How the US Open Became the Biggest, Boldest Tournament in Tennis - UBITENNIS
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How the US Open Became the Biggest, Boldest Tournament in Tennis

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TENNIS US OPEN — We’ll borrow those familiar lyrics, about making it here, making it in the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps—or shuts up. They’ve made it here, created an event that fits the city like a traffic jam on Lexington Avenue. And truly, it doesn’t matter if they make it anywhere else. Art Spander for bleacherreport.com

 

US Open: All the interviews, results, draws and OoP

The United States Tennis Association has a tournament that’s seemingly endless, incredibly noisy and wonderfully exciting, perfect for New York, perfect for the most boisterous and unavoidable of the four Grand Slams.

Wimbledon is quiet lawns and British reserve. The French Open, Roland Garros, is clay courts and long rallies. The Australian Open is half a world and what seems like a zillion time zones away.

The U.S. Open is a captivating 15 days of a celebrity-watching, T-shirt-selling, beer-guzzling sport that is just a shade less important than the Yankees, and that’s about as significant as anything can be.

The Open is a party where tennis balls are pounded, Champagne is poured and kosher corned beef sandwiches (at $14) are served.

The Open is a tournament where jet planes roar overhead, rock music plays during changeovers and where from the upper levels of the main stadium you can see the most famous skyline in the world, including the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building.

There’s nothing quite like the Open where, with the main arena, Arthur Ashe Stadium, holding around 23,000, the crowd count for the two weeks—this year, an extra day—surpasses 700,000. In contrast, capacity for Wimbledon’s Centre Court is 15,000, and the total for the fortnight is 491,000.

But it’s not just size that separates the Open from the other three Slams; it’s temperament. It’s fanaticism. In this city where the tabloids call the Jets “Gang Green” and the Yanks “The Bombers,” tennis players call the Open unique—because it is.

“New York has their own character,” said Victoria Azarenka of Belarus, a former No. 1 in the women’s rankings. “I love the fans here. They are very honest, and I love that. You know they like you. They love you. If they don’t like something, they’ll boo. That’s what makes it very passionate and exciting. Plus, I have been dreaming to play here even as a kid, to be on the big stages.”

This is the Big Apple, the biggest of stages. This is where Michael Jordan shows up to watch Roger Federer because he and Federer have a new expensive pair of Nike shoes.

This is where, during the Open, the buses are turned into billboards, with photos of Azarenka on some and Bob and Mike Bryan on others.

This is where Alec Baldwin has a front-row seat in the north end of Ashe Stadium, and on opening night, he reached up and grabbed a ball hit long.

This is where matches last until 2:26 a.m. local time, such as the five-set thriller on Monday night (and Tuesday morning) where Kei Nishikori outlasted Milos Raonic.

The Open similarly is a tribute to a man named Arlen Kantarian, who’s now in his 60s. He understood—he still understands—what moves the needle and the masses. Kantarian, for a start, had a major role in having Michael Jackson perform in the halftime show of the 1993 Super Bowl.

He knows how to get attention. The man ordered the cement courts painted blue, when they were always painted green, “Because at one time they were grass,” he said.

He knows how to get people into seats—or merely standing around, eating, laughing, shouting and having a grand, old time.

“Arlen wanted Disneyland with nets,” said Chris Widmaier, managing director of corporate communications for the United States Tennis Association.

He got that and more. He got an event that with its noise, its celebrities, its after-midnight action is quintessentially New York.

Kantarian is now CEO of Kantarian Sports Group, but for eight years, until 2008, he was the chief executive officer of professional tennis for the USTA, the organization that runs the Open.

They say that late-night match in 1991 when Jimmy Connors, at age 39, pumping his fists, screaming at the chair umpire, which had non-fans switching to the telecast, is what made the Open.

That worked for the purists. But you need more than purists. You need the public.

The late Bill Veeck, who owned the Cleveland Indians and then the Chicago White Sox—he came up with all kinds off oddball drawing cards (beer night, disco night)—said if he had to depend on baseball fans for support he’d be out of business by Mother’s Day. He had to have the non-fan. So did tennis.

The Open was merely the U.S. Championship when it was played at Forest Hills, New York for decades. It moved to the current location at Flushing Meadows, the old 1964 World’s Fair site, in 1978, three years after night play was introduced. Kantarian, who had been with the NFL and at Radio City, arrived in 1990.

Big matches sold out. It was New York after all, a metro area of 18 million. Kantarian, a marketing whiz, tapped into the area’s soul and wallets.

Under his watch video screens were installed, the courts were painted blue instead of green, opening night became a ceremony of songs and flags, the tower of the Empire State Building became a light show, the plaza was upgraded with fountains and a reflecting pool and food stands were opened seemingly everywhere.

And as Neil Diamond sang, thank the Lord for the nighttime.

“Night tennis gives you that gladiator impact and that sheen you get on TV from the lights,” Kantarian told Bill Simons of Inside Tennis.

