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Tennis, Everyone?

It's Been Three Decades Since a Few Far-Sighted Officials Rocked the Staid Amateur Tennis Establishment and Jolted the Game into the Modern Era
Bruce Goldman
From the Print Edition:
Michael Richards, Sep/Oct 97

(continued from page 3)

The historic undertaking cost New York City virtually nothing, since the USTA consented to pay all construction, financing, maintenance and operating costs. The association also agreed to allow the public to use the courts for all but 60 days a year, as well as promising free tennis clinics and programs. Work began on the project in October 1977, and somehow a job that should have taken four years was completed in time for the 1978 Open. When Chris Evert and Jimmy Connors raised their winner's trophies, some 20,000 spectators looked on--6,000 more than would have been present at Forest Hills.

Now, as the Open celebrates its 30th extravaganza, a new stadium once again figures in the thick of things. The continuing growth of the sport has necessitated various improvements at Flushing Meadow (which tax-exempt bonds and USTA and National Tennis Center funds will cover), and the entire site will more than double in size, from 21.6 to 46.5 acres. Louis Armstrong Stadium will eventually be downsized to 10,000 seats, while the new stadium, with 89 luxury suites, will seat 23,500. And, in a move that honors one of the finest gentlemen ever to play the game but also recalls when the amateur era collided with the open era, the new stadium will be named Arthur Ashe Stadium. From Ashe to Sampras: U.S. Open Highlights

1968--Arthur Ashe defeats Tom Okker, 14-12, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, to become the first American to win the U.S. men's singles title since 1955.

1969--Rod Laver beats fellow Australian Tony Roche, 7-9, 6-1, 6-2, 6-2, to capture his second Grand Slam.

1970--Margaret Court duplicates her countryman's feat, defeating Rosie Casals, 6-2, 2-6, 6-1, to complete the Grand Slam, becoming the first woman to do so since Maureen Connolly in 1953. Court also wins the women's doubles and mixed doubles competition.

1974--Aussie veteran Ken Rosewall, 39, is blown out in the final, 6-1, 6-0, 6-1, by 22-year-old Jimmy Connors, who takes the first of his five U.S. Open crowns.

1975--Manuel Orantes makes a miraculous recovery in the semifinals, saving five match points and coming back from being down two sets to one and 0-5 in the fourth set to beat Guillermo Vilas, 4-6, 1-6, 6-2, 7-5, 6-4. The next day, he upsets top-seeded Connors, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, to win the title.

1976--In back-to-back fourth-round five-set thrillers, Bjorn Borg rallies from two sets down to beat Brian Gottfried, as defending champion Orantes does the same against Stan Smith. In the final, Borg loses to Connors, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6, 6-4; three subsequent trips to the championship round yield the same result for the Swede.

1978--Chris Evert wins her fourth straight title, holding off 16-year-old Pam Shriver, 7-5, 6-4, at the inaugural tournament at Flushing Meadow. Connors beats Borg, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, securing the unusual status of being the only player to win the Open on three different surfaces: grass, clay and hard court.

1980--John McEnroe survives a five-set shootout against Borg to capture the second of his four championships, 7-6, 6-1, 6-7, 5-7, 6-4. The match followed their Wimbledon classic, when McEnroe won a fourth-set tie-break, 18-16, before Borg wrapped up the match by winning the fifth set, 8-6.


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