In just two weeks, Aug. 28 through Sept. 10, new stars have emerged into the tennis world, and on its biggest stage, the U.S. Open.
History will show that 60 years after Althea Gibson became the first African-American athlete to cross the color line of international tennis in 1956, winning a U.S. Open Women’s Singles championship in 1957 and again in 1958, 10 years before Billie Jean King’s 1967 triple crown championship wins—women’s singles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles—three U.S. Open championships, four American women, three of them African-American, advanced to compete for this year’s Women’s Singles U.S. Open Championship.
“No one ever gives you a slam. You gotta take it,” said semifinalist Venus Williams, 37, a two-time U.S. Open Singles champion, five-time Wimbledon champion and a two-time U.S. Open Doubles champion, in anticipation of her match against Sloane Stephens, one of the most competitive matches of the tournament, and Madison Keys versus CoCo Vandeweghe, the two other semifinalists last Thursday.
Stephens, 24, won the Women’s Singles championship, her first major, and Rafael Nadal, 31, ranked No. 1, won the Men’s. It was his third U.S. Open championship, a $3.7 million win, his second major win of this year, and the 16th Grand Slam title of his career.
The match, against South African Kevin Anderson Sunday afternoon with Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Jerry Seinfeld, Tony Bennett, Tommy Hilfiger and more than 23,000 tennis fans in attendance, started off competitively at Arthur Ashe Stadium on the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, but it all started falling apart for Anderson toward the middle of the first set. Like Stephens Saturday, Nadal was capable of getting to the net for short volleys and returns, and creating difficult volleys and returns for Anderson, who committed 49 unforced errors compared with Nadal’s 11. Anderson, 6-foot-8, the tallest player to ever reach the finals, was kept off balance and out of position throughout the match.
“These Grand Slams are tough,” said Anderson, also 31. “We are privileged to play with some of the best players in the history of the game.” The best of five match went 6-3, 6-3, 6-4, all for Nadal.