to no avail.”

It wasn’t enough: Schroeder won the set 18-16 (and, no, that’s not a typo).

Gonzales also dropped the second set before starting his incredible comeback. He destroyed Schroeder by a combined 12-3 margin over the third and fourth sets. The fifth set was tied at 4-4 before a Gonzales break put him in the driver's seat. He never looked back.

  1. 1981 Women’s Final: No. 3 Tracy Austin defeats No. 4 Martina Navratilova

Match Result: 1-6, 7-6, 7-6

Martina Navratilova was fresh off defeating rival and six-time consecutive U.S. Open finalist Chris Evert in the 1981 semifinals. That landed her in her first U.S. Open final after having previously fallen in the semifinals four times.

At the 1979 U.S. Open, Navratilova had lost to a then 16-year-old Tracy Austin. Two years later, the pair would meet again in the 1981 final.

Navratilova absolutely blitzed Austin in the first set, winning 6-1.

“She started out like gangbusters," Austin said. "I never saw anyone come out of the starting blocks that fast.”

Austin battled back and won a second-set tiebreak. For the first time in the women’s tournament’s Open Era, a third set came down to a tiebreak, and Austin walked away as a two-time U.S. Open champion.

  1. 2011 Men’s Semifinals: No. 1 Novak Djokovic defeats No. 3 Roger Federer

Match Result: 6-7 (9-7), 4-6, 6-3. 6-2. 7-5

The year 2011 was the point at which Novak Djokovic transitioned from his “djoker” persona to perhaps becoming the greatest tennis player of all time. Having already won the 2011 Australian Open and Wimbledon titles, Djokovic was looking to make it three Grand Slams in a single year at the U.S. Open.

He would meet five-time U.S. Open Champion Roger Federer in the semifinals, where the Swiss tennis legend took a commanding two-set lead. However, Djokovic battled back to tie the match at two sets apiece before facing two match points in the fifth set.

It would not matter. Djokovic advanced, went on to win the 2011 U.S. Open. He has since passed Federer for the most career Grand Slam event championships. Perhaps that was the even greater comeback, given the lead Federer built up during his career.

  1. 2020 Men’s Final: No. 2 Dominic Thiem defeats No. 5 Alexander Zverev

Match Result: 2-6, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6)

Remember Pancho Gonzales? Since his remarkable comeback from being down two sets in the final, no other man in U.S. Open history had come back to win a final after trailing 2-0 … until the 2020 tournament, which was played at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The whole 2020 U.S. Open felt weird, since very few spectators were able to attend. It got even stranger when Dominic Thiem did the unthinkable.

Thiem and his opponent, Alexander Zverev, were good friends, which is why it was bittersweet for Thiem to make history at Zverev’s expense.

 “I wish we could have two winners today. We both deserved it,” Thiem said.

On this day, they were rivals. Up two sets, Zverev grew nervous when he had the chance to close out the match in the third. Suddenly, the hard-serving German was forced into multiple long rallies with the smoother Thiem.

The fifth and final set saw both men blow championship points. The match was decided via tiebreaker -- the first and only time that has happened in the history of men’s U.S. Open finals.

Thiem emerged victorious to complete the biggest comeback in U.S. Open history. Was it also the biggest comeback in tennis history? Well, that’s a conversation for a different day.

Parameters of Rankings

Rankings were based on the size of the deficit each winner had faced, the magnitude of each match, and the legacy of each comeback.


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