Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center

US Open Major Tennis Tournament

The US Open has been one of the most important worldwide tennis tournaments for almost a century and a half, first starting life in 1881. It’s the second-oldest Grand Slam after Wimbledon, with 142 editions taking place so far. The US Open is by far the largest of the US tennis majors, taking place annually at the end of August. 

The tournament has been played on a hard surface constructed of asphalt, rubber, silicon and acrylic resin since 1978. As a result, the US Open is seen as one of the fairest Grand Slams on the tour, alongside the Australian Open. The courts are a perfect middle ground between the speed of grass and the slower qualities associated with clay. 

This wasn’t always the case, as the US Open was originally played on grass. The organizers used clay for two years before taking advantage of modern court surface technology. Several tennis greats have found great success at Newport Casino, West Side Tennis Club and its current home, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. 

The impressive tennis complex features 22 courts across 46.5 acres and includes some of the largest tennis stadiums worldwide. Arthur Ashe Stadium has a huge 23,200 maximum capacity, topping the global rankings. Widely regarded as the best Grand Slam for live crowd reaction, many players have used it to their advantage or succumbed to the pressure over the years. 

The US Open has been responsible for many iconic tennis moments. Emma Raducanu’s inspiring performance in 2021 is one of the most renowned, as the 18-year-old shocked the world and became the first qualifier to win the tournament in the Open era. 

Keep reading for an all-encompassing adventure through the history of the US Open, the essential dates and information, notable players and the tournament’s commitment to using modern technology. Few global tennis events can match America’s premier competition, and there is much to discuss. 

The US Open: A basic overview

The US Open runs for two weeks beginning on the last Monday of August. Since 1978, it has taken place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center situated within Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York City. Its inaugural edition was held at the Newport Casino on Rhode Island in 1881, originally being played on grass. 

The tournament’s move to the new USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center significantly increased its capacity. The US Open invites the most in-person spectators out of all the Grand Slams, with close to 50,000 people fitting in the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park-adjacent site. Fans spread across 22 courts, although the highest concentration can be found in the three stadiums. 

The Arthur Ashe Stadium is by far the largest. The impressive arena is the world’s largest tennis stadium, with room for 23,771 spectators in its vast three-tiered space. It also has 90 luxury suites and five restaurants, setting a new standard for commercial tennis venues. Arthur Ashe Stadium opened in 1997, named after the first US Open winner of the Open era. It cost $254m to build, with Whitney Houston opening it in style on August 25th, 1997. 

The flagship US Open venue replaced the Louis Armstrong Stadium as the primary court. The tribute to the legendary jazz trumpeter was significantly downsized from 18,000 to 10,000 capacity. Nevertheless, fans still enjoy the vintage atmosphere of the Louis Armstrong Stadium, built in 1978 to coincide with the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center opening. 

The third US Open showpiece is the Grandstand. Opened in 2016, it’s the world’s only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Stadium for tennis. The Grandstand was designed to aesthetically match the beauty of Flushing Meadows park, a central pillar in the brief given to Rossetti Architects. All courts use the same Laykold-designed hard playing surface. 

Almost a thousand players descend on the USTA Billie Jean National Tennis Center in some capacity during the two weeks of the event. The men’s and women’s singles are the main events, with 128 players in each. Men’s, women’s and mixed doubles feature 64 players each, while other US Open championships including wheelchair, senior and junior make up the remaining player numbers. 

US Open rules are in line with the other Grand Slams. Men’s singles games are best-of-five with tiebreakers to decide the result if a set goes to 6-6. The matches are played on a best-of-three basis elsewhere, similar to other tournaments. The 2023 US Open edition will be the 143rd since 1881, which is quite a milestone! 

US Open 2022 winners 

The 2022 US Open was notable for several reasons. The allowance of coaching from the stands was arguably the most high-profile, a practice that is usually strictly illegal. It was also the last major competition Serena Williams played in before retiring. The tennis great won six US Open titles throughout her career, and her presence will be sorely missed. 

However, we must not focus on older players when the current crop of talented youngsters is so exciting. Carlos Alcaraz finally won a Grand Slam after a few near misses in the men’s draw, becoming the youngest US Open winner since Pete Sampras. He defeated Casper Ruud in the final and wrote his name in the history books by becoming the youngest number one in ATP history. 

Meanwhile, Iga Swiatek was busy confirming her position as the new women’s player to beat after Ashleigh Barty’s early retirement. She beat Ons Jabeur, who was in her second consecutive Grand Slam final, in straight sets 6-2, 7-6. Emma Raducanu was hoping to retain the title she unexpectedly won in 2021 but crashed out in the opening round. 

Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury emerged victorious in the men’s doubles as Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova won the women’s trophy after beating the American pair Caty McNally and Taylor Townsend. Meanwhile, Storm Sanders and John Peers of Australia lifted the mixed doubles trophy.  

The US Open: A quick history 

The US Open is the second-oldest Grand Slam, with its roots in 1881. Originally called the US National Championship, it was established by the US National Lawn Tennis Association on Rhode Island. Courts used the popular grass surface at the time, with the modern hard court not appearing until 1978. The first edition at Newport Casino only featured men’s singles and doubles. Women were invited to compete in 1887, with doubles appearing two years later. 

Amazingly, professional tennis players could not compete in the US Open until 1968. The sole presence of amateurs in the early years meant that record-keeping wasn’t the strictest. Richard Sears was the winner of the debut event, going on to lift the trophy seven consecutive times throughout the 1880s. 

Ellen Hansell, a 17-year-old from Philadelphia, was the first women’s singles winner in 1887. The competition took place thousands of miles from Rhode Island, with the Philadelphia Cricket Club acting as host. All US Open championships were moved to Forest Hills in 1915, the first time the Grand Slam tournament took place within a single complex.

West Side Tennis Club hosted the US Open for several decades between 1915 and 1977. The 14,000-seat Forest Hills Stadium opened in 1924, a multipurpose venue known for hosting The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and the Arctic Monkeys, among others. It was a statement of intent from the US National Lawn Tennis Association, becoming one of the world’s largest tennis venues at the time. 

The International Lawn Tennis Federation officially awarded the US Open Grand Slam status after the Forest Hills Stadium opened. This put its contention as the biggest of the US tennis majors beyond all doubt. The tournament steadily grew in popularity as the number of American players considerably increased. Its amateur status made it an attractive proposition for thousands of budding athletes. 

1968 was one of the most important dates in the history of the Grand Slam as the US National Championships turned into the US Open as we know it. Professional players were allowed to play for the first time ever, kickstarting the modern Open era. Arthur Ashe was the first winner, defeating Tom Okker in a five-set epic that took several hours to complete. Virginia Wade won the first women’s singles titles, going on to repeat the feat at Wimbledon and the Australian Open. 

The US Open moved to the newly built USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 1978. This considerably increased the tournament’s maximum capacity and international clout. Legendary players such as John McEnroe, Ivan Lendl and Chris Evert also boosted its profile, with the hard court surface providing a convenient middle ground between grass and clay. 

Further developments came toward the end of the 20th century, with the Arthur Ashe Stadium echoing the global impact of the similarly era-defining Forest Hill Stadium several decades before. The US Open is notable for being the only Grand Slam tournament played every year since its inception. 

The most innovative Grand Slam? 

The US Open has also been uniquely innovative throughout its long history. The bold switch to hard courts in 1974 was made possible by cutting-edge new technology delivered by DecoTurf. It works using an asphalt base covered in layers of acrylic resin, generating faster ball speed on a 100% smooth surface. 

The tournament recently changed companies, handing Laykold a contract to produce the court surfaces in 2020. It ended 42 years of DecoTurf, leaving fans equally worried and excited for the future. Fortunately, Laykold’s innovative design was very well received, so the US Open’s famously high-quality surfaces aren’t going anywhere. 

The organizers aren’t just interested in advances in playing surface technology. The US Open became the first Grand Slam to use Hawk-Eye technology in 2006, setting an important precedent after the calamities of 2004’s quarterfinal between Serena Williams and Jennifer Capriati. 

Most recently, the 2022 US Open used cutting-edge Hawk-Eye Live systems to completely cut out human line judges. The technology can instantly detect balls that don’t land inside the court boundaries creating a fairer environment and completely mitigating any potentially wrong decisions. 

While it isn’t a technological innovation, the competition’s decision to make the men’s and women’s singles prize money equal was a landmark moment in 1973. John Newcombe and Margaret Court both received $25,000 each, inspiring other global competitions and US tennis majors to follow suit.   

Men’s and women’s singles winners since 2000 

US Open winners were almost exclusively American in the pre-Open era. 85 US men and 92 women have lifted the trophy, which accounts for more than 75% of editions. This dominance has waned somewhat in the 21st century, as players such as Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer stamped their mark on the tournament. 

