The U.S. Open tennis tournament presently underway in New York has not lacked for excitement, unless you compare it to its 1977 edition. Recently, Michael Steinberger wrote an article for the New York Times chronicling the strange and sometimes violent days of that event, and he joined Only A Game to discuss it.
Certainly the most dramatic and potentially dangerous incident at the ’77 Open resulted in a gunshot wound during a third-round match involving a young New Yorker named John McEnroe. “A commotion broke out in the stands,” Steinberger said. “A fan had been hit by a bullet…it was a crazy, crazy event.”
Some of the players in the women’s draw — Chris Evert among them — acknowledged that they were a little uncomfortable in the locker room because of the presence of one Renee Richards, a transsexual. “The USTA was opposed to it and wanted her to take a (gender) test,” Steinberger said. “Two weeks before the Open, a New York Supreme Court judge ruled in Richards’ favor, paving the way for her to enter the tournament, but even so, there was a lot of apprehension among other women.”
The ’77 Open was also the last one held at West Side Tennis Club in the Forest Hill section of Queens. Steinberger said the club was fighting back from recent financial troubles. ”It’s a really wonderful place, and the smallness of it is just astonishing. You go to Flushing Meadows, and ‘intimacy’ is not the first word that comes to mind.”