40 years of open era celebrated


Former US Open Champion Chris Evert waves to the crowd as she walks on the court during opening ceremonies of the 2008 US Open at Flushing Meadows on Monday.

Chris Evert's summer has been, she still found her way back to Flushing Meadows as the Grand Slam celebrated 40 years of the Open era on Monday night.Evert, a six-time U.S. Open champion, returned for the gala event at Arthur Ashe Stadium just two months after marrying star golfer Greg Norman.

Even though she has three boys starting school this week, Evert wasn't about to miss a regal night like this.“I have a lot going on, but whenever I'm called on … whenever the USTA or whether it's Wimbledon or any of the Grand Slams call and they we're having all the past champions get together to celebrate and have a parade or whatever, I just love doing things like this,” said Evert, who won four straight U.S. Open titles from 1975-78.

The tournament changed forever back in 1968 when it opened up to allow professional players to enter the draw.“It's part of my past that I want to still have it be part of my future, too,” Evert said on the red carpet outside the stadium named for the late Ashe, the first men's champion of the Open era.

I don't want to just erase the past and say that was then and this is now and now I'm a mom and now I'm doing other things.”Virginia Wade, the women's champion in 1968, always found New York to be a bit of comfort zone.

That ability to relax helped her win the title.“It was the joy of it,” she said Monday night. “I didn't have the pressure of playing at Wimbledon as an English player. I could come here and get on with it.”Lindsay Davenport began her U.S. Open career way back in 1991 when she was just 15 and feeling very overmatched.

Now at 32 she is back for her 17th appearance in the main draw at Flushing Meadows. Instead of being a kid, she is the mother of one -- 1-year-old Jagger Jonathan.“I started out here,” she said Monday after a 6-4, 6-2 victory over Aleksandra Wozniak in the first round.

“The first year I got a wild card into the main draw and I had played juniors before thinking that I was out of league and that I was just so fortunate to be able to walk on the grounds.”That soon changed.

Davenport was a U.S. Open semifinalist in 1997 and the tournament winner a year later --eventually reaching No. 1 in the world.“Becoming a champion of it and then becoming a player with really good results, and now coming back as a mom and as a former No. 1 and the champion, I mean it's just all overwhelming,” Davenport said.She missed last year's tournament after her son was born in June, the first American championship she sat out since making her debut.

An injury to her right knee that forced her to withdraw from Wimbledon this summer also threatened to slow her for the rest of the season.That pain is gone, and now she could be ready to make another run.“I thought I played pretty well, considering I haven't really played since April and had been injured,” she said.

“I knew I drew a tough opponent in the first round, so I'm happy to have played the way I did and get through in the scoreline in the fashion I did.”Other than rest and some therapy, Davenport said she doesn't know what was the secret formula to getting her knee healthy again.

“All of a sudden, just right before the Olympics it seemed to turn a corner,” she said. “I have no idea what happened, but it feels better now.”Andy Murray comes into the Open with his highest ranking ever at No. 6.

The 21-year-old Brit said his attitude on the court changed after he committed to getting into better shape.“Now that I've started to work really hard off the court, you go into the matches with sort of no excuses, no worries,” he said after beating Sergio Roitman of Argentina 6-3, 6-4, 6-0 in the first round Monday.

Murray spent about a month in Florida training around the beginning of the year. He'd go to the gym twice a day and practice in steamy conditions. He also now travels with a trainer.“It's a complete waste of time going on the court and finding reasons why you might lose the match and what have you -- you just go out there and fight for every single point, because that's a complete waste of time putting the work in if you're not going to use it out on the court,” Murray said.

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