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

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: