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  Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Leading the way
Arthur Ashe
Ashe won the first US Open of the professional era
The US Open has come a long way in the 121 years since it was first held.

Far more than the other three Grand Slams it has been willing to change its name, location, choice of playing surface - and the rules.

It is now the richest tennis tournament in the world with over $14.5m in prize money - but it has not always been that way.

The event first came about after the US Lawn Tennis Association was founded in May 1881 and its members decided to hold a national championship.

  The Early Days
1881: First tournament held at Newport Casino
1887: First women's championship, held in Philadelphia
1915: Men's tournament moves to Forest Hills, New York
1935: Men and women's events are united in one location
1946: Record crowds attend first tournament since end of World War II. Jack Kramer wins men's title
1957: Althea Williams becomes the first African American woman to win the US Open

Twenty-six players entered the inaugural competition - called the US National Singles Championship - which was held at the Newport Casino, Rhode Island that August.

Only players from clubs who were members of the US National LTA were eligible to enter.

The first singles winner was Richard Sears - who won without dropping a set - and he went on to defend his title successfully for the next six years.

Things were slightly easier for him than in the present day however - until 1911 a challenge system was used whereby the defending champion automatically qualified for the next year's final.

Clarence Clark and W.F. Taylor took the first doubles title, but Sears was also part of the winning team for the following six years.

Women entered for the first time in 1887 but at a separate venue, the Philadelphia Cricket Club, with Ellen Hansell taking the first ladies title.

Tracey Austin
Austin is still the youngest ever women's champion

Women's doubles was not played until 1889, and mixed doubles was only introduced in 1892.

Like the men, women also used the challenge system - keeping it until 1918 - and they also played five sets until 1901.

In 1915, the men's championship moved to the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills in New York.

The competition was known as the Patriotic Tournament in 1917 during World War I

And it briefly switched to the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia from 1921 until 1923 - the same time as the women switched to Forest Hills.

The men then returned to Forest Hills, and in 1935 the men's and women's events were united there for the first time.

But only at the start of the professional era in 1968 were all five events - women's and men's singles and doubles, and mixed - held at the same time at Forest Hills.

That year, and in 1969, there were two championships held - the open which professionals could enter, and the national for amateurs only.

  The Open Era
1969: Rod Laver completes second Grand Slam of his career. Bad weather means final is held over until third Monday and is watched by only 3,708
1973: Equal prize money for men's and women's championships introduced. The US Open is still the only Grand Slam event to do this
1974: Grass courts are replaced by American green clay
1978: Tournament moves from Forest Hills to Flushing Meadows and is played on hard courts
1979: Tracey Austin becomes youngest ever women's champion at 16
1990: Pete Sampras becomes youngest ever men's champion at 19
2001: The first meeting between siblings in a US Open final, when Venus Williams beat sister Serena

In 1968 Arthur Ashe won both men's titles, to become the first African-American man to win either a US Open or a Grand Slam event.

From 1970 the tournament has been known as the US Open - with no distinction between amateurs and pros.

That same year the tournament became the first to introduce the tie-breaker system, after F.D. Robbins had taken 100 games to defeat Dick Dell in 1969.

In 1973 the competition became the first to introduce equal prize money for men's and women's championships - and is still the only Grand Slam to do so.

The grass courts were ripped up in 1975 and replaced by American green clay - while floodlights were brought in to allow night-time tennis, again a first for a Grand Slam.

Floodlights are still used but the clay did not last long.

Four years later the tournament moved from Forest Hills to the Sultan's National Tennis Centre at Flushing Meadows, New York - where it remains.

And with that move came another change of surface - to the hard courts that are still used today.

All the news from Flushing Meadows

Review the action

Have your say

Photo galleries

Iain Carter in NYC

Background

Official website
Links to more US Open stories are at the foot of the page.


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