Fifty years after a hurricane slammed the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills, a tornado struck the historic American tennis club.
A tornado touched down in the New York City area Thursday afternoon causing significant damage to the West Side Tennis Club, the home of the U.S. Open tennis championships from 1915 to 1977. The club, which is currently hosting the USTA National Men’s Grass Court Championships, was forced to cancel all of the event’s remaining consolation matches that were due to be played on the club’s clay courts. The grass courts did not receive as much damage as the clay courts and tournament officials are confident the tournament will be completed.
As a result of Thursday’s tornado, the famed yellow and blue West Side Tennis Club awnings were ripped in the strong winds, while windows and glass tables on its terrace were also broken. As the bad weather fast approached, club members playing on the outer courts were forced to seek shelter under the 87-year-old tennis stadium, which faces an upcoming club vote to be sold, demolished and turned into condos.
Ironically, the morning after the tornado touching down at Forest Hills comes 50 years to the day when the 1960 U.S. Championships resumed after a week’s delay due to Hurricane Donna.
As documented in my book ON THIS DAY IN TENNIS HISTORY ($19.95, New Chapter Press, www.TennisHistoryBook.com), it was on September 17, 1960 that the most-delayed conclusion to a major tournament occurred as Neale Fraser of Australia and Darlene Hard of the United States won the singles titles at the U.S. Championships – one week after winning semifinal matches to advance into the title match.
The U.S. Championships were delayed a full seven days as Hurricane Donna slammed New York and soaked the grass courts at the West Side Tennis Club. Fraser finally defended his 1959 title by defeating fellow Aussie Rod Laver 6-4, 6-4, 10-8 to become the first repeat men’s winner at Forest Hills since fellow Aussie Frank Sedgman in 1951 and 1952. Fraser also completed his run to the U.S. title without losing a set, a feat that has not been repeated since at America’s Grand Slam tournament. Rafael Nadal nearly turned the trick during the recently concluded 2010 US Open, but lost the second set of Monday’s men’s singles final to Novak Djokovic in his four-set victory.
Hard finally broke through and won her first U.S. singles title by upsetting defending champion Maria Bueno of Brazil 6-3, 10-8, 6-4. Fraser and Hard both won semifinal matches on September 10 – Fraser beating Dennis Ralston and Hard beating Donna Floyd – before the rains came.
As a result of Thursday’s tornado, an informational meeting to discuss the sale of the historic Forest Hills tennis stadium to real estate developer Cord Meyer was postponed until Thursday, September 30. The club vote on whether to approve the sale of the stadium, originally scheduled for September 23, will now take place on October 7.