2010 US Open Opening Night Celebration

August 5, 2010

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. — The USTA today announced that the Opening Night Ceremony for the 2010 US Open will celebrate those who Dream, Succeed and Inspire. The night will feature tributes to tennis greats Martina Navratilova and James Blake, wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer and USTA member Dori Samadzai-Bonner who has embraced tennis since coming to this country from her native Afghanistan. The primetime ceremony, will be hosted by Christiane Amanpour, host of ABC News’ “This Week,” and will feature a special musical performance by award-winning performer Gloria Estefan.

Navratilova, a four-time US Open singles champion and the most prolific winner in the history of the sport, recently defeated her toughest opponent in breast cancer. Born in Czechoslovakia, Navratilova sought political asylum in the U.S. in 1975, then changed the face of women’s tennis with an aggressive game and a inspirational desire to be the best. Navratilova brought this same zeal to her fight with cancer, and will put an exclamation mark on her triumph when she climbs Tanzania’s Mt. Kilimanjaro in December.

Blake, a long-time US Open fan favorite and Davis Cup champion, grew up with scoliosis, which forced him to wear a back brace for 18 hours a day as a youth, and later made a triumphant return to the men’s tour after he fractured his neck in 2004 when he collided with a net post during practice. Blake has been a professional tennis player since 1999, when he left Harvard to pursue his dream of becoming a professional tennis player.

Vergeer, perhaps the most dominant female athlete in all of sports, has been confined to a wheelchair since the age of eight, when she lost the ability to use her legs after undergoing surgery for a spinal defect and brain hemorrhage. She began playing wheelchair tennis at age 12, and has not lost a singles match since January 2003, an incredible unbeaten streak of 390 matches. She will look to continue her inspirational streak by successfully defending her singles and doubles titles at the 2010 US Open Wheelchair Tennis Competition, which will be held September 9 to 12 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Samadzai-Bonner grew up in Afghanistan where girls were barred from taking parts in sports of any kind. She dreamed of coming to America, and succeeded after a lengthy trip that brought her here via stops in India and Thailand. Now a resident of Montgomery, AL, and a USTA member, she discovered tennis as a senior in high school and has been playing ever since. “Tennis instantaneously became my escape from the years of misery I lived through simply because I was born a girl,” she says.

Following the on-court tribute to the four inspirational individuals, 7-time Grammy-Award winning singer/songwriter Gloria Estefan will perform the inspiring song, “Reach” which was written as the Official Theme Song to the XXVI Olympic Games. The song is a fitting capstone to this special night. Estefan’s own story is one of dreams, success and inspiration, as she immigrated to the United States from her native Cuba and came back from a life-threatening accident to become one of the most revered Hispanic female role models. Estefan has received numerous recognitions and honors, and in 1992, she was invited by President George Bush to serve as a public member of the United States Delegation to the 47th General Assembly to the United Nations. In addition, she was the first-ever Latin female to receive the BMI “Songwriter of the Year” award. Estefan sold over 90 million albums world-wide and has composed 15 of her own Top 10 Hits. She has written international hit songs recorded by renowned artists such as Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.