Beginnings of the US Open
The US Open was first held in 1881, and it was played on the traditional grass courts at the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island. The event was called the US National Championship and had a men's singles and men’s doubles event that were both open to members of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association. The inaugural tournament was won by Richard Sears, who went on to win the next 6 editions of the tournament. This was made easier by the fact that the original structure used a challenge system where the defending champion only needed to play one game against the challenger, who would need to beat all the other contestants to reach the finals. This method was continuously used until 1911.
In 1887, the US National Championship introduced a women's singles tournament, which was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. A women's doubles event was also introduced the following year, and it was played at the Orange Lawn Tennis Club in South Orange, New Jersey.
The tournament was won mostly by Americans, but female Irish tennis player Mabel Cahill won the women's singles in 1891 and 1892, becoming the first foreigner to win the US National Championship. The US National Championships in this era were won by some greats such as William Larned, Robert Wren, Oliver Campbell, Malcom Whitman as well as female champions such as Mabel Cahill, Elisabeth Moore, Juliette Atkinson, Ellen Roosevolt and more. One fairly common practice was that siblings would play together in the doubles events. Carr and Sam Neel were two brothers who won the men's doubles in 1896, as well as British brothers Reginald and Laurence Doherty in 1902 and 1903, and later Robert and Howard Kinsey in 1924. Ellen and her sister Grace Roosevolt won the women's doubles in 1890, as well as Juliette and Kathleen Atkinson in 1897 and 1898. Augusta Schultz Hobart and Clarence Hobart were the only married couple in the mixed doubles who won a tournament in this era, winning in 1905.
In 1915, Molla Bjurstedt Mallory became the first Danish tennis player to win the US National Championship. She won four successive singles titles from 1915 through 1918. She would go on to win three more championships in 1920 through 1922, but by that time she had become a naturalised American. Australian men's doubles partners Norman Brookes and Gerald Patterson became the first players to win a title from Australia, winning the men's doubles in 1919. During the 20s, the legendary French players of the time also won the US National Championship. Rene Lacoste won two US National Championships in 1926 and 1927, and Henri Cochet won the following year. Henri Cochet also won the mixed doubles, as did Jean Borotra. British women's partners Kitty Mckane Godfree and Phyllis Howkins won in 1923, Godfree also won with Ermyntrude Harvey in 1927.
The majority of the 30s and 40s were won by American tennis players such as Helen Jacobs, Alice Marble, Pauline Betz and Margaret Osborne duPont, as well as Done Budge, Frank Parker, Jack Kramer and Pancho Gonzales in the men's singles. From 1956 through to 1962, the men's singles were only won by Australian tennis players, such as Neale Fraser, Ashley Cooper, Roy Emerson and more. Maria Bueno won the US National Championship in 1959, becoming the first South American player to win, and she won again in 1963, 1964 and 1966. Rafael Osuna won the men's singles in 1963, to become the first male South American to win the title.
The final championship was held in 1967, and the men's singles was won by Australian John Newcombe, and the women's singles was won by Billie Jean King.
The Open Era
The open era started in 1968, and the competition was finally opened to international professional players. Up until then, the US National Championships were only open to amateur players, but with the increasing number of players turning professional, the decision was made to open the competition. That year, 96 men and 63 women entered the competition.
Arthur Ashe and Virginia Wade won the first men's and women's singles, Robert Lutz and Stan Smith won the men's doubles, Maria Bueno and Margaret Court won the women's doubles and Mary-Ann Eisel and Peter Curties won the mixed doubles. Australian Margaret Court won the women's singles in 1969 and 1970. Fellow Australians Rod Laver and Ken Rosewall won the men's singles in the same year.
In the following years, Jimmy Connors won the men's singles 5 times in 1974, 1976, 1978 1982 and 1983. John McEnroe won three titles from 1979 through 1981 and once more in 1984. Billie Jean King won the women's singles again in 1971, 1972 and 1974, bringing her tally up to 4. American Chris Evert also had success in the tournament, winning in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978, 1980, and in 1982, for a total of 6 times.
In 1985, the men's and women's singles were won by two Czechoslovakian players, Ivan Lendl and Hana Mandlikova. Lendl went on to win two more men's singles in 1986 and 1987. In 1989, Boris Becker and Steffi Graf, both German players, won the men's and women's singles. Steffi Graf had already won the women's singles in 1988 and then she won in 1993, 1995 and 1996. Legendary American players such as Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi also won the men's singles in the 90s and early 2000s, with Sampras winning in 1990, 1993, 1995, 1996 and 2002. Agassi won the tournament in 1994 and 1999. 1999 also saw the first wins from the Williams sisters. Serena Williams won the first women's singles tournament between the two sisters in 1999, and the siblings both won the women's doubles in that year. Venus then went on to win the women's singles in 2000 and 2001. Serena Williams won the following year in 2002 to go on par with her sister. Serena Williams went on to win in 2008, 2012, 2013 and 2014. The 2000s also saw the rise of Roger Federer, who won a record five US opens in a row from 2004 through 2008. Rafael Nadal also won the men's singles in 2010, 2013, 2017 and 2019. Djokovic won the US Open in 2015 and 2018. The women's singles saw Justine Henin win the tournament in 2003 and 2007. Fellow Belgian Kim Clijsters also won in 2005, 2009 and 2010. Maria Sharapova and Svetlana Kuznetsovawon the competition in 2004 and 2006. Japanese tennis player Naomi Osaka won in 2018 and 2020.
Most recently, Russian tennis player Daniil Medvedev won the men's singles, British player Emma Raducanu won the women's singles, Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury won the men's doubles, Samantha Stosur and Zhang Shuai won the women's singles and Desirae Krwaczyk and Joe Salisbury won the mixed doubles.
The US Open was moved to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in 1978, where it has been played ever since. The surface at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is hard, though before that the tournament was played on clay, from 1975-1977. Prior to clay, the tournament was played on grass, which dates back to the very first tournaments. Jimmy Connors is the only individual to have won US Open singles titles on three surfaces, winning in 1974, 1976 and 1978. Chris Evert is the only woman to win US singles on two different surfaces, winning in 1975, 1976 and 1977 on clay, and in 1978 on the hard court. The tennis centre was named the National Tennis Center until 2006, when it was renamed in honour of four time US Open singles champion Billie Jean King.
The tennis centre was named the National Tennis Center until 2006, when it was renamed in honour of four time US Open singles champion Billie Jean King.
Ultimately, the US Open remains one of the most popular tennis tournaments and it has always attracted large viewerships and in-person attendances at the center. The US Open has been the place of many dramatic tournaments that have ended with both joy and great upset.