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August 11, 1923:West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills, gets brand new stadium

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by Jovica Ilic

On August 11, 1923, the new 14,000-seat tennis stadium at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York, is opened with the inauguration of the Wightman Cup matches. Some 5000 spectators witnessed the USA beating Great Britain 7-0, and a year later the US Open was moved here from Philadelphia and will stay at the Forest Hills until 1978.

Between 1924-1977, some of the brightest chapters in tennis history will be written here, including Althea Gibson and Arthur Ashe who would become the first black Grand Slam champions here in 1957 and 1968. Also, Billie Jean King became the first player to win the Grand Slam with a metal racquet instead of a wood one here in 1967.

West Side Tennis Club witnessed some of the biggest tennis achievements as well, like the first real "Grand Slam" achieved by Don Budge in 1938, and the similar feat from Maureen Connolly, Rod Laver, and Margaret Court.

The Davis Cup was also very common at the famous horseshoe-shaped site, as the most common hosting place of some of the strongest United States teams ever. After many glory decades, West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills started to lose ground, unable to match growing demands of the modern times, and it staged the US Open for the last time in 1977 when Guillermo Vilas beat Jimmy Connors to become the last US Open winner at this historic place.

3 years earlier, in 1975, the surface was changed from grass to clay but that couldn't keep the US Open here, with the brand new USTA National Tennis Center being built some 3 miles north at Flushing Meadows, Queens, where it would stay ever since.

The new era of the US Open has started in that 1978 but at the same time, dark clouds gathered at the West Side Tennis Club. Some lower-ranked tennis events remained here, only without big names like Lendl, McEnroe, Borg, and Connors, and the complex soon started to perish, with rotting of the wooden seats and the condition of the court itself getting worse and worse, and the club organizers couldn't afford the renovation.

Nevertheless, things looked much better in the last 6 or 7 years, with efforts from many to bring the old style to this historic ground, and the revitalization began in 2013. After a complete structural overhaul, Forest Hills stadium is now one of the favorite music venues in the New York, and tennis also returned as a part of the World Team Tennis.

The New York Empire team played here a few times and it is certain that tennis will come back again, as it really feels at home in one of the most significant stadiums in the world when it comes to our beloved sport. ALSO READ: ATP Montreal: Zverev edges Shapovalov to set the final clash with Federer .

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