WATCH—Stories of the Open Era - Tennis in Media:


In the five decades since the first US Open, these are the players, innovators and newsmakers whose contributions have helped make it one of our nation’s essential sporting events

The 91-year-old former mayor of New York City got his start in tennis as a superfan. Each summer as a young man, he traveled to a tournament at a black country club in New Jersey, where he hung out with the players. Dinkins’ interest in the game was piqued by seeing Arthur Ashe play, and it never flagged. Well into his 80s, he was on court four times a week.

Dinkins had his biggest effect on tennis as a well-positioned booster. Fans still stop and thank him for helping to reroute planes that once roared out of LaGuardia Airport and over Flushing Meadows. Yet Dinkins is most proud of what he was able to accomplish while on the USTA board.

“My greatest interest and concern was that people playing tennis look like this country,” Dinkins said. “It has been my experience that having a seat at the table alters things.”

You can see what he means by looking at the top of the USTA today. In 2014, the organization elected its first African-American president, Katrina Adams, and re-elected her in 2016. “I’m not surprised she is where she is,” Dinkins said. “She can do everything.”

For Dinkins, tennis hasn’t been merely a game; it has been an avenue for fulfillment.

“Through tennis,” he said, “hundreds of thousands of youngsters become better people.”

And because of Dinkins, when they come to the US Open, they can hear a little better, too.