The oldest tennis tournament in the world, the U.S. National Championship got its name as the United States Open Tennis Championships or the US Open in the year 1881. When the tournament kicked-started with just the men’s singles and the men’s doubles discipline and the tournament was played outdoors on the grass surface for almost 93 years.
The grass courts of US Open were situated in Newport Casino, Newport, Rhode Island and they had a Victorian-style clubhouse. Back then, the tournament followed a challenge system where the previous year’s champion directly qualified for the next year’s final and he/she would play the winner of the all-comers tournament.
Until 1968, which was during the amateur tennis tour, all the five disciplines of tennis were contested in different places and in 1968 everything was held at a commonplace (which was the beginning of Open Era), at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Queens, NYC.
In 1975, from the grass-court, the tournament switched to clay court surfaces. At that time, floodlights were inserted in stadium and night session matches were carried out. The US Open’s clay surface existed only for two years and then the tournament underwent a change again.
In 1978, the tournament switched to hard courts and in the same year, they moved to the newly constructed USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows and till date the tournament is held there. Before the construction of the tennis stadium, Flushing Meadows was a complete wild marshland.
The courts were made up of a rubberized asphalt material called Pro DecoTurf and they had a shade of green color which is trademarked as ‘U.S. Open Green’. The ITF classifies it as a multi-layer cushioned surface. At the beginning of the month of August, every year, the courts are resurfaced before the championships of the year get underway.
In 2005, the color of the courts was changed, the interior part of the lines of the tennis court has ‘U.S. Open Blue’ color and the exterior continued with ‘U.S. Open Green’.
In 2006, the stadium was named as the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center which honored the 12-time major champion, Billie Jean King. Presently, the tournament has four show courts (Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium, the Grandstand, and Court 17), 13 field courts and five practice courts.
Jimmy Connors is the only tennis player to win US Open singles titles on three surfaces (grass, clay, and hard), while Chris Evert is the only player on in the women’s to win US Open singles titles on two surfaces (clay and hard).
In 1973, the US Open was the first major tennis tournament to offer equal prize money for men and women. That year, John Newcombe and Margaret Court received a cheque of $25,000 and the previous year’s ladies champion, Billie Jean King was paid $10,000.