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US Open Continues To Inspire Social Change

  • Posted: Sep 04, 2021

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) has expanded its social responsibility campaign, “Be Open,” leveraging the global stage of the 2021 US Open to promote and amplify important messages of progress, positivity and equality.

Introduced at the 2020 US Open, the platform has developed into a focal point of the tournament. “Be Open” honors champions of equality, both on and off the court, and the multi-faceted campaign of 2021 features an increased number of activations that are designed to inspire everyone to have a more “open” mind towards all things and all people. Tennis is open to all players, regardless of age, race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, or national origin and the USTA and US Open remain committed to the pursuit of equity, inclusion, and respect for all.

“As we began this important journey in 2020, we quickly understood that as the world evolves it is imperative that the ”Be Open” platform continually evolves with it,” said Michael Dowse, USTA Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director. “Our unwavering commitment to this culturally-relevant movement is a real-time reflection of the inclusiveness of tennis and is truly a concerted industry effort, with US Open fans, players, sponsors and partners all rallying around some of the most significant societal issues and shared values of our time.”

“Be Open has become a centerpiece of the US Open and will be well into the future,” said Nicole Kankam, Managing Director, Pro Tennis Marketing, USTA. “The expanded list of activations for 2021 more fully embrace the values that we have championed throughout our history and continue to support.”

The following activations will be featured as part of “Be Open” at the 2021 US Open:

Open Canvas Art Display – throughout the tournament
The “Open Canvas” art installations will move from the front-row seats of Arthur Ashe Stadium to the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center so that all fans can better engage with the dynamic program. Dedicated booths in the sponsor allee near Grandstand Stadium, will feature the work of 10 artists from diverse, underrepresented backgrounds who have created life-size artwork that brings to life powerful messages of inclusivity and diversity. Broader storytelling in 2021 will help to reach new audiences and into new areas, including people of color, gender equality and LGBTQ+. All original artwork will be available for fans to bid via QR codes in a live auction throughout the tournament, with proceeds going to the USTA Foundation and charities selected by the artists. US Open partners Mercedes-Benz and BODYARMOR are supporters of this year’s exhibit. The overall concept was developed in collaboration with USTA creative agency dentsuMB.

US Open “Champion to Champion” – throughout the tournament
This compelling nightly initiative will honor 11 community-based champions from the
U.S. and around the world who have gone above and beyond in their respective fields to help provide a better future for those around them. US Open tennis champions will again be paired up with these honorees for one-on-one virtual conversations, as a thank you for their efforts. Each conversation will air as a brief video during the evening broadcast of the 2021 US Open. Fans nominated champions from their community and those selected include teachers, health care workers, medical providers, frontline workers, 9/11 first responders, coaches and program leaders, as well as others in partnership with US Open international broadcasters. Each champion embodies the spirit of “Be Open” with their community reach and impact, openness and passion, and creative efforts.

Be Open

US Open Pride Day – Wednesday, September 1
Begun in 2019, the tournament will expand its commitment to the pride community with an official “US Open Pride Day” on Wednesday, September 1 to honor the LGBTQ+ community—past, present and future. The celebration will be seen and felt throughout the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, a fitting tribute to King, one of the most important trailblazers in tennis and sports, and to the LGBTQ+ community as a whole. LGBTQ+ tennis players span the globe and Pride Day offers an opportunity to thank them for breaking down barriers and paving the way for future LGBTQ+ tennis stars to play the game they love and feel welcome and accepted just as they are. To further strengthen its commitment to LGBTQ+ inclusion in tennis, the USTA is partnering with organizations that focus on making athletic communities more inclusive and advocating for LGBTQ+ equality. The Gay and Lesbian Tennis Alliance (GLTA) has recently joined Tennis Industry United (TIU) as a supporting partner. The TIU was developed to help drive the growth of tennis and comprises six tennis organizations, including the USTA.

HBCU Live at the US Open – Thursday, September 2

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a vital role in American history, producing some of the most successful business people, entertainers, athletes and world leaders throughout every sphere of society. This year, the US Open will bring greater awareness of HBCU culture, history and tradition directly to fans on the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. At an HBCU, the “yard” is the center of the community and the 2021 US Open will bring together music, food and a fun, celebratory atmosphere that captures the spirit of that yard experience. Tennis pioneer Althea Gibson was an HBCU alum, as well as former NYC Mayor and USTA Board member, the late Hon. David N. Dinkins, who will be honored with a celebratory tribute thanking him for his many contributions to the US Open and the sport of tennis. HBCU Live at the US Open will also include an increased commitment to supporting the Black community through USTA financial contributions to HBCUs varsity tennis programs, benefitting their student-athletes. Also of note, much of the September 2 celebration is being produced by Black-owned businesses and many of those owners are also HBCU alums.

