By Nicholas J. Walz, USTA.com
As we turn the calendar on 2011, here are some of the important figures that defined the past 12 months, making 2011 one of the most interesting and influential years in the history of American tennis:
1,000,000,000 – Estimated damage total in U.S. dollars to the state of New York, as quoted by Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 31, in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Despite massive flooding, power outages and the evacuation of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center the weekend before the start of main draw play, the US Open began on schedule the following Monday.
53,100,000 – Amount of viewers who watched all or part of the 2011 US Open on CBS Sports, up 17 percent from 2010. Ratings overall for the US Open on CBS Sports, which includes broadcasts of Labor Day Weekend and Finals Weekend saw overall ratings increase over the past three years, matching the ratings of 2007. This year’s Women’s Singles final between Samantha Stosur and Serena Williams on Sunday, September 11, achieved a 3.3 national rating, with 13.1 million viewers watching all or part of the final, an increase of 93 percent from viewership of the Kim Clijsters-Vera Zvonareva final which aired in primetime on Saturday last year. In addition, the men’s singles final was seen in all or part by 11.8 million viewers.
15,421,675 – Unique visitors to USOpen.org, a record high for the official site of the US Open, up 24 percent from 2010’s then-record setting mark.
8,500,000 – Estimated American children – mostly from public schools – involved with organized after-school activities including tennis, in over 26,000 qualified programs that keep kids active and safe. However, there are still 18 million at-risk kids heading into 2012 living in areas where programs are not currently offered or have been discontinued.
4,000,000 – When Venus Williams withdrew from the 2011 US Open before her second round match citing the effects of Sjögren’s Syndrome, many were left wondering what exactly was ailing her – yet the disease is far from uncommon: With upwards of 4,000,000 Americans suffering from Sjögren’s, it is one of the most prevalent autoimmune disorders in our country. Sjögren’s may cause dysfunction of organs such as the kidneys, gastrointestinal system, blood vessels, lungs, liver, pancreas, and the central nervous system. Patients may also experience extreme fatigue and joint pain and have a higher risk of developing cancerous lymphoma. Nine out of 10 patients are women. (Courtesy of the Sjögren's Syndrome Foundation)
433,070 – "Likes" of the official US Open Tennis Championships Facebook page (and climbing), doubling the amount counted at the end of the 2010 US Open. As the American Slam continues to bring world-class tennis and dramatic finishes, more and more fans are adding their voice and becoming a more active part of the Open experience.
226,000 – Announced at Nickelodeon’s Worldwide Day of Play this past September, through the USTA’s National Junior Tennis & Learning (NJTL) network, more than 226,000 kids have participated in and completed the President’s Active Lifestyle Award (PALA) Challenge—more than any other youth sports organization in the United States.
100,000 – Amount in U.S. dollars donated by the USTA this past summer to help relief efforts in the wake of tornado damage to the city of Joplin, Missouri. The contribution consisted of a $25,000 donation from the USTA Missouri Valley Section, a $25,000 donation from USTA National, and a $50,000 grant for refurbishment of Joplin High School and its tennis courts. As part of the relief effort, SmashZone Mobile made a detour on June 30 to brighten the atmosphere of a community in crisis by bringing in 10 and Under Tennis activities.
30,000 – The estimated amount of student athletes participating in the USTA’s "Tennis on Campus" program, involved in over 500 different participating accredited universities and colleges across the United States.
24,713 – All-time Arthur Ashe Stadium attendance record set on Monday, September 12 to see No. 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia dethrone defending US Open champion Rafael Nadal in a rematch of 2010’s final. It was the first time that the world’s Top 2 players met in an Open Men’s Final since Pete Sampras defeated Andre Agassi.
3,000 - The USTA celebrated the refurbishment and creation of 3,000 tennis courts in the United States, the most ever by the USTA in a single calendar year. The event, USTA Court 3K, was held at Grove Park in Atlanta, Ga. to commemorate this exceptional milestone.
