The US Open Championship, formally the United States Open Tennis Championships, is a hardcourt tennis tournament which is the modern iteration of one of the oldest tennis championships in the world, the U.S. National Championship, which for men's singles was first contested in 1881. Since 1987, the US Open has been chronologically the fourth and final tennis major comprising the Grand Slam each year; the other three are the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon. It is held annually in late August and early September over a two-week period (the weeks before and after Labor Day weekend). The main tournament consists of five different event championships: men's and women's singles, men's and women's doubles, and mixed doubles, with additional tournaments for senior, junior, and wheelchair players. Since 1978, the tournament has been played on acrylic hard courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York City.
The US Open has tiebreaks in every set, including the last set. The other three Grand Slam tournaments have tiebreaks in every set other than the last set (i.e. the fifth set for men and third set for women), and therefore their last set continues indefinitely until a two-game lead is reached.
Newport Casino Tennis Court
The tournament was first held in August 1881 on the grass courts at the Newport Casino, Newport, Rhode Island and in that first year only clubs that were members of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNLTA)were permitted to enter. The first edition was won by Richard Sears who went on to win seven consecutive singles titles. From 1884 through 1911, the tournament used a challenge system whereby the defending champion automatically qualified for the next year's final in which he would play the winner of the all-comers tournament. In 1915 the national championship was relocated from Newport, Rhode Island to the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills, New York. Already in 1911 an effort was made by a group of tennis players, headed by Karl H. Behr from New York, to relocate the tournament to New York but by a vote of 95 to 60 it was decided to remain in Newport. In early 1915 the issue resurfaced when a group of about 100 tennis players signed a petition in favor of the move, arguing that most tennis clubs, players and fans were located in the New York area and that it would therefore be beneficial for the development of the sport to host the national championship there. This view was opposed by another group of players which included eight former national singles champions. The contentious issue was brought to a vote at the annual USNLTA meeting on Feb 5, 1915 and with 128 votes in favor and 119 against it was decided to relocate. From 1921 through 1923, the tournament was played at theGermantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia and it returned to Forest Hills in 1924.
In the first few years of the United States National Championship only men competed and the tournament was known as the US National Singles Championships for Men. Six years after the men's nationals were first held, the first official U.S. Women's National Singles Championship was held at the Philadelphia Cricket Club in 1887, won by 17-year old Philadelphian Ellen Hansell, accompanied by the U.S. Women's National Doubles Championship (not held for the next two years) and U.S. Mixed Doubles Championship (not held in 1899). The women's tournament used a challenge system from 1888 through 1918, except in 1917. Between 1890 and 1906 sectional tournaments were held in the east and the west of the country to determine the best two doubles teams, which competed in a play-off to see who would play the defending champions in the challenge round.
The open era began in 1968 when all five events were merged into the US Open, held at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills. The 1968 combined tournament was open to professionals for the first time. That year, 96 men and 63 women entered the event, and prize money totaled $100,000.
In 1970, the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to use a tiebreak to decide a set that reached a 6–6 score in games and is the only major to use a tiebreak in the deciding set; the other three grand slams play out the deciding set until a two-game margin is achieved. From 1970 to 1974 the US Open used a best-of-nine point, sudden death tiebreaker before moving to the ITF best-of-twelve point system.
In 1973 the US Open became the the first Grand Slam tournament to award equal prize money to men and women with that year's singles champions John Newcombe and Margaret Court both receiving $25,000. Another US Open innovation came in 1975 when floodlights enabled night play for the first time. In 1978 the tournament moved from the West Side Tennis Club, Forrest Hills, Queens to the larger USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, in the process switching the surface from clay, used in the last three years at Forrest Hills, to hard courts. Jimmy Connors is the only individual to have won US Open singles titles on all three surfaces (grass, clay, hardcourt), while Chris Evert is the only woman to win on two surfaces (clay, hardcourt).
In 2006, the US Open introduced instant replay reviews of calls, using the Hawk-Eye computer system. Each player is allowed three challenges per set plus one additional challenge during a tiebreak. The player keeps all existing challenges if the challenge is successful. If the challenge is unsuccessful and the original ruling is upheld, the player loses a challenge. Instant replay was initially available only on the stadium courts (Ashe and Armstrong), until 2009 when it became available on the Grandstand as well.
Once a challenge is made, the official review (a 3-D computer simulation based on multiple high-speed video cameras) is shown to the players, umpires, and audience on the stadium video boards and to the television audience at the same time. During the 2011 US Open, 29.78% of men's challenges and 30.2% of women's challenges were correct.
In 2007, JP Morgan Chase renewed its sponsorship of the US Open. As part of its sponsorship arrangement, Chase renamed the tournament's replay system the "Chase Review" on in-stadium video and television.
Arthur Ashe stadium
The DecoTurf surface at the US Open is a fast surface, having slightly less friction and producing a lower bounce compared to other hard courts (most notably the Rebound Ace surface formerly used at the Australian Open). For this reason, many serve-and-volley players have found success at the US Open.
The main court is located at the 22,547-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, opened in 1997. It is named after Arthur Ashe, the African American tennis player who won the men's final of the inaugural US Open in 1968. The next largest court is Louis Armstrong Stadium, opened in 1978, extensively renovated from the original Singer Bowl. It was the main stadium from 1978–96, and its peak capacity neared 18,000 seats, but was reduced to 10,200 after the opening of Arthur Ashe Stadium. The third largest court is the 6,000-seat Grandstand Stadium, attached to the Louis Armstrong Stadium. In 2011, Court 17 was opened as a fourth show court, with large television screens and electronic line calling which allows player challenges. Sunken into the ground, it has been nicknamed "The Pit". It initially held 2,500 with temporary stands, but will allow over 3,000 fans after its completion in 2012. It is located in the southwest corner of the grounds. Sidecourts 4, 7, and 11 each have a seating capacity of over 1,000.
All the courts used by the US Open are lighted, meaning that television coverage of the tournament can extend into prime time to attract higher ratings. This has recently been used to the advantage of USA Network—and now, ESPN2—on cable and especially for CBS, the American broadcast television outlet for the tournament for many years, which used its influence to move the women's singles final to Saturday night to draw better television ratings.
In 2005, all US Open (and US Open Series) tennis courts were given blue inner courts to make it easier to see the ball on television; the outer courts remained green.
* per team
In addition to the championship prize money an amount of $410,000 was available for the Champions Invitational and $1,272,000 for player per diem bringing the total player compensation to $23,718,000.