The most audience friendly slam, the US Open, will begin its 2017 edition on 28th August. The tournament is the second slam to be played on a hard turf. The hard Decoturf has been used since 1978.
The US Open is presently held at the Flushing Meadows, New York. The tournament began way back in 1881 and after spanning 97 years and changing two turf types, it was shifted to Flushing Meadows. So what happened in those 97 years and how is the USTA Tennis Center changing?
Newport Casino, Rhode Island
The Newport Casino at Rhode Island was the venue selected for the first “United States National Singles Championships for Men.” The tournament was played on grass and only the members of the United States National Lawn Tennis Club were allowed to enter the tournament. In the first seven years, it was Richard Sears who emerged as the champion.
1884 marked the introduction of the challenge system at the US Open where in the last year’s champion would play only the finals the next year. This system was discontinued in 1911. The challenge system in women’s singles lasted from 1888 till 1918.
1911: Beginning of a protest
It was in 1911 when a group of players led by Karl Behr demanded to relocate the tournament to New York as most of the players of the US Open were natives of New York. Moreover, the city was the ideal place to popularize the tournament and the sport.
Four years later the issue came into the limelight. Not everyone agreed to move the tournament to a different venue. The issue was brought to a vote and the result was in favor of the players who wanted a new home for the tournament.
West Side Tennis Club, Forrest Hills, New York
In 1915 the tournament shifted to West Side Tennis Club in New York. Here too, the turf was grass. During the time when West Side Tennis Club underwent renovation and expansion, it was the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia that was chosen as the host for the venues. The tournament returned to Forrest Hills in 1924 and had a successful run there up until 1977.
Women’s Singles, Doubles and Mixed Doubles
The women’s singles event began in 1887 at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. 17-year-old Ellen Hansell became the first ladies’ champion. From 1890 to 1906, the doubles and mixed doubles events were held at different venues.
Open Era and the US Open
In 1968, when the Open Era began, for the first time, all five events were played at one venue, the West Side Tennis Club in Forrest Hills. Many vital changes took place after the arrival of the Open Era. 2 years later, the US Open became the first slam to introduce the tiebreak.
A sudden death tie break was initially played till 1974 before the tournament switched to the standard twelve point tiebreak. Today, it is the only slam to employ the tiebreak in the fifth set. In 1975, the US Open installed floodlights in the stadiums to enable night play. From 1975 to 1977, the event switched to clay courts.
Before the Open Era, it was Richard Sears, Bill Larned and Bill Tilden who won the event on seven occasions, an all time record. In the women’s event, it was the American-Norwegian player Molla Mallory who won the US Open title eight times, yet another all time record.
1978 – Flushing Meadows, New York
In 1977, William Hester, a former tennis player and the then President of the USTA decided to establish a National Tennis Centre at the underutilized Singer Bowl. The tournament introduced the DecoTurf acrylic hard court for the first time, and it has been unchanged since then. Jimmy Connors is the only player to have won on all three surfaces of the US Open.
1978: Opening of the National Tennis Centre. Main stadiums – Louis Armstrong and Grandstand.
1995-1997: Expansion of the NTC. Main Stadium- Arthur Ashe.
2006: The NTC was renamed to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in honor of the pioneer of women’s tennis.
2011: Court 17 opened. The fourth and the smallest show stadium. It is referred as “The Pit” since it is located below ground level.
2016: The New Grandstand was introduced.
Status Quo: A retractable roof in the Arthur Ashe Stadium and the expansion of the Louis Armstrong Stadium.
Arthur Ashe stadium: 23,200
Louis Armstrong Stadium: 14,000
Court 17: 3,000
$3.7 million and stunning Champion’s trophies will be what the players will fight for. Despite the dropping out of big names like Novak Djokovic, Stan Wawrinka, Kei Nishikori, Milos Raonic, Victoria Azarenka, the tournament still promises to be thrilling with the young guns making their mark on the big stage.
Since 2010, this will be the first time when Rafa Nadal is seeded No.1 in the main draw. Roger Federer has begun his preparations on a practice court as he plans to fight an injured back and probably aiming for the No.1 ranking. Karolina Pliskova will be the top seed in the women’s draw and it will be interesting to see how she can justify that spot.