Specific highlights include:
• Music provided by HBCU Alumni DJs including:
o The Legendary Chris Washington (Howard University)
o DJ Jon Quick (West Virginia State University)
o A Fly Guy (Florida A&M University)
• Food and beverage provided by Black-owned Harlem restaurant Fieldtrip
• Special performance by Howard University’s Showtime Marching Band

Original 9
In addition, the USTA will honor the group of pioneering women professionals known as the “Original 9” and further show its support for gender pay equity by honoring them and their impact on women’s sports today. The “Original 9” will officially receive the Trailblazer Award at the USTA Foundation Opening Night Gala, as well as an on-court ring ceremony on September 9 to commemorate their 2021 induction in to the International Tennis Hall of Fame. A photo exhibit honoring all nine trailblazing women will be on display along the sponsor allee with photos curated by the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

Also, an all new 2021 “Be Open” video content series and related stories of inspiration can be found on

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Lajovic: ‘There Was Something Different’ About Djokovic

  • Posted: Sep 04, 2021

Dusan Lajovic remembers well the buzz surrounding a burgeoning talent, Novak Djokovic, even as a teenager in Belgrade. The younger of the two Serbians, Lajovic had high hopes of his own he could one day make it as a professional tennis player.

Any star athlete a few years older garners attention, particularly those paving a path and setting an example of success. Djokovic was in the midst of transitioning from juniors to ITF Futures and ATP Challenger Tour events when the pair first crossed paths.

“It was a long time ago. It is three years’ difference [in age]. I think Novak was 16 years old when I saw him for the first time at a tennis court at Partizan [tennis club],” Lajovic told “Everybody was saying, ‘This is one of the guys that will be really good at tennis.’ You could see there was something different with him from the other guys.”

Lajovic was just as in awe of his countryman some 18 years on as the World No. 1 prepared his bid to secure the Grand Slam at the US Open. Victory would give Djokovic a 21st major and sole position on the all-time tally, one clear of his great rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“It is incredible, especially because you are also playing in this era of the guys who are breaking records. To be in the same era as one of the guys who is the greatest of all-time, you know this is history,” Lajovic said. “It will be really hard for someone to break these records these guys achieved and the way Novak is playing right now.

“It looks like he can break even more records, and you can’t even see the end. When you have someone from your country, it puts it even more into perspective that you need to have that drive, passion and will to be the best. It doesn’t matter where you come from or what conditions you have, you are really trying to sacrifice everything to succeed, and the opportunity will present itself.”

No. 40 in the FedEx ATP Rankings, Lajovic has been an ATP Cup and Davis Cup teammate of Djokovic’s, as well as a practice partner. He eventually squared off against his decorated countryman in Doha in 2015 and again at the Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters three years ago.

Djokovic claimed both ATP Head2Head encounters and conceded just four games total. From firsthand experience and having seen what his countryman was capable of against his biggest rivals, Lajovic saw no limits to the 20-time major champion’s talents – but felt one in particular stood out more over time.


I think talent comes in many forms and when you see these top guys, they are very talented in every particular skill that you need for tennis. They are all moving very well, all very smart on the court, all very determined, big fighters,” Lajovic said. “I think the biggest talent is who can mentally hold longer and right now it looks like Novak is on top of that.”

Djokovic is into the third round of the US Open, where he will play former World No. 4 Kei Nishikori. Regardless of who Djokovic has in his path as he pursues history in the coming fortnight, Lajovic is sure of one thing. “Playing for what he is playing for at the US Open, the biggest pressure will be on him and not the players playing him.”

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Tiafoe Battles Past Rublev In Late-Night US Open Thriller

  • Posted: Sep 04, 2021

Frances Tiafoe played an incredible fifth set to complete a late-night upset of fifth seed Andrey Rublev 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(6), 4-6, 6-1 and reach the fourth round of the US Open for the second consecutive year.

The three-hour, 46-minute thriller finished at 2:14 a.m. Saturday morning, making it tied for the fifth-latest finish in US Open history. Tiafoe’s coach, Wayne Ferreira, lost a four-setter against Younes El Aynaoui in the fourth round in 2002, which also finished at 2:14 a.m.

“I love these matches. This is why you work. This is why you put the time in, to play the best guys in the world. These are the matches I get up for,” Tiafoe said in his on-court interview. “I want these guys. I want to put it on my resumé. I came out today and I was like, ‘I’m going to beat him.’ I grew up with this guy, I don’t fear any of these guys. Let’s keep going.”

A key moment came with Rublev serving at 6/5 in the third-set tie-break. The Russian rushed a second serve and double-faulted, hitting it into the net. That allowed Tiafoe to avoid a two-sets-to-one-deficit, and perhaps more importantly, to send the Arthur Ashe Stadium crowd into a frenzy when he closed out the set two points later. The American played to the crowd, and the fans returned the favour with their full support.

