5. Professional Tennis Players Were Originally Barred from Competing

Rafael Nadal playing at Arthur Ashe Stadium during U.S. Open
Rafael Nadal playing at Arthur Ashe Stadium.

The U.S. National Singles Championship was initially only open to members of clubs that were part of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association. According to the U.S. Open website, “Prior to 1968, the grand irony of the sport of tennis was that those who were skilled enough to play it as a profession were not allowed to play it at any of the sport’s major events. Tennis’ best players were, in fact, pariahs in a sport in which they should have been pillars.”

From 1884 to 1911, the game so favored prior champions that the winner would automatically qualify for the final in the next year. In 1968, the tournament became the “U.S. Open,” combining the men, women, men and women doubles, and mixed doubles tournaments, and allowing for professional players to compete.