USTA Missouri Valley
Celebrating 50 years
of the US Open
USTA Missouri Valley | July 10, 2018
This year, we’re celebrating the 50th anniversary of the US Open, and with 50 days until the first ball is served up on Aug. 27, we wanted to reflect on the players, coaches, volunteers and officials from the USTA Missouri Valley who have left an impact on the pinnacle of American tennis since the beginning of the open era in 1968.
Arthur Ashe, who was brought to St. Louis by Dr. Harry Clifton Burrus in 1960 prior to Ashe’s senior year of high school found success immediately in the Open era. Ashe would regularly hit with then junior standout Jimmy Connors and also received coaching from Richard Hudlin. In 1968, Ashe won the US Open in men’s singles. It would be Ashe’s only US Open title, but his legacy lives on with the main stadium at the USTA National Tennis Center being named in his honor. ADVERTISEMENT The US Open also begins with Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day on the Saturday preceding the event.
Ashe wasn’t the only one to have success in 1968. St. Louis native Mary-Ann Eisel won the US Open Mixed Doubles title with her then-husband Peter Curtis. Eisel and Curtis defeated Springfield, Missouri native Gerry Perry and partner Tory Fretz in the final.
In the 1969 US Open, St. Louis native Earl “Butch” Buchholz advanced to the quarterfinals in men’s singles before losing to Australian Tony Roche in four sets.
East St. Louis, Illinois native Jimmy Connors became a sort of legend in Flushing during his career. He won the US Open five times beginning in 1974 and offered some of the most memorable moments including in 1991, when at age 39 he made an improbable run to the semifinals. Perhaps most notable about that year was his five set win over Aaron Krickstein. Connors was down 2-5 in the final set before eventually winning 7-6 in one of the most memorable matches in US Open history. Connors finished his career as the only player, male or female, to win a US Open title on three different surfaces - clay, grass and hard court.
The late Ken Flach, another St. Louis native, added two doubles in 1985 and 1993. In 1985, he partnered with Robert Seguso defeating Henri Leconte and Yannick Noah. In 1993, he joined Rick Leach to defeat Martin Damm and Karel Novacek. He was also the runner up in 1989 with Seguso. The duo lost to John McEnroe and Mark Woodforde.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa native, Micki Schllig Feldman played in four US Opens between 1983 and 1986, reaching a career high of No. 81 in the world.
In 1988, St. Louis native Kim Steinmetz recorded the biggest victory of her 10-year professional career. She defeated the eighth-ranked player in the world, Natasha Zvereva.
And while Flach and Steinmetz were having success on the court, Oklahoma native Gayle David Bradshaw was serving as the tournament referee from 1986 to 1989.
Countless other officials from the USTA Missouri Valley have spent time as linespeople at the US Open including Prairie Village, Kansas resident Bob Bates, who was on the court for two finals weekends in the six years he spent officiating at the US Open. Steve Gerdes of Omaha, Nebraska first worked the US Open as an official as a 19-year old in 1972. He then worked several tournaments in the early 1980s. Gayle Bradshaw and Al Penelton have also put in several years of service at the tournament.
In 2005, the US Open added its wheelchair division. Two years later, Wichita-native Nick Taylor would win his first of seven US Open Quad Doubles titles, with the latest being in 2015.
The USTA Missouri Valley has seen more success in recent years with Lincoln, Nebraska native Jack Sock winning the US Open Boys’ Singles title in 2010. The following year, he joined Melanie Oudin to win the US Open Mixed Doubles title. His best singles result came in 2014 reaching the third round.
In 2017, Rock Island, Illinois native Madison Keys finished as the runner-up in women’s singles to fellow American Sloane Stephens. Also, in 2017, Edmond, Oklahoma native and former University of Oklahoma men’s tennis player Spencer Papa earned a spot into the main draw of the men’s doubles with partner Andrew Harris after the duo won the 2017 NCAA doubles national championship. Omaha, Nebraska native Jackson Withrow also played in the men’s doubles draw in 2017.
Dozens of local volunteers have also experienced the US Open. For several years, Merriam, Kansas resident John Bregin offered his time at the event to give tours of the grounds at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. Francis and Jean Baxter of Edmond, Oklahoma have also volunteered their time at the US Open.
Join the celebration. Share your favorite on/off-court moments from the US Open using hashtag #USOpen50, and be sure to tag @usopen to be featured here.