U.S. Open History

Thursday, August 16, 2012 /by

When one thinks about the U.S. Open, one almost always associates the event with New York City. And for good reason. The fourth and final Grand Slam of the tennis season has been played there for 95 consecutive years. But in reality, the event got its start up north, having first taken place in Newport, R.I.

The inaugural U.S. Open, then called the United States National Championship, was held in 1881 at the Newport Casino. In 1915, the U.S. Open moved to Queens, but not to its present location. It was originally held at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. But after just six years, the tournament headed even farther south, to the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia. The U.S. Open’s tenure in the City of Brotherly Love was only temporary, as it returned to Forest Hills in 1924.

From 1924 until 1977 the U.S. Open made its mark in Forest Hills. Yet by the end of its run at the West Side Tennis Club, the growing popularity of the event called for a bigger, more modern facility. So in 1978, the tournament moved from the cozy club to the grandiose USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing.

The 32-year-old complex, renamed the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 2006, is the largest public tennis facility in the world. At the time of the tennis center’s debut, its main attraction was the 20,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium. This stadium remained the centerpiece of the U.S. Open until 1997, when the 23,200-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest tennis stadium in the world, was constructed. In conjunction with the opening of the stadium, the number of courts on the grounds increased from 25 to 45, and the tennis center’s acreage more than doubled.

In the 129-year history of the U.S. Open, the event has been played on three different court surfaces. From its inception in 1881 until 1974, the tournament was played on grass. In 1975, the U.S. Open switched from green lawn to green clay (Har-Tru) after mounting player complaints about the ball’s bounce at Forest Hills. The clay-court run was short-lived, however. Just three years later, the U.S. Open moved from the West Side Tennis Club in Queens to the USTA’s National Tennis Center in nearby Flushing, N.Y. The brand new facility was built with hard courts (DecoTurf II), and the U.S. Open has been played on them ever since.

The 2012 tournament begins on August 27.

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