black man

“Tonight, The U.S. Open Belongs To US, The People, The Tennis Fans”

August 29 is a significant day in tennis history as it was on this day that the U.S. Open became “open” and “for the people.” As documented in the book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), August 29 was the date when, back in 1968, when the first U.S. Open became open to amateurs and professionals, ushering in the “open era” and the new era of big-time tennis. Ten years later in 1978, the U.S. Open was moved to a private tennis club to a public tennis facility when the tournament opened the gates at the new, public USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows. The entire August 29 book chapter is excerpted below.

1978 – The gates open at the new USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y. for the grand opening of the newly-constructed public facility that is the new home of the U.S. Open. “Tonight the US Open belongs to us, the people, the tennis fans,” says actor and comedian Alan King, the master of ceremonies for the opening session of the tournament. “Ten months ago when we broke ground I thought they were crazy. But here we are. This is where the legends begin.” Bjorn Borg and Bob Hewitt play the first match at the new facility with Borg winning the best-of-three set first round match 6-0, 6-2. “Probably when I get to be 75 years old and look back, I’ll say I was the first one to play in the new stadium,” says Borg after defeating Hewitt in front of only 6,186 fans during the opening night session of the tournament.

1952 – Two years after Althea Gibson breaks the color barrier as the first black player to compete in the U.S. Championships, Dr. Reginald Weir becomes the first black man to accomplish the feat when he takes the court in the first round of men’s singles. Weir, however, is defeated in the first round by William Stucki 11-9, 5-7, 8-6, 6-1. One day later, another black man, George Stewart, also loses in the first round of the U.S. Championships to Bernard “Tut” Bartzen 6-3, 9-7, 6-0.

1968 – The first professional U.S. “Open” with a tournament field consisting of professional and amateurs begins at the U.S. Championships and Billie Jean King plays the first stadium match at the U.S. Open, defeating Long Island dentist and alternate player Dr. Vija Vuskains 6-1, 6-0. Amateurs Ray Moore and Jim Osborne register upset wins over professionals; Moore defeating No. 10 seed Andres Gimeno 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 and Osborne defeating Barry MacKay 8-6, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.

1951 – Described by Allison Danzig of the New York Times as “scenes almost unparalleled at Forest Hills,” Gardnar Mulloy defeats fellow American Earl Cochell 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, 6-2 in the fourth round in which Cochell hits a ball out of the stadium, tanks a game by returning Mulloy’s serve with his racquet switched to his left-hand, and serves underhand to the gross displeasure of the crowd, who shower Cochell with boos and barbs.

1927 – Sixteen-year-old Betty Nuthall of Britain advances into the women’s singles final of the U.S. Championships at the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills, defeating Charlotte Chapin of the United States 6-1, 4-6, 6-3 in the semifinals. Nuthall, at age 16 years, three months and six days, is the youngest woman to reach the singles final at the U.S. Championships. Helen Wills, a three-time U.S. champion, relents only two games to her rival Helen Jacobs in the other semifinal, winning 6-2, 6-0. The next day, Wills wins the title, defeating Nuthall 6-1, 6-4. Nuthall becomes the first British woman to win the U.S. title in 1930.

1970 – Arthur Ashe and Cliff Richey give the United States a 2-0 lead over West Germany in the Davis Cup Challenge Round played at the Harold T. Clark Courts in Cleveland, Ohio. Ashe defeats 1967 Wimbledon finalist Wilhelm Bungert 6-2, 10-8, 6-2, while Richey defeats Christian Kuhnke 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The United States goes on to clinch the series and its third straight Davis Cup title the following day when Stan Smith and Bob Lutz clinch the match by beating Bungert and Kuhnke 6-3, 7-5, 6-4 in the doubles rubber. The U.S. ultimately wins the series by a 5-0 margin, with Ashe providing the final exclamation point, winning the most dramatic dead-rubber matches in Davis Cup history, overcoming a two-sets-to-love deficit and a match point in the fourth set to defeat Kuhnke 6-8, 10-12, 9-7, 13-11, 6-4.