HISTORY OF THE MUBADALA CITI DC OPEN
© (Mubadala Citi DC Open Archive
That September, Ashe became the first African-American male to win a major tennis championship at the U.S. Open at Forest Hills. The tournament was the first true US Open, with professional players permitted to play. Ashe’s win paved the future for professional tennis players and black athletes around the world. He later realized a vision in the US Capital.
Driving around Washington with his good friend and US Davis Cup captain Donald Dell, Ashe asked, “Why don’t we run a tournament here?” The Virginia native and reigning US Open champion volunteered to play on one condition: “It has to be in an integrated area so black faces come out and watch the tennis,” Ashe insisted. “If you do it at a public park, a public facility, and not a country club, I’ll play the event."
Tournament co-founder and tennis great Arthur Ashe at the Washington Star International. (Mubadala Citi DC Open Archive)
A year later, the Washington Open was born in Rock Creek Park, and Ashe kept his promise.
“He played the tournament eleven times and won it all in 1973,” said Dell.
Ashe and Dell later went on to co-found the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) with American great Jack Kramer and former South African No. 1 Cliff Drysdale to protect the interests of professional tennis players in the new Open Era. For this reason, the Washington Open is unofficially considered the first ATP tournament.
Across the country, in the golden state of California, women’s tennis pioneer and 39-time combined Grand Slam champion Billie Jean King had a dream of her own.
In 1971, women’s sports icon and WTA founder Billie Jean King became the first female athlete to earn over $100,000 in a single season. (Getty Images)
In 1970, two years before Congress enacted Title IX reform, King led a group of courageous young female athletes, who would come to be known as the “Original 9,” to take a bold stand for equal rights in tennis and sports.
On September 23rd, the trailblazers signed brave contracts with legendary tennis promoter and publisher Gladys Heldman (for $1 each) to play in a groundbreaking tournament in Houston, sponsored by Virginia Slims. Momentum from this event snowballed into the world’s first women’s pro sports league and what later would become the WTA Tour.
In 1971, King co-founded and won the first event of the new Virginia Slims Circuit, the $15,000 British Motor Cars Invitation, held on a carpet court in San Francisco’s Civic Auditorium.
“We weren't sure about our destiny, but we knew it was in our hands for the first time," remembers King.
The group and endeavor were destined for greatness.
Haff of Famer Andre Agassi won the last of a record five DC singles titles in 1999. (Getty Images)
The twin tournaments have both undergone changes in the years and decades since.
Over the years, the women’s tournament has changed sponsors and locations. From 1992 to 2017, it was known as the Bank of the West Classic, and from 1997-2017, it was held at Stanford University. In 2018, Mubadala Investment Company became the title sponsor and moved the tournament to San Jose State University.
Founded as the Washington Star International, the men’s tournament was originally played on clay. In 1986, the tournament switched to a hard court and later a leading US Open series event.
It also changed title sponsors, from the DC National Bank Tennis Classic to the Newsweek Tennis Classic and Legg Mason Classic, until Citi became the title sponsor, in 2011, and established the tournament’s first women’s event.
American tennis legend Serena Williams was a three-time Mubadala Citi DC Open champion. (Icon Sportswire / Getty Images)
Together, both tournaments have crowned some of the most defining champions of all time, including sports legends like Ken Rosewall, Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Ivan Lendl, Yannick Noah, Andre Agassi, Monica Selles, Martina Hingis, Andy Roddick, Kim Clijsters, Venus & Serena Williams, and many more.
But only the DC tournament has remained in its original home.
Known throughout the Mid-Atlantic and greater DMV area as Washington’s Summer Tennis Tradition, the tournament has been held annually, since 1969, at the FitzGerald Tennis Center in Rock Creek Park, at the corner of 16th and Kennedy Streets, in the middle of one of DC’s most inclusive neighborhoods, just as Ashe requested.
In 2019, DC philanthropist and tennis entrepreneur Mark Ein, who was a ballboy at the tournament as a kid, took over management of the Washington tournament and reimagined the experience for players and fans.
In 2019, DC philanthropist and tennis entrepreneur Mark Ein reimagined Washington’s Summer Tennis Tradition (Rich Kessler)
In July of 2021, Ein was especially pleased to be one of the earliest tournaments in the world to proactively restore full prize money in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But this spring, Ein raised the game in the nation’s capital, once again, by announcing the historic dream tournaments will unite in DC’s Rock Creek Park in the all-new 2023 Mubadala Citi DC Open - the world’s first combined ATP/WTA 500 event - paving the court for a whole new generation of tennis trailblazers.
“This move solidifies Washington as one of the premiere destinations for professional tennis in the world,” said Ein. “Fans in the Mid-Atlantic will now get to see top-ranked players in the ATP and WTA take center court in DC, fostering a greater passion for the game we love and inspiring more kids to pick up a racquet.”
Don’t Miss A Moment! Get Your Tickets Now! The Next Trail Starts in Rock Creek Park on July 29…Be here for the magic!