The US Open is one of the biggest sporting events in New York City and the nation. It’s a special part of the tennis season that celebrates the end of summer and the last major tournament where one can find all the favorite players annually.
To tennis devotees in America, it’s a privilege to stop by the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and roam the grounds. For some spectators even the chance to visit for one day is enough to fulfill their tennis dreams for the year.
The US Open is also a special tradition for the AALC. For years, our staff and volunteers have been a staple on the grounds spreading Arthur’s story. Here’s what a typical day at the US Open is like for us:
The Early Birds We at the AALC, whether we’re working at the booth or not, tend to come early and enjoy the atmosphere. If you take the scenic route to the stadium, you can take a stroll through Flushing Meadow-Corona Park and watch the sun peak through the Unisphere. This structure is an icon of Queens, New York and serves as a unofficial symbol for the borough.
From there, you can enter through the South Gates where you are welcomed by the Hall of Champions and the Arthur Ashe Memorial Plaza. Here you are immersed with the stories of tennis icons and can immediately feel the energy of great sportsmanship and competition that is about to happen.
The Grounds No matter what the weather is – overcast or sunny – there is a feeling that it’s going to be a good day. Many staff at the booths and on the grounds are seasoned regulars who come annually, so there is a sense of community when you walk through those gates. You can see players and coaches alike heading to practice or casually hanging out in the food areas. Once in a while you’ll see a wave of ballpeople, complete in matching uniforms, heading into a stadium. The general hustle and bustle of opening the booths is going on all around-things like packages and carts going to their designated locations, taking out displays and wiping down counters. A big plus is that you never know who you’ll see at this time of day. It’s always a delight to bump into someone like tennis pro Thanasi Kokkinakis on your way to the booth.
The best thing to do this early in the morning is to roam around the outside courts and watch the players warming up. One could leisurely eat their breakfast and see some of the sports rising stars and underdogs drill for the upcoming day’s challenge. If you're clever with your timing it’s possible to watch a few matches, jumping from Louis Armstrong to Court 17, and get your fill before a shift. For those who are interested in experiencing the Open but on a budget, getting grounds passes might be the best way to do it affordably. You’ll get similar access to Armstrong and Grandstand stadiums and can plan your day around the less televised matches. During the first week, some of the best matches are those done by players ranked 30-50. They are closer in skill level which means a more competitive match.
The Booth The highlight of our volunteers' and staff’s day is spending time at the Arthur Ashe Learning Center Booth. The booth attracts regular and new visitors all with the admiration of Arthur’s work on and off the court. A lot of people who stop by are educators who want to help spread his story to their students or parents that want their kids to know who Arthur is. Long time supporters also stop by to pick up a piece of merchandise paying homage to the US Open’s first champion and main stadium namesake.
We also love getting visits from youngsters! We hand out activity books for kids ages 7-14 that share Arthur’s values and story along with crayons and stickers for fun. It emphasizes healthy activities, sports history, academics, and civic engagement - all things that Arthur promoted during his life.
Moments when we get to actively engage with Arthur's fans are some of our favorites. To have a dialogue about his initiatives--whether its his promotion of youth or civic activism--allows us to continue his legacy. There are countless stories of fans who tell us how they met Arthur once and he influenced their life or that he was a hero and source of inspiration since childhood. At our booth, we tell Arthur's story to serve as a gentle reminder that you can do so much by taking advantage of the opportunities provided to you. And by doing so, your legacy can continue to inspire even after your time has passed.
Even though we are currently in the midst of the Roland Garros, you can check out a list of some of the most historic US Open moments on Gothamist. Ordered chronologically, Ashe is on the list along with a photo from his game-changing victory in 1968.
At the USTA's Annual Meeting and Conference, former pro and friend of the Arthur Ashe Learning Center MaliVai Washington was honored with the NJTL Founders' Service Award. Washington was a top player in the 1990s, reaching 11th in the ATP rankings and the finals of Wimbledon in 1996.
However, the Founders' Award is in recognition of his contributions off the court: in 1997 he began teaching tennis through the Boys & Girls Club which developed into the MaliVai Washington Youth Foundation. MWYF brings programs that combine tennis, education and service to kids, especially at-risk youth, in Jacksonville, FL. In 2008 they opened the MaliVai Washington Youth Center, a $3.8 million facility with plenty of classrooms alongside tennis courts, a fitness room, a library and computer lab, allowing them to serve an even greater number of children in the community.
Washington lent a helping hand to the AALC when he hosted the 2013 Birthday Celebration and Inspirational Tour Exhibit Preview event in Richmond, VA. Previous winners of the NJTL Founders' Service Award include AALC Directors Christine Beck and David Dinkins.
Read more about the award on USTA.com
On Friday, August 26th, former tennis pros including Katrina Adams, Zina Garrison, Billie Jean King and Chanda Rubin gathered at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to celebrate the release of the commemorative Althea Gibson Forever stamp. It is the 36th stamp in the Black Heritage collection and features the tennis legend in mid swing during a volley, adapted from a photograph taken at Wimbledon. In the 1950s Gibson won both Wimbledon and the US Championships (now the US Open) twice in addition to the French Championships (now the French Open), making her an African-American pioneer in tennis. She was also the number-one-ranked woman in the world.
More information on USPS.com
Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day 2010 was one for the history books. Celebrities such as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Demi Lovato, Rafael Nadal, Lindsey Vonn and the Jonas Brothers performed, played and palled around on center stage and center court at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Watch the slideshow below to learn all about the exciting weekend, including a visit to NASDAQ.
This year the US Open will be more open than ever. For the first time they are holding open-entry regional tournaments where winners will be able to compete in the US Open Qualifying tournament, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in August. The regional tournaments, called the US Open National Playoffs are open to anyone age 14 or over. Allowing anyone to compete for a chance to go to the Open might make this the most egalitarian and meritocratic Open ever.
The playoff tournaments will be held in 16 of the USTA's 17 sections (the only exception being USTA Caribbean). However, since players can enter into any of the sections' tournaments, Caribbean players would have the opportunity to participate in a different section's tournament. They will be 256-draw tournaments, to keep the tournaments manageable. Winners of regional tournaments will get to compete at the National Tennis Center in July or August. The winners of the men's and women's brackets will then enter the Qualifying Tournament at the end of August as wild cards. From there, they could win entry to the US Open, being held in late August and September. The Playoffs are expected to attract college players, pros, instructors, ranked junior players and more, especially since there are virtually no barriers to entry. As a player who led the way in trying to open up the sport of tennis to a more diverse group of people, Arthur Ashe would be thrilled to see players of varied backgrounds who have followed different paths coming together to compete in his namesake stadium.
Arthur Ashe Learning Center
Inspired by Arthur Ashe’s proactive life as a conscious leader, humanitarian, educator and athlete, the Arthur Ashe Learning Center promotes his legacy to educate and motivate —with an emphasis toward inspiring youth. By vividly focusing upon the areas of education, health and wellness, citizenship and self-reliance, the AALC fosters empowerment and leadership in the individual and the community, elevating