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Wednesday, November 19, 2003
Amateur Arthur Ashe wins first U.S. Open
By Larry Schwartz
Special to

Sept. 9, 1968

It is the first U.S. Open, the first time pros are eligible to compete in the most prestigious tournament in the United States. The top four seeds are all Australian pros. But in a surprise, American amateur Arthur Ashe wins the tournament, becoming the first African-American male to capture a Grand Slam event.

"The triumph (is) the most notable achievement made in the sport by a Negro male athlete," Dave Anderson writes in The New York Times after the fifth-seeded Ashe's 14-12, 5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over No. 8 Tom Okker of the Netherlands in the 2-hour, 40-minute final. Ashe serves 26 aces in a half-filled Forest Hills Stadium.

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

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