With any luck, that Sunday night session at the U.S. Open was a watershed moment. The fans were entertained by two vastly talented, eminently likable players. Not one member of the near-sellout crowd stormed the box office demanding a refund. No sponsors withdrew their support, wondering why American stars weren't on center stage. The domestic television ratings didn't go into free fall; in fact, they were on par with the Sunday night session the previous year.
The following weekend Federer and Clijsters claimed the his and hers singles titles at the 2005 U.S. Open. The 22-year-old Clijsters finally won a major after losing four finals. Federer, 24, put the finishing touch on another laureled year that saw him go 81-4 and amplify discussions about his being the best male player ever. By then, they'd both established some identity and currency--some brand penetration, as they say on Madison Avenue--in the U.S. market. When they held their trophies aloft to raucous applause, they smiled, savoring the sound track of a stadium full of American tennis fans embracing world champions, their country of origin be damned.