night session

USTA Pays Tribute To Pancho Gonzalez

FLUSHING, N.Y., September 2, 2009 – The USTA announced today that actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. Championships winner Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium during the Night Session on Saturday, September 5.  The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships, and members of the Gonzalez family as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders will be in attendance.

Gonzalez, who taught himself how to play tennis at the age of 12, was considered one of the most talented tennis players of his generation and was a fan favorite on the professional tour throughout the 1950s and 60s.  Early in his career, which spanned four decades, he won back-to-back titles at the U.S. Championships in Forest Hills, N.Y. at the ages of 20 and 21.  He also won two matches to help the U.S. defeat Australia to capture the 1949 Davis Cup title.  His passion and intensity led to an illustrious career as the world No. 1 for an unequaled eight years.  As a 40-year-old in 1968, he reached the semifinals at Roland Garros and the quarterfinals of the inaugural US Open.  The following year, Gonzalez played Charlie Pasarell at Wimbledon in a five-hour match that spanned two days and led to the advent of the tie-break.  Gonzalez also became the oldest player to ever win a professional tournament when he won the Des Moines Open just shy of his 44th birthday.  Gonzalez was inducted into the International Tennis Hall of Fame while still an active player in 1968.

“The USTA is proud to celebrate the life and legacy of such a great champion as Pancho Gonzalez,” said Lucy Garvin, President and Chairman of the Board, USTA.  “Pancho was a true pioneer in the sport of tennis and this tribute will shed light on the importance of Pancho Gonzalez to the game and its history.”

“Pancho Gonzalez was a trailblazer, not only in tennis, but across the greater American cultural landscape,” said Bratt.  “He was a role model for a generation of Hispanic-Americans, and this tribute will rightly call attention to his important and lasting legacy.  I’m proud to be a part of this celebration to honor a true legend.”

Members of the Gonzalez family will be in attendance, along with students from the Pancho Gonzalez TennisAcademy in Washington, D.C., one of whom will conduct the pre-match coin toss.

Hispanic dignitaries attending include:

  • Benjamin Bratt, actor
  • Lynda Baquero, NBC4 New York
  • Dr. Jane Delgado, CEO, National Alliance for Hispanic Health
  • Tim Garcia, judge, New Mexico
  • Danny Haro, producer/director, 2006 Pancho Gonzalez Documentary
  • Augustin Martinez, President, United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  • Martha Montoya, President, Los Kitos Entertainment
  • Charlie Pasarell, former tennis champion
  • Bobby Perez, former tennis champion
  • Tony Plana, actor
  • John Quiñones, ABC Primetime
  • Alfred Rascon, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient
  • Pancho Segura (“Little Pancho”), former tennis champion
  • Jimmy Smits, actor
  • Andrew Valdez, judge, Utah
  • Eduardo Xol, TV personality
  • Al Zapanta, CEO, U.S. – Mexico Chamber of Commerce

The 2009 US Open will mark the culmination of the Olympus US Open Series, the six-week summer tennis season linking all major ATP and Sony Ericsson WTA Tour tournaments in North America to the US Open.  The US Open is the highest-attended annual sporting event in the world.  In 2008, Roger Federer won his fifth consecutive US Open title, defeating Andy Murray in the final.  In the women’s singles final, Serena Williams defeated Jelena Jankovic to capture her third career US Open title.

The 2009 US Open will be held Monday, August 31, through Sunday, September 13.  Tickets for the 2009 US Open can be purchased four ways:  1) at USOpen.org; 2) by calling Ticketmaster at 1-866-OPEN-TIX; 3) at all Ticketmaster outlets; or 4) at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center box office.  American Express is the Official Card of the US Open.

“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.

Safina Breezes Past Pennetta In Cincinnati; Jankovic Saves Four Match Points

World No. 1 Dinara Safina cruised into her eighth final of 2009 with a convincing win over No. 14 seed Flavia Pennetta of Italy, 6-2, 6-0, in 56 minutes on Saturday afternoon at the Western & Southern Financial Group Women’s Open in Cincinnati. With the victory, Safina snapped Pennetta’s career-best 15 match winning streak that started several weeks ago during her title run in Palermo, followed by winning the championship last week in Los Angeles.

“I think she was playing very great, very good,” said Pennetta following her defeat.

From start to finish, Safina showed she was in complete control, placing her shots perfectly and being very steady on serve.

“I was feeling very good and confident,” said Safina, who has won titles this season in Rome, Madrid and Portoroz. “I think it was a good performance by my side.”

Pennetta, who knocked Venus Williams earlier in the week, looked exhausted and not at 100 percent with her fitness due to the fact that she has played 11 matches in the last two weeks and the Cincinnati temperatures were in the 90 degree range.

“I was a little bit tired, of course, but I didn’t lose for that,” said Pennetta, who will crack the Top 10 on Monday, becoming the first Italian to accomplish that feat.

Safina hit three aces and five double faults, while winning 23 of 29 first serve points. The Italian had a bad serving performance, hitting three doubles faults and winning just 10 of 22 first serve points and 4 of 21 second serve points. Safina broke Pennetta’s serve on six of seven opportunities, while Pennetta only broke serve once.

In a thrilling night session match that determined Safina’s opponent for the championship match, No. 5 seed Jelena Jankovic edged past No. 4 seed Elena Dementieva, 7-6(2), 0-6, 7-6(6), in two hours and 46 minutes.

The match was filled with drama throughout, as Jankovic pulled out the opening set by winning in a tiebreak before having a slight hiccup, as Dementieva won the set at love in convincing fashion.

“Second set I got so tired,” said Jankovic, who will be trying to win her second title of the year, having already won in Marbella, Spain.

The third set kept fans on the edge of their seats, as Jankovic jumped out to an early 2-0 lead. After Dementieva broke serve in the sixth game of the final set to level the match at 3-all, no player would hold their serve the rest of the match.

“There was so many ups and down throughout the match,” said Jankovic, who reached No. 1 in the rankings in 2008.

The Serbian held three match points on her serve at 5-4, 40-love, allowing Dementieva to even the match at 5-all. Dementieva immediately had her serve broken before she would break Jankovic’s serve for a second straight time, as the Serbian tried to win the match out on her serve.

Dementieva quickly got ahead 6-2 in the final set tiebreak but could not convert on any of the four match points. Jankovic tensely closed out the match on her serve and jumped up in excitement.

“I just gave everything I had,” said Jankovic, who improves to 7-3 lifetime against Dementieva.

Jankovic hit three aces and eight double faults compared to four aces and 17 double faults by Dementieva. Jankovic broke serve on six occasions, while Dementieva broke Jankovic’s serve nine times.

The championship match between Safina and Jankovic will begin at 4pm and will be televised on ESPN2. Safina leads the series 3-2, winning the last two times on hard courts last summer in Los Angeles and at the Beijing Olympics.