A Legendary Tennis Photographer on Capturing the US Open

Young Roger Federer

The first time Art Seitz photographed the U.S. Open was in 1968.

He was a captain in the U.S. Air Force, but that didn’t stop him from getting an assignment from a local newspaper to shoot the event. It was an historic year for the little tennis tournament in Forest Hills, the year the Open officially became “The Open.”

Seitz hasn’t missed one since.

Today, at age 70, he’s one of the most accomplished tennis photographers in the business. His photos have appeared on the cover of Time and Newsweek. You might recognize some of his pictures, like his images from the famous “Battle of the Sexes” match between Billie Jean King and Bobbie Riggs held in Houston.

But here in New York, Seitz found his muse. Over the course of nearly half a century, he has artistically documented the dramatic evolution of the US Open through his lens.

“Basically, you’ve gone from a small, intimate club where they tolerated the tennis, to a very large, professionally-run, and expensively-staffed production that’s a multi-ring circus,” Seitz said in an interview.

Although he thinks most of the changes in the Open over the years have been positive, Seitz said he mourned the days when the game was more intimate and fans (and journalists) had a more personal relationship with the players.

“The players are more isolated today,” he said. “They don’t mix off court as much. They just basically want to win.They have huge fortunes at stake.”

Seitz said that that today’s crop of talent has incredible technical skills and can do a lot more with the ball than previous generations, but he stopped short of calling the present time a “golden era” of tennis. “There are a lot of legends throughout the history of tennis,” he said. “And I certainly don’t see anyone from the current generation who can match the personalities of a Vitas Gerulaitis, or an Ilie Nastase, or Jimmy Connors.”

If none of those names ring a bell to you, Seitz has some photos for you.

Click on the slideshow below for a survey of some of Seitz’s images.

Legendary Arthur Ashe was the first African-America man to win a Grand Slam tournament.
Legendary Arthur Ashe was the first African-America man to win a Grand Slam tournament. ( Art Seitz )
Andre Agassi  is famous for his eight Grand Slam wins, a 1996 Olympic gold medal and his hair.
Andre Agassi is famous for his eight Grand Slam wins, a 1996 Olympic gold medal and his hair. ( Art Seitz )
Friends John McEnroe (left) and Vitas Gerulaitis (right) at a rock concert. They  faced off at the US Open in 1979.
Friends John McEnroe (left) and Vitas Gerulaitis (right) at a rock concert. They faced off at the US Open in 1979. ( Art Seitz )
Chris Evert and her first husband, John Lloyd, in Maui. This photograph appeared in Time Magazine.
Chris Evert and her first husband, John Lloyd, in Maui. This photograph appeared in Time Magazine. ( Art Seitz )
Luke Jensen  tosses a racquet skyward in front of the World Trade Center two weeks before 9/11.
Luke Jensen tosses a racquet skyward in front of the World Trade Center two weeks before 9/11. ( Art Seitz )
Billie Jean King famously took on and beat Billy Riggs in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes".
Billie Jean King famously took on and beat Billy Riggs in the 1973 "Battle of the Sexes". ( Art Seitz )
Iconic male chauvinist Bobby Riggs is presented with a pig by Rosie Casals.
Iconic male chauvinist Bobby Riggs is presented with a pig by Rosie Casals. ( Art Seitz )
A chorus of Maria Sharapova look-alikes poses in Time Square during the US Open. Art Sietz suggested they sit on the cab.
A chorus of Maria Sharapova look-alikes poses in Time Square during the US Open. Art Sietz suggested they sit on the cab. ( Art Seitz )
Roger Federer is ranked, as of August 2013,  World No. 7 by the Association of Tennis Players. He left the 2013 US Open early.
Roger Federer is ranked, as of August 2013, World No. 7 by the Association of Tennis Players. He left the 2013 US Open early. ( Art Seitz )
Art Seitz at the 2013 US Open. Seitz has been photographing tennis champions for 30 years.
Art Seitz at the 2013 US Open. Seitz has been photographing tennis champions for 30 years. ( Nate Chura )
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