Arthur Ashe Stadium: The greatest stage in the game of tennis.
Many legends have stepped on its hallowed ground. And now, they have rolled on it, as well.
For the first time in the history of the US Open, wheelchair players are playing in the world-renowned stadium.
“There has been talk about this for years. I think the time is just right this year,” said Joanne Wallen, Director of Adult Individual Play at the USTA. “This is a historical day for not only wheelchair tennis in the United States but the world, to be able to showcase these amazing players on the biggest tennis stage in the world.”
The US Open Wheelchair Competition, in its 10th year, was first added to the US Open program in 2005. The tournament consists of 20 players in six events: men’s singles and doubles, women’s singles and doubles, and quad singles and doubles. For the last 10 years, the wheelchair competition was played on the peripheral courts and other stadiums, like Grandstand, but never in Ashe.
Thursday saw not just one but two wheelchair doubles matches played in Ashe during the afternoon.
No. 2 seeds Gordon Reid and Alfie Hewett, both of Great Britain, captured the first wheelchair win there Thursday afternoon, topping Japan’s Shingo Kunieda and Argentina’s Gustavo Fernandez, 6-3, 6-2.
“It was incredible to have that opportunity as wheelchair players. It shows the respect that wheelchair tennis is gaining,” said Reid, 25. "It’s probably the nicest court I played on, so for me, it really is the stuff that dreams are made of. Hopefully it’s not the last time.”
Aniek van Koot, the 2013 US Open singles and doubles champion, couldn't believe it when she found out she was playing on Ashe. "When my coach texted me and told me I was playing on Ashe, I laughed. I couldn't believe it. I was thrilled."
Van Koot teamed with American Dana Mathewson and rallied from one set down to upset No. 2 doubles seeds Yui Kamiji and Lucy Shuker, 0-6, 6-4, [10-5].
"It was a pinch-me moment when I found out," said Mathewson, 26. "To get my first Grand Slam win in Ashe and in my home country, it feels great."