​September 9, 1968: Arthur Ashe Becomes The 1st Black Man To Win The U.S. Open

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Ashe who was seeded 5th defeated No. 8 Tom Okker of the Netherlands in the 2-hour, 40-minute final. Ashe served 26 aces in a half-filled Forest Hills Stadium. It was Ashe’s 1st career Grand Slam singles title and his 1st and only at the US Open.

“The triumph (is) the most notable achievement made in the sport by a Negro male athlete,” Dave Anderson wrote in The New York Times after the victory.

It was the 1st U.S. Open of the Open Era, the 1st time pros were eligible to compete in the most prestigious tournament in the United States. The top 4 seeds were all Australian pros. But in a surprise, the amateur Arthur Ashe won the tournament, becoming the 1st Black male to capture a Grand Slam event.

Because of his amateur status, Ashe, a then 25-year-old lieutenant in the Army, was ineligible to receive the first prize of $14,000 in the $100,000 event — at the time the richest tournament in tennis history. Instead, he collected $280 in expenses, at $20 per diem for 14 days. He was the 1st American to win the U.S. title since Tony Trabert in 1955.

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