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U.S. Open 40th Anniversary Celebration

Last night the US Open preformed a grandiose celebration of the 40th anniversary of open era tennis and the 40 U.S. Open champions at the Arthur Ashe Stadium court.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg was a keynote speaker.

“On behalf of the city of New York, welcome to the one and only US Open,” Mayor Bloomberg said to rally the crowd.

From 1881 until 1968, the U.S. National Championship was limited to amateurs. In 1968 the modern era of tennis was born when the US Open replaced the U.S. National Championship and opened its doors to all who qualified to compete.

Since 1968, Bloomberg said that the US Open is “the best attended annual sporting event in the world.”

The host of the evening's festivities was Oscar winning actor Forrest Whitaker, who spoke about the history of the tournament and the tumultuous year of 1968.

The first people introduced during the ceremony were Wade and the widow and daughter of Arthur Ashe.

"These ceremonies are really thrilling," said Wade. "This one is very special and also a special year to win in '68."

In 1968, Arthur Ashe became the first African-American man to win a grand slam title when he triumphed at the first U.S. Open at Forest Hills while Wade raised the women's trophy and pocketed the tournament's first prize money as champion.

The Champions entered the stadium in chronological order of when they won their titles. Rod Laver, the only man to complete a Grand Slam in the history of tennis followed Wade. Billie Jean King, the winner of the US Open in 1971, 1972 and 1974, the winner of 39 Grand Slams and revolutionary figure for women’s sports entered Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center to rousing cheers from the crowd. Chris Evert and John McEnroe were also hometown favorites as they took the stage. Martina Navratilova, the winner of 59 career slams, was present as was Ivan Lendl, Mats Wilander and Monica Seles.

"I still get a thrill to be around Rod Laver and champions of the past and Billie Jean. I idolised them when I was growing up," said six-times U.S. singles champion Evert.

Champions still in the game – Lindsay Davenport, Marat Safin, Serena and Venus Williams, Svetlana Kuznetsova, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova and Roger Federer, the only man to win four consecutive US Open titles – were all introduced to the fans at Arthur Ashe.

Jimmy Connors, Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, Steffi Graf, Justine Henin and Kim Clijsters unfortunately didn't show.

A wonderful night in New york. Here are the photos from the event, enjoy!

(source US Open, photo/Elsa/Getty Images, Matthew Stockman/Getty Images, Rob Loud)

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