2013 – The USTA announced that beginning with the 2013 championship season, USTA League programs are restructuring their formats to increase competitive play. "Senior" and "Super Senior" divisions have been eliminated, to be replaced by 18, 40, and 55-and-Over play groups, while mixed leagues remain the same.
600 – Just over 600 registered participants braved a torrential downpour and the closing of a few major roadways to try out and be selected for ballperson duties at the 2011 US Open Ballperson Tryouts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in June, including NBC Today personality Sara Hines and amputee athlete Denise Castelli, who qualified and saw action on the court.
507 - From the 90,000-plus who began the journey from local league play right up through Sectionals, a special sect – 507 players in all – earned the right to travel in October to Surprise, Arizona for the 2011 USTA Jr. Team Tennis National Championships in the 14 & Under and 18 & Under divisions. Of the four teams that took home national titles, three were from USTA Southern – the other, USTA Texas’s 18U Advanced squad from Austin, their second national title in three years.
450 – The amount of Recreational QuickStart Tennis Workshops that were offered, organized and completed in 2011 to tennis coaches and organizers, imparting the tools and wisdom necessary to keep kids on the court.
434 - Current match winning streak for six-time defending US Open wheelchair champion Esther Vergeer, the longest documented unbeaten streak in professional sports. Vergeer finished as the top-ranked women’s wheelchair player in the world for an unprecedented 13th straight year, but is strongly hinting that she will retire after the 2012 Paralympics in London – meaning 2011 will likely have been her last appearance in New York City.
300 – The average amount, in dollars, to convert a single standard tennis court into a court with blended lines to allow for easy 10 and Under Tennis conversion to 36-foot and 60-foot court games. In 2011, the USTA made grants available to reimburse tennis facilities up to 75 percent of the cost (50 percent from USTA National, 25 percent from the facility’s home section) to make courts more inclusive for family play.
70 – Percentage of American kids who are quitting sports altogether by the time they reach their teens – a number the USTA hopes to decrease by redefining the roles of parents and the rigid structure in play for young children, with self-motivation as the catalyst to develop sports and life skills.
50 – Sportsmen's Tennis & Enrichment Center (formerly Sportsmen’s Tennis Club) of Boston, Mass. celebrated its 50th anniversary of operation. The Dorchester-area club is the oldest African American-owned tennis facility in the United States and received an ICON Award at the 2011 US Open for its five decades of service to community.
36 – The 36th season of World TeamTennis saw the Washington Kastles, led by the Williams sisters, become the first team since the WTT began in 1974 to go through a season without a loss, ending up with a perfect 16-0 record. Founder Billie Jean King and longtime friend Elton John celebrated the unprecedented season later in October with "WTT Smash Hits," a charity event which raised over $500,000 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland with the participation of legends such as King, John, Martina Navratilova, John McEnroe & Andy Roddick.
33 – Speaking of Andy Roddick, the long-time Davis Cup anchor won his 33rd career Davis Cup match earlier in 2011 against Chile’s Paul Capdeville, pushing him past Wilmer Allison for fifth in all-time victories. Roddick now only trails Bill Tilden (34), Stan Smith (35), Victor Elias Seixas (38) and John McEnroe (59) for most Davis Cup match wins.
17 - Regional sections that represent the USTA, all of which continue to build and develop tennis across the country.
16 – Madison Keys had a run to remember in Queens – with her victory over Jill Craybas, at just 16, Keys became the youngest American to win a US Open main draw match since 2005.
11 – By winning titles at the 2011 Australian Open & Wimbledon, the Bryan Brothers - Bob & Mike – tied the all-time Grand Slam Men’s Doubles record for championships with the Aussie tandem of Todd Woodbridge & Mark Woodforde at 11 career victories as a team. The California boys expanded upon their ATP World Tour Tournament win count to 75 and also notched their Open Era-record 700th match win by defeating Feliciano Lopez and Fernando Verdasco in the second round of the 2011 Rogers Cup.
