BY EDITORIAL BOARD
The eyes of the world are about to be on Queens as we host the U.S. Open. This year is the 50th anniversary of the event at the U.S. National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park, which has become a mecca for tennis. While Queens and the National Tennis Center don’t boast the pageantry or history of places like Wimbledon or Roland-Garros (where the French Open is held), the venue has arguably become a more representative home for the growing sport.
Queens is one of the most ethnically diverse places on earth. And while traditionally dominated by Europeans, the sport of tennis has been better about embracing its popularity around the world, and with different ethnicities.
Queens is ideally situated to accelerate this trend.
Currently, the men ranked in the top 25 by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) are from five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Africa). Luckily for them, they can likely get a meal cooked by someone from their homelands just miles from the Queens tennis center.
The group of women ranked in the top 25 by the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) lacks the geographic diversity of the men, but features three prominent African Americans from the United States — and that doesn’t even include arguably the most famous black female athlete in the world, Serena Williams, who is playing her way back into competitions after having had a child.
Often, organizations that run sports leagues or events can appear to be aloof, or outright insensitive, on issues of race and gender. But the United States Tennis Association (USTA) has shown itself to be ahead of the curve, both historically and in the present. The U.S. Open was the first major tournament to pay the Ladies’ champion the same prize money as the Men’s champion — in 1973.
This week, we have seen tennis stars embrace underprivileged communities, thanks in part to outreach by the USTA. Earlier this month, the USTA teamed up with the National Junior Tennis and Learning network to bring in world-renowned Puerto Rican-born artist Sen2 Figueroa to create masterpieces using the Highland Park public courts as his canvas. The Art Courts project has been a success in a handful of other cities as well.
Embracing the diversity and culture in and around the country’s most iconic tennis event should seem like a no-brainer. We are glad it does to the USTA and to affiliated groups in the tennis world, who have continued the tradition of being leaders for positive social change.