Tiafoe let slip a 4-2 advantage in the fourth set, and it appeared a fired-up Rublev would take the momentum into the final set and silence the crowd. But instead Tiafoe, buoyed by constant cheers of “Let’s go, Frances!”, continued to fight into the early hours of Saturday morning.

Few players on the ATP Tour overpower Rublev from the baseline. But that is what the home favourite did in the deciding set, playing his most aggressive tennis when it mattered most. Tiafoe hit 14 winners to Rublev’s four in the final set.

“You guy are the reason I got it done tonight. It was definitely tricky,” Tiafoe, who hit 69 winners in the match, told the crowd. “You guys stuck with me all the way through… you all did it.”

Entering the match, neither man had enjoyed much success in five-setters — Rublev held a 3-5 mark while Tiafoe was 2-10. But Tiafoe showed no disappointment after letting slip his fourth-set lead, earning a showdown against #NextGenATP Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, who beat 18th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 earlier in the evening.

“I’ve lost a lot of five-setters. My five-set record isn’t great. [But] I can’t not bring it,” Tiafoe said. “I’ve lost a lot of tough matches on this court… I wasn’t going to leave this court without a win tonight.”

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Nishikori On Playing Djokovic: ‘I Love The Challenge’

  • Posted: Sep 04, 2021

Seven years ago Kei Nishikori earned the biggest win of his life against Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals of the US Open. Will the Japanese star be able to replicate the feat on Saturday?

“I think it was one of my best matches. Because of that, I think it’s a little better feeling that I have playing here,” Nishikori said. “Even though he’s the best player, I have good memories here playing the US Open and beating him before here. I can be [a] little positive being [at the] US Open.”

On the other hand, the former World No. 4 knows he faces a difficult task. Top-seeded Djokovic is a three-time US Open champion, who can break a tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal this fortnight by lifting his 21st major trophy.

What makes it more daunting for Nishikori is that Djokovic leads their ATP Head2Head series 17-2. The Japanese star has not beaten the Serbian since that day seven years ago at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Djokovic has claimed 16 consecutive matches in their rivalry, with 11 of his victories coming in straight sets.

“Obviously I love the challenge. Now he’s one of the best on the tennis tour. It’s not someone I love to play all the time because obviously he’s the toughest opponent, one or two,” Nishikori said. “I’d rather have someone ranked lower. I always love the challenge. Even though I have a bad record, I always try to be positive. I’m sure it’s going to be a tough one, but I’ll do my best.”

Vitas Gerulaitis beat Jimmy Connors in New York at the 1979 year-end Masters, snapping a 16-match losing streak against his countryman before famously quipping, “Let that be a lesson to you all. Nobody beats Vitas Gerulaitis 17 times in a row!”

What will it take for Nishikori to be able to say the same on Saturday?

“I have to stay patient. I still have to play great tennis to beat him,” Nishikori said. “[At the] same time, I have to be aggressive. He’s not going to give me any free points, so I have to earn the points. I think being aggressive is the key.”

Djokovic has spent 336 weeks atop the FedEx ATP Rankings, so there are few if any holes in his game. But what is he best at?

“I think his best thing is controlling the ball. He can hit anywhere from both sides,” Nishikori said. “He’s been serving well. Best return on the Tour. Maybe compared to other guys, [he makes] less unforced errors. He has everything. I think that’s a couple of good things.”

Nishikori does not look at his draw, so he did not know he would be playing Djokovic until after his second-round win against American Mackenzie McDonald. But now he know he will have to bring his best to have a chance at springing a surprise inside Arthur Ashe Stadium.

“Of course it’s not [my] favourite to play Novak. You can see my record,” Nishikori said. “You don’t want to play third round [against the] No. 1 player. That’s very obvious. Now I have to, so I’ll try to do my best.”

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Fearless Felix Denies Gallant RBA

  • Posted: Sep 04, 2021

Pitting the full range of his all-court talents against the determined defence of Roberto Bautista Agut, Felix Auger-Aliassime claimed one of his best wins of 2021 Friday night to charge into the fourth round of the US Open.

In addition to an intoxicating mix of 65 net approaches and 77 winners, including 27 aces, the Canadian showed great resilience to wrestle back the match momentum after dropping the third and fourth sets before rallying for a 6-3, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 win in front of boisterous fans on Louis Armstrong Stadium.

“I live for these moments,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I started off the best I could by winning the first two sets but then unfortunately from being a break up I didn’t solidify and things got tricky. He grew more confident and I didn’t serve so well, but the crowd helped me to dig deep.

“There were a lot of emotions but I tried to settle down and in the fifth set my mindset was to play every point the best I could and to stay focussed. It worked, so I will try to keep going this way.”

Auger-Aliassime claimed an early break in the fifth and later in the set twice had to stave off stern challenges, saving three break points when serving at 4-2 and fighting back from 0/30 to serve out the match.

The World No. 15 has now reached the second week at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open this season. He next will meet Andrey Rublev or Frances Tiafoe.

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