8 – For the first time in 8 years, Roger Federer did not take home a Grand Slam trophy home to Basel, Switzerland in 2011. Now aged 30, the days of dominant Federer may be done but the "Swiss Maestro" remains a consistent presence in the second week of the Slams: Federer reached at least the quarterfinals in all four majors, including two semifinals in Melbourne and New York and a finals appearance at Roland Garros. In 2002 – the last year Federer went home without Grand Slam hardware – Federer compiled a modest match record of 6-4, including two first round losses. In 2011, he was 20-4, including the distinction of being the only player to knock Novak Djokovic out at a Slam this year with his semifinal victory at the French Open. Coupled with a sixth career ATP World Tour Championship in November its proof enough that Federer can still be the best at any given tournament.
7 – Mardy Fish reached a career-high No. 7 in the world in August, after a hot summer which included a Wimbledon quarterfinals appearance, a US Open Series win in Atlanta, finals appearances in Los Angeles and Montreal and a semifinal in Cincinnati. It would be the highest American men’s ranking of 2011 and the highest any U.S. player has achieved since Andy Roddick was No. 6 in November 2009.
6 – Spain’s Rafael Nadal lost the world’s No. 1 ranking to Novak Djokovic, but not before making a bit of history in Paris, where he has won on the clay of Roland Garros more efficiently than any player in history. By winning in 2011 over career rival Roger Federer, Nadal tied Bjorn Borg for most French Open titles at six, with presumably more to come at the young age of 25. It was also the sixth time Nadal beat Federer in a Grand Slam final (the others being the 2006-08 French Opens, 2008 Wimbledon & the 2009 Australian Open), and with 10 Grand Slam crowns, Nadal tied Bill Tilden for sixth all-time for men’s singles.
5 – For the second straight year it took Novak Djokovic five sets to dispatch five-time US Open champion Roger Federer in the semifinals in Flushing, both times after saving two match points to go onto victory. At the 2011 US Open, Djokovic’s comeback was more remarkable in that he recovered from being down two sets to rally past Federer into the men’s final.
4 – All four participating American players – Jon Rydberg, Steve Welch, Emmy Kaiser & Mackenzie Soldan – came home wearing gold medals after a tour de force performance at the 2011 Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, one of the most competitive and prestigious tournaments in Wheelchair Tennis. The 19-year-old Soldan shined brightest, going undefeated in both singles and doubles play.
3 – The 3rd edition of Tennis Night in America in February drew over 17,000 tennis fans out to The World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden, to see exhibition matches between rivals John McEnroe & Ivan Lendl, as well as Pete Sampras vs. Andre Agassi in the night’s featured contest. McEnroe was forced to retire after losing just three games to Lendl due to an ankle injury, while Sampras outclassed Agassi with a big serve-and-volley effort 6-3, 7-5. The three International Tennis Hall of Famers in Sampras, McEnroe & Lendl also welcomed Agassi into the fold in 2011 when the eight-time Grand Slam was enshrined in Newport, Rhode Island in July.
The night was also important in the announcement of the USTA’s partnership with First Lady Michelle Obama’s "Let’s Move!" campaign, featuring 10 and Under Tennis as a way for kids to spend at least one hour per day being active and fighting childhood obesity. As part of the showcase, 10 and Under Tennis took center stage in the heart of Manhattan, as kids clad in blue shirts and sporting big smiles wowed onlookers as they filed into their seats with rapid volleying and crisp ground strokes. Emceed by USTA Vice President Katrina Adams, the half-hour demonstration showed off three phases of 10 and under play on a 60-foot court, formed from blended lines - a first in Tennis Night's growing history.
2 - Pittsburgh product Bjorn Fratangelo shocked many in the tennis world by winning the French Open Boys’ Championship in his first of two Grand Slam appearances in 2011. With his victory over Austria’s Dominic Thiem at the second Grand Slam of the season, Fratangelo rose to No. 2 in world junior rankings and became the second American male junior to win at Roland Garros, the first being John McEnroe in 1977. Incidentally, Fratangelo’s namesake was arguably McEnroe’s biggest professional rival, Bjorn Borg – now McEnroe shares another accolade with a "Bjorn."
