By Marc Raimondi
It could have been called the Night of Legends, but the USTA just dubbed it the US Open's opening ceremony.
More than 25 former US Open champions were on hand to celebrate the 40th anniversary of tennis' Open Era in a ceremony hosted by Oscar award-winning actor Forrest Whitaker and featuring the music of the Four Seasons and Earth, Wind & Fire on Monday night at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Flushing Meadows.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg opened the night by calling the US Open “the greatest tennis tournament in the world with the greatest fans in the world.” What followed was a tremendous collection of the sport's greats — from Rod Laver and Billie Jean King to John McEnroe and Chris Evert to current luminaries Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer.
The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center saw a sellout crowd of 23,733 for the night session and the Open's first day session drew a record 35,391. The total of 59,124 was a first-day record.
The US Open and Queens share a special relationship that dates back to 1915, when the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills first hosted the men's singles U.S. National Championships.
Since its beginning in 1881, the U.S. National Championships was strictly limited to amateurs until 1968 when the tournament became “open” to both professionals and amateurs and changed its name to the US Open.
The opening night celebration also included Virginia Wade, the first woman to ever win the US Open, and Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe and her daughter Camera Ashe, who represented their late husband and father Arthur Ashe, who won the 1968 men's singles title.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Marc Raimondi by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 130.