When Arthur Ashe Stadium opened its gates in 1997, it simultaneously opened a new era for the US Open. The arena, named for one of tennis’ all-time champions and grandest ambassadors, quickly established itself as the game’s greatest stage; a spectacular centerpiece for an event whose global appeal had spurred its remarkable growth. With its 23,000-plus seats, Arthur Ashe Stadium allowed more fans the chance to witness first-hand the tournament’s singular sizzle, while simultaneously affording the game’s greatest talents a fitting floorboard upon which to showcase their incredible talents. Like its host city, Arthur Ashe Stadium is unapologetically large and loud; the electricity generated within its high walls creating a wave of energy that has come to define the US Open as an event unlike any other. It is as iconic as the man for whom it is named.
In the 25 years since Arthur Ashe Stadium opened, this grand arena has hosted countless memorable moments—many of them integral pieces in constructing the US Open’s global reputation as one of the world’s most spectacular sporting events. So many great matches; so much incomparable drama; so much unforgettable magic.
Throughout the summer leading up to the 2022 US Open, USOpen.org will recount 25 of the most memorable moments from these 25 years of Arthur Ashe Stadium. Some obvious; others, less so; every one of them helped establish this unequaled arena as our game’s greatest stage.
New York shines in so many ways, and in moment No. 15, we’re looking back on how our stars have channeled that energy into their on-court looks. In 2006, eventual champion Maria Sharapova was the first player to debut different day- and night-session match kits.
25 years of Ashe: A collection
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With New York Fashion Week historically placed in the calendar at the same time as the US Open, it’s no surprise that tennis fashion comes under the microscope when it makes a stop in Flushing Meadows. There have been many tennis fashion moments that have left a mark in the sport — think Rafael Nadal’s capri pants, Chris Evert’s dresses, Andre Agassi’s denim shorts – and in 2006, Maria Sharapova cemented her place with a little black dress that would go on to win her a US Open title.
Sharapova, then 19 years old, stepped into Arthur Ashe Stadium to face Michaella Krajicek, wearing an outfit that was designed specifically for a night session: an all-black outfit sparkling with crystals on its collar, accompanied by drop earrings and a necklace, a bolero cover-up, and a patent leather bag.
This was the first time a tennis outfit was designed specifically for play under the lights. A group at Nike was tasked with this project, including designer Natalie Candrian.
“How can we capture the US Open [in a dress]? It’s a special atmosphere, especially the night matches. There are a lot of celebrities… it’s a great time of the year with summer winding down,” Candrian shared. “How do we surprise the crowd with an unexpected entrance?”