1 – 2011 was a year of firsts in several respects relating the world of tennis:
Samantha Stosur won her first career Grand Slam singles title by upsetting heavily-favored American Serena Williams at the 2011 US Open. The kick serve specialist became the first Australian to win it all in Queens since Margaret Court won at Forest Hills in 1973. Though she had a Women’s Doubles crown already to her credit (2005, with Lisa Raymond), Stosur had never advanced past the quarterfinals as a single until last September.
With her performance at the 2011 Australian Open, China’s Li Na became the first player from an Asian country to appear in a Grand Slam singles final, losing to Belgium’s Kim Clijsters. Not satisfied with simply stopping there, the current world No. 5 defeated defending French Open champion Francesca Schiavone 6-4, 7-6 (0) four months later to claim Roland Garros & the first Grand Slam for the world's largest and most populous continent.
For the first time since 2008, US Open men’s singles featured players from the home country in the quarterfinal round as both John Isner (l. to Andy Murray) and Andy Roddick (l. to Rafael Nadal) reached the second week.
Denmark’s Caroline Wozniacki lost the world’s No. 1 ranking for just one week in 2011, to Kim Clijsters from February 14-20. Wozniacki rebounded by winning the Dubai Tennis Championships that same week and remained the top-ranked woman in the world, winning six WTA Tournaments in all for the year (tying current world No. 2 Petra Kvitova). Wozniacki made semifinal appearances at the Australian & US Opens, but has yet to win a Grand Slam. Since the rankings debuted in 1975, Wozniacki’s 64 weeks (and counting) at No. 1 remain the most for a women’s player without a major title.
By winning Wimbledon, Petra Kvitova she became the first Grand Slam event winner born in the 1990s. On the flip side, with her first round defeat later in the summer by Alexandra Dulgheru at the 2011 US Open, Kvitova became the first Grand Slam champion to lose in the first round of the following Grand Slam without winning a set. The 21-year-old southpaw redeemed herself in October with her first WTA Tour Championship in Istanbul, followed by leading her native Czech Republic to its first Fed Cup title since 1988 -- two years before she was born.
Despite tying the Grand Slam Men’s Doubles title record in July and coming in as defending US Open champions, Bob & Mike Bryan were ousted in Queens in the first round for the first time in this millennium: Their last one-and-done as a duo was in 1999.
Both Serena Williams and Mardy Fish took home their first career Emirates Airline US Open Series titles for their play in the summer of 2011, and are the first American duo – or twosome from any country, for that matter – to sweep the Series for the United States. Fish notched a record 230 points for his stellar performances en route to the 2011 US Open.
Then, there’s the undisputed king of tennis in 2011, Novak Djokovic. In a year where the Serbian celebrated many career firsts – including his capturing of the no. 1 ranking in the world – remember such accomplishments as:
- 70 wins overall, most on the ATP World Tour, including a 21 wins over the Top-10
- Three Grand Slams won – 2011 Australian Open, Wimbledon & US Open
- 10 tournaments won, a career high – prior to that, Djokovic had never won more than five in a single year despite playing one of tennis’s more active schedules on an annual basis.
- A perfect 6-0 record over incumbent no. 1 Rafael Nadal on three different surfaces, all six wins coming in tournament finals (2 Grand Slams). Prior to 2011, Djokovic had never beaten Nadal in a Grand Slam event.
- Jumped 7,175 points in the world rankings from December 2010 to December 2011.
- Streak of 41 matches won in a row to begin 2011 season (l. to Roger Federer, French Open), 43 overall dating back to 2010.
- Of his six 2011 losses, two came after retiring due to injury and five of the six overall coming in the second half of the year, after Djokovic suffered a muscle rupture in his back.
- Won an estimated $12.8 million U.S. in calendar prize money, an ATP World Tour high for a single year.