Here is a complete list of the men’s and women’s singles winners since 2000: 

US Open Men’s singles winners:

  • Marat Safin 
  • Lleyton Hewitt 
  • Pete Sampras 
  • Andy Roddick 
  • Roger Federer (5x) 
  • Juan Martin del Potro 
  • Rafael Nadal (4x) 
  • Novak Djokovic (3x) 
  • Andy Murray 
  • Marin Cilic 
  • Stan Wawrinka 
  • Dominic Thiem 
  • Daniil Medvedev 
  • Carlos Alcaraz 

US Open Women’s singles winners:

  • Venus Williams (2x)
  • Serena Williams (6x)
  • Justine Henin (2x)
  • Svetlana Kuznetsova 
  • Kim Clijsters (3x)
  • Maria Sharapova (1x)
  • Samantha Stosur 
  • Flavia Pennetta 
  • Angelique Kerber 
  • Sloane Stephens 
  • Naomi Osaka (2x)
  • Bianca Andreescu 
  • Emma Radacunu 
  • Iga Swiatek

Iconic players throughout US Open history 

The US Open has historically been a fertile tournament for world-leading tennis talent. It has one of the broadest lists of past winners, with few players dominating the proceedings in the same way as Roland Garros or Wimbledon. Nevertheless, several players have been head and shoulders above the rest: 

  • Chris Evert

Chris Evert was an absolute phenomenon in the 1970s, reaching consecutive Grand Slam semifinals from 1971 to 1983. She was a ridiculously consistent performer, lifting the US Open trophy six times between 1975 and 1982. The Florida-born Hall of Famer broke the mould by playing almost exclusively from the baseline, inspiring a significant change in tactical approach in global tennis. 

Clay was Evert’s favourite surface, but she always enjoyed playing in front of the home fans, especially after the move to the UCTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The women’s singles legend has since moved into commentating and coaching, ensuring her legacy lives on far past her playing days.

  • Andre Agassi 

Andre Agassi was the second man to achieve a career Grand Slam in the Open era, winning the Australian Open, Roland Garros, Wimbledon and US Open. Nicknamed “the Punisher”, he emerged victorious at the UCTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center twice throughout his career, but it could have easily been more. 

Unfortunately, the legendary American player was blighted by personal issues and injuries in the latter half of the 1990s. Agassi was ultimately unable to capture his extraordinary form from the first part of the decade, although he bounced back with French and US Open triumphs in 1999. 

  • Roger Federer 

Tennis fans very quickly ran out of superlatives to describe Roger Federer. Arguably the most ethereal player of all time, the Swiss maestro is impossible to compare to anybody else. US Open fans adored watching him glide across the court and hit his signature one-handed backhands. Federer won five titles at Flushing Meadows before sadly retiring in 2022 after injuries and age caught up with him. 

If it were not for Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic disturbing his spell of complete dominance in the 2000s, Federer would have gone down as unmistakably the greatest player of all time. He is still many fans’ favorite, especially at the US Open, where he treated the Arthur Ashe Stadium to an unbelievable number of displays of excellence.

  • Margaret Court 

The Australian Margaret Court is undoubtedly one of the best women’s singles players of the 20th century. She was one of the youngest players to achieve a career Grand Slam, winning all four competitions by the age of 21. Court is also one of three tennis players to win each Grand Slam in singles, doubles and mixed doubles. 

Playing for almost two decades between 1960 to 1977, she won five US Opens and a remarkable 11 Australian Open titles. Court was most known for her athletic net play, making use of her long reach to dictate points from inside the court.  

  • Billie Jean King 

The fact the UCTA National Tennis Center was dedicated to Billie Jean King is testimony to her enduring quality in the 60s and 70s. She won the US Open four times between 1967 and 1974, blowing players away with a mixture of high-stakes aggression and superior court speed. Fans loved watching King play, as you never quite knew what to expect. 

The Californian was also a hugely respected activist throughout her career and still is today. She won the “Battle of the Sexes” in 1973, an instrumental moment in the fight for gender equality. Margaret Court called her “the greatest competitor I’ve ever known”, high praise from the Australian great. 

The other three Grand Slams

The US Open rounds off the Grand Slam calendar and often has a distinctively celebratory feel. Before visiting the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, players must compete in the following: 

What does the future hold for the US Open? 

The US Open will no doubt continue using cutting-edge technology to create a fairer game with fewer errors. Laykold, the new surface provider, will also be itching to prove it is up to the job, so changes in the composition could also be on the horizon. 

The legendary trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic don’t look like they’ll be around for too much longer. Fortunately, a new crop of talents spearheaded by Carlos Alcaraz looks well-positioned to take their place. The future looks bright for the US Open!