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US OPEN ’18: Players share memories from 50 years of Open

August 24, 2018

NEW YORK (AP) — This year’s U.S. Open marks an even half-century since the event formerly known as the U.S. Championships joined the other Grand Slam tournaments in admitting professional players.

The first Open edition of the tournament started on Aug. 29, 1968, at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, and culminated with singles titles for Virginia Wade and Arthur Ashe. The total prize money on offer was $100,000.

Now, 50 years later, play will begin Monday at what is called the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, where two stadiums have retractable roofs and each singles champion will take home $3.8 million from a total pool of $53 million.

“The change is so dramatic. It’s polar sides apart,” Wade said Friday. “If you take it like a gradual thing, like every year it got better, bigger, more money, improvements every year, then it’s a little bit more easier to understand.”

Here is a sampling of current players’ memories of one of tennis’ four most prestigious tournaments:

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“One of my absolute favorite U.S. Open matches was Andre Agassi and James Blake, when they played that epic night match (in the 2005 quarterfinals). I remember it vividly, because it was actually one of the first times I stayed up to watch all of it. That’s something I will always remember.” — Madison Keys.

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“That year that Connors made the semis at 39. I don’t even know what year that was (1991 ). That was absurd.” — Frances Tiafoe.

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“I remember the last Agassi-Sampras final (in 2002). I loved that match. Everybody was like, ‘Oh, Sampras is never going to win another one. He’s too old. He’s done.’ And then, all of a sudden, he surprised everyone. Played an unbelievable tournament. Was unstoppable, basically. He surprised everybody around the tennis world. And then he never played again. What a good way to stop.” — Alexander Zverev.

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“One match that I remember really well was Marcos Baghdatis against Andre Agassi (in the second round in 2006 ). The ‘cramping match.’ It was a phenomenal match. So much drama. A good show for the people. These kinds of matches are the ones people are excited to watch.” — Stefanos Tsitsipas.

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“Jennifer Capriati comes to my mind first. I don’t know why, but she, for me, is the epitome of the U.S. Open. I feel like she always upped her game there. She was a hard-court player that was amazing. And she had this great rivalry with Serena. That’s just somebody that when I go on YouTube to watch old matches, it’s Capriati and Seles that I like to go back and watch.” — Andrea Petkovic.

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“The best memory for me, probably, was when (Federer) was playing in the final against Djokovic (in 2015). ... We were sitting far up in Ashe. We could barely see them. But it was unbelievable to be there during the final, seeing the whole atmosphere. It was one of those moments I’ll never forget.” — Denis Shapovalov.

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“The Corretja-Sampras match, where Pete was throwing up (in the 1996 quarterfinals). That one match sticks out to me. ... I wasn’t that much of a tennis aficionado growing up, even though it was the sport I played the most. But I always tuned in during the U.S. Open. Staying up late as a young kid, watching a Grand Slam tennis match, was very unique.” — John Isner.

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“Some of my earlier memories were when Venus and Serena started coming up, when they were young. They had the braids and the beads. ... Just the fashion aspect of it and the atmosphere. I think there is nothing to beat Arthur Ashe night sessions. Those are very special.” — Caroline Wozniacki.

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