It was 40 years ago, in 1968, that tournaments opened their doors to professionals and amateurs alike, ushering in the Open Era and altering the course of tennis history. Since that time, Open tennis has changed the US Open in as many ways as the US Open has changed tennis. It paved the way for the equal participation and equal prize money, which the US Open awarded for the first time in 1973--the first Grand Slam to award equal prize money to men and women.
In 1968, Arthur Ashe turned away Tom Okker to win the first official US Open. Ashe was the first African-American man to win the US Open/U.S. Nationals, just one of many firsts over the last 40 years.
It has been a spectacular ride--40 years of Open tennis, countless memories.
Before the Grand Slam event begins, learn more about some of the unforgettable moments and innovations during 40 years of the US Open.
2006: A Legend Lends Her Name
In 2006, the home of the US Open was re-christened the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in honor of the legendary champion and pioneer. It was an altogether fitting tribute, as the world's largest public tennis facility now bears the name of the Hall of Famer and courageous crusader who began playing tennis in the public parks of Southern California and always has been one of the game's greatest ambassadors.
"Mi casa es su casa," said King at the conclusion of a moving dedication ceremony on Opening Night of the 2006 event. And indeed, King's house is open for all to enjoy, both as fans and as players.
2001: Prime-Time Winner
With their vivacity and athleticism on the court and their indomitable presence off of it, Venus and Serena Williams have brought millions of new fans to tennis and increased the exposure of the sport with their every victory. For those reasons and more, it seemed only fitting that these two inimitable stars should have the chance to sparkle under the lights in the first US Open women's final to be held in prime time.
The evening became an event, as for the first time in the history of the tournament,sisters would square off for the title. A sold-out crowd reveled in the electric atmosphere and a TV audience of more than 22 million tuned in to the action, making it the most-watched programming on television that Saturday night. Venus beat Serena, 6-2, 6-4, to win her second consecutive US Open title, at once boosting her r?sum? and the profile of America's Grand Slam.
1982-1989: A Great Eight
In 1982, Ivan Lendl snapped John McEnroe's 26-match winning streak at the US Open to reach his first men's singles final. In doing so, he started a daunting run of excellence not seen at the US Open since Bill Tilden in the 1920s. From 1982 through the remainder of the decade, Lendl reached every title match.
Beaten by Jimmy Connors in 1982 and 1983 and ousted by McEnroe in 1984, Lendl garnered the crown from 1985 to 1987 with victories over McEnroe, Miloslav Mecir and Mats Wilander. In 1988 and 1989, he fell in bruising battles, first to Wilander (in the longest final in the Open era, lasting 4 hours, 54 minutes) then to Boris Becker.
Lendl's relentless pursuit of excellence remains as great an achievement as his remarkable run. Training hard and playing hard year after year, he showed an entire generation of players what it takes to be a champion: determination, commitment and exceptional conditioning.
For more information on the US Open, log onto USOpen.org.