Photo via Wiki Commons
Now in its 51st year, U.S. Open fever has once again swept the city. Though nowadays it’s all Venus and Djokovic and craft beers and lobster rolls, there’s a long history behind the world-famous event. Here, 6sqft takes a look at how the international tournament made its way from an elite, private club in Newport Rhode Island to Forest Hills’ West Side Tennis Club and finally to its current home in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, even uncovering a little connection to the 1964 World’s Fair.
All the tennis history right this way
West Side Tennis Club via Joe Shlabotnik/Flickr; Althea Gibson via Wiki Commons
On August 22, 1950, what was then known as the United States Lawn Tennis Association (USLTA) accepted Harlem’s Althea Gibson into their annual championship at Forest Hills, New York (the precursor to the U.S. Open). The spot on the championship roster made Gibson the first African-American athlete to compete in a U.S. national tennis competition, launching a storied career in which she won a whopping 16 Grand Slams, including the 1956 French Open where she became the first person of color to win such a title.
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With the U.S. Open starting on Monday, tennis fever is once again sweeping across the city. Over the next two weeks, thousands of New Yorkers will hop on the 7 train or the Long Island Rail Road to watch the likes of Roger Federer and Serena Williams play in Flushing Meadows at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. However, prior to 1978, tennis players and fans found themselves playing and cheering at a different venue: The West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills.
The West Side Tennis Club was the former home of the U.S. Open. Founded in 1892 in Manhattan, the club moved to Forest Hills in 1913, where it played host to many great moments in tennis history. Following the U.S. Open’s relocation, The West Side Tennis Club faced a number of challenges and retreated from the spotlight. But after years under the radar, the club’s president Roland Meier and tennis director Bob Ingersole are helping The West Side Tennis Club re-emerge as a major player on the tennis scene.
We recently spoke with Roland and Bob to learn how history and modernity mix in Forest Hills.
Read our interview with the pair here