The US Open and it’s Fans
The United States based tennis competition unites fans all over country.
Of the 4 major tennis tournaments, the one that strikes closest to home is the United States Open Tennis Championship. Taking place every August, the opening day of the US Open can bring in crowds of over 60,000. This year specifically brought out an all-time record, filling the Arthur Ashe Stadium in New York, the largest stadium in the sport.
Even if fans can’t make it to the stadium, tennis is a sport that brings sport fans, tennis fans, and even those who don’t always care for sports, together. It is an event that for two weeks can completely control a fan’s schedule. “I had the livestream going 24/7 the whole time in meetings, in lectures, on my breaks at work, it was always on,” says Elizabeth Clark, who has been playing tennis for 10 years.
The US Open is one of four major tournaments within the Grand Slam, which is considered to be the most important tennis competition. It also happens to be the final event, following the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon. Many American fans would count the US Open as their favorite tournament.
“The US Open is very fan friendly, and allows for you to get the most out of meeting players, watching great matches, and also supporting someone from your home country,” said Bharani Sankar, a former member of the Longwood University Tennis Team.
This year was especially exciting for American fans once the tournament reached the semifinals in the Women’s Singles. “My favorite moment was when it was all the American women made the semifinals, which meant you knew an American was definitely going to win the finals,” says lifetime US Open viewer Canon Cochran.
However, there was one difference amongst these four players, and that was that only one of them had the last name “Williams.” This year, due to her sister Serena’s pregnancy, Venus was the only Williams sister competing. “With US women, we have had this long moment with Venus and Serena dominating, but until this year we hadn’t seen much development of younger players in a while,” says Clark.
Venus Williams has been a trailblazer in the tennis world. She turned pro in 1994, and is often associated with fighting for equal pay for women in tennis. She has won seven major tournaments alone. However, this year, she found herself up against Sloane Stephens, a younger opponent who had never won a single’s title.
Stephens, who turned pro in 2009, had only ever made it to the semifinals in a major tournament once, at the Australian Open in 2013. She and Venus played three matches before she was finally able to defeat the veteran 7–5.
“Venus was such an ambassador for the sport, and she’s really been a real frontrunner, and I think she was the sentimental favorite, but Sloane was the athletic favorite. She was younger, she was stronger,” says Cochran.
Stephens would go on to win the entire tournament, her first major title, after defeating Madison Keys 6–3, 6–0. Her win made her the first American woman to win a Grand Slam tournament. Although she just won her first major title, people shouldn’t be expecting her to replace the Williams sisters quite yet. Serena Williams, who praised Stephens and Keys for their advancement to the finals, has won 23 titles and plans to return to the sport in January 2018.
“Media, as a whole, tends to classify an American winner as the next great hope, but tennis is a sport of very tight margins and one person can win one game and the next three years it can be someone else completely,” says Sankar. “It’s unfair to put the next American hope on men and women that end up winning big tournaments and — especially something like the US Open — because something like tennis has so much variability that you can really go up and down.”
Whether it’s the Williams sisters, Stephens or Keys winning, viewers can agree that just having American players be successful in the competition makes it that much more exciting to watch, and strengthens their American pride.
“The US Open is traditionally a place where US tennis shines. Sometimes tennis is a very European dominated sport and it’s nice to have Americans do well,” says Sankar.