• September 7 down the years

Heartbreak for Greg Rusedski

Greg Rusedski found Pat Rafter too strong in New York © Getty Images

The highlight of Greg Rusedski's tennis career might have been even brighter if he hadn't been ill. At the US Open, Britain's favourite Canadian suffered a throat and chest infection during his quarter-final with former Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek. He got through that, but a five-set semi-final against Jonas Björkman took a lot out of him and he had breathing difficulties in today's final against Pat Rafter. The Australian got his serve-volley game going from the start, winning the first two sets easily. Rusedski dug deep to win the third and went 5-4 up in the fourth with a string of trademark serves, including one of 143 mph. If he could have applied some more pressure, it's possible Rafter would have cracked: he'd reached five other ATP finals that year, losing the lot. But Greg's gas was running out. He dropped his next service game to love and the set and match 7-5. It was the only Grand Slam singles final he ever reached. Rafter retained the trophy the following year ( September 13).

In the women's final, Martina Hingis got her victory in before the big guns turned on her. She thrashed one of them in the final - Venus Williams 6-0 6-4 - but Williams was only 17, and Hingis was overpowered in the next two years, losing US finals to big Lindsay Davenport and Williams' sister Serena.

At the Olympics, there was only one gold medal for Britain in track and field, but it was a triumph for ingenious preparation. After his distress four years earlier, little Don Thompson was taking no chances. In the 50-kilometre walk in Melbourne, he'd been up with the leaders near the end when he staggered to a halt and didn't finish. This time he replicated the heat and humidity of Rome by training in his bathroom. As you do. He filled the bath with hot water and brought in boiling kettles and paraffin heaters (whose carbon monoxide left him feeling woozy!) and walked on the spot. The actual race was a cool doddle in comparison. Wearing sunglasses and a cap with a flap stitched on the back like a French Foreign Legion kepi, he endeared himself to the Italian public, who christened him Topolino (Mickey Mouse). And he endeared himself to himself by winning. Near the end, at roughly the same distance where he'd collapsed four years before, Thompson broke away from the 1948 champion John Ljunggren of Sweden, finishing just 17 seconds ahead.

Scotland's Jackie Stewart became world champion for the first time. He'd already won five of the first six races in this Formula One season, and another win at today's Italian Grand Prix gave him the title with three to go. In the usual high-speed burn-up at Monza, Stewart's Matra won a tight slipstreaming battle with three other drivers: the four cars finished within 0.19 seconds of one another, similar to the high-speed race there two years later, also won by a British driver ( September 5.).

Boxing's first world heavyweight title fight with gloves came too late for John L Sullivan. The last of the great bar-room fighters, he was the recognised champion for ten years, and one of the very greatest of his kind. With the torso of a bull and knockout punches in each hand, he stood toe-to-toe with all comers, taking as well as dishing out: in the last bare-knuckle heavyweight title bout, he stopped Jake Kilrain after 75 rounds. But he hadn't fought in the three years since, preferring to perform in lucrative exhibitions and the celebrations after them: John L was as famous with a whisky glass as with his fists. By the time he stepped into the ring at the Olympic Club in New Orleans, he was undefeated but past his best: nearly 34 years old and unprepared. Maybe he thought he was in for an easy payday. James J Corbett wasn't much to look at. A dandy outside the ring ('Gentleman Jim') and a stylist inside it, he weighed under thirteen stone today, thirty pounds less than the champion. And his skills and movement weren't expected to be enough. You can run but you can't hide for ever. But unfortunately for Sullivan, Corbett didn't need to hide: he could run all day. The year before, he'd gone 61 rounds with Peter Jackson. And Sullivan couldn't go the distance any more. At his peak, he might have caught up with Corbett, but today he was puffing and blowing after only six rounds. By then, the pattern of the fight was set, Sullivan coming forward throwing left jabs and big right hands while Corbett circled out of reach and launched sporadic commando raids. He could have ended the fight earlier but took no risks. So Sullivan lasted until the 21st round, by which time he was out on his feet and Gentleman Jim was completely unmarked. A right-left combination put John L down, and he didn't have the energy to get up. Cheered to the echo when he recovered, he retired from the ring as one of its greatest champions and showmen. Corbett made two successful defences of the title before facing the best of British five years later ( March 17.).

A record they said would never be broken was broken. In 1939, baseball icon Lou Gehrig played his 2,130th match without a break for the New York Yankees. Today Cal Ripken went one better for the Baltimore Orioles. He celebrated by hitting a home run against the California Angels, just as he'd done when he equalled Gehrig's record the night before. Ripken's streak ended at 2,632 when he stepped down from the Orioles' last home game of the 1998 season.

At the Olympic Games in Munich, several gold medals were decided in track and field today. One of them had a controversial aftermath with echoes of '68.

The men's 400 metres final didn't go as planned. The favourite, John Smith, had injured his leg and didn't survive the first 100 metres. While he pulled up, his US team-mates came out on top. Vince Matthews, who'd won gold in the relay four years earlier, now took the individual title, holding off Wayne Collett in 44.66 seconds. But the main story came from the medal ceremony, where the two Americans fiddled with their medals and chatted their way through their national anthem. 'I couldn't stand there and sing the words', said Collett. 'Because I don't believe they're true. I wish they were.' As protests go, it didn't match the 1968 version for class or impact but it was enough to get Matthews and Collett banned from the rest of the Games. With Smith out injured, the USA couldn't raise a relay team, leaving Kenya and Britain to battle it out ( September 10).

Still in track and field at these Olympics, three athletes set world records in winning gold. America's Rod Milburn justified his position as hot favourite in the 110 metres hurdles by clocking 13.24 seconds. Soviet shot putter Nadyeshda Chizhova became the first woman to reach 21 metres. And Renate Stecher of East Germany equalled the world best of 22.4 seconds to complete the sprint double by winning the 200 metres. Australia's Raelene Boyle won two silver medals, each time behind a Stecher world record. Anatoly Bondarchuk of the USSR set an Olympic record of 75.50 metres in winning the hammer.

The last swimmer to win an Olympic title using a sidestroke. The day after winning the one-mile race by more than a minute, Emil Rausch of Germany finished 12 seconds clear in the 880 yards, the only time it was included in the men's programme.