“It’s the crowd. It’s a New York thing, like the old night crowds at Yankee Stadium. There’s a Broadway element, a celebrity factor, a Wall Street factor. The high drama of seeing two gladiators under the lights is something New Yorkers really take to.”

The No. 7 subway runs to Flushing Meadows from Grand Central Station. It’s the stop for Mets games at Citi Field (go north) and tennis games at the Billie Jean King Center (go south). Some days, and nights, there are guys throwing strikes one place and women serving aces in the other.

The Open is the last fling of summer, a burger to be devoured, a sporting contest to be appreciated, a day in the sun or under the moon to be enjoyed, a memory to be retained.

If you’re looking for quiet at a tennis match, well, as they yell at you here, “Fuggedaboutit,” “In New York people can make noise at a tennis match,” Serena Williams said when she appeared on CBS’ Late Show with David Letterman prior to the tournament.

“It’s great for the crowd. You really want the crowd really involved. It’s great for the competitor, and as a player you’re sitting there, you hear the noise.”

You either accept it, get used to it or avoid it.

Bjorn Borg couldn’t handle New York and New Yorkers (one of whom is John McEnroe, who beat Borg twice in the 1980 and ’81 finals; Borg also lost twice to Connors).

A competitor must go with the flow, meaning hold up on a serve until the next 737 from LaGuardia five miles away climbs into the sky and embrace the commotion and comments.

A few hundred yards from the south entrance to the grounds is the Unisphere, a 12-story stainless steel globe presented to the ’64 World’s Fair by U.S. Steel.

Once inside, past the cement barriers and police cars with the flashing red rights, is the garden commemorating Ashe, the late tennis star. Along the marble wall is a saying from Ashe, who died in 1993, “From what we get, we can make a living; from what we give, however, makes a life.”

Then looming ahead is the stadium, where construction of the long-awaited roof is about to begin. There’s a giant video screen with matches underway, complete with loudspeakers so you can hear everything from balls bouncing to Maria Sharapova’s grunting.

“The place is just full of energy,” said Sharapova. “Yeah (the fans) are just loud and passionate. You just feel the sports lovers are there.”

And that’s along with the food lovers and beer drinkers and autograph seekers. The WTA has a booth where patrons can get signatures, if not from the very top players.

If they’re not lined up for autographs, the fans are waiting to buy merchandise or deli sandwiches. There was no wait the other afternoon to buy a glass, at $24, of Moet-Chandon.

“We tried to ‘up’ the entertainment level,” Kantarian once explained. “Tennis is always the main theater, but that doesn’t mean you can’t create what we call sideshows to capture a broader audience. We’ve had everybody from Diana Ross to Whitney Houston to Simon and Garfunkel to Harry Connick Jr. We’ve surrounded the grounds with more energy.”

More energy and more fans.

“There are amazing moments,” said former champion Venus Williams, “when the crowd is screaming and it’s four-all in the third set. But there is also the hospitality, and then there is the airplanes and the wind constantly swirling. It’s definitely different.”

And it’s definitely New York.

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Focus

Gerard Pique Believes Long-Term Davis Cup Project Will Work Despite Critics

Gerard Pique claims that the new Davis Cup is a long-term project as the competition kicks off today in Madrid.

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Gerard Pique (@bbctennis - Twitter)

Footballer Gerard Pique believes the Davis Cup is a long-term project that can work despite criticism over the re-formatted competition. 

 

Last August, the Barcelona defender had his re-formatted idea of the Davis Cup approve as part of big funding put in by his company Kosmos.

The competition, which starts today in Madrid, sees 18 teams compete in a one-week competition where they will fight for the Davis Cup title.

Despite Pique’s enthusiasm for the event, many fans and players have criticised the move explaining how the 118 year history of the competition has ended.

However for the Spaniard, he believes that he has convinced many doubters on this journey, “In terms of the event we needed to convince different people who were maybe sceptical and were against the idea of changing the format,” Pique admitted to Davis Cup.com.

“We’ve had to face it since the beginning. This is something I believe we did an amazing job at because we feel people in the game are now more convinced.

“The Davis Cup has a big meaning in the world of sport and tennis, there were some people against it, but right now I feel that Davis Cup is going to be stronger than it has been in the last 10 years.”

Despite the likes of Roger Federer and Daniil Medvedev missing from this week’s competition, there are eleven top 20 players competing including Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

Many critics are seeing this innovation as a short-term project but Pique hasn’t seen it that way and believes that in five years time people will be convinced about the event, “I like to think big and our idea since the beginning is to put this competition where it deserves to be, and maybe to create an event longer than one week,” the Spaniard said.

We understand we have to start little by little. I don’t want to compare ourselves to any other tournament because I think we are unique. In five years’ time I want everyone, players and fans, to think ‘Davis Cup is in November and I want to be there.'”

Even though there are doubters players such as Andy Murray have told people to give the event a chance despite the amount of tickets that are still available for the event.

The action begins today at 3pm GMT time with three ties:

Croatia v Russia

Italy v Canada

Belgium v Colombia

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ATP

Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut claim their first ATP Finals title in London

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The French team formed by Pierre Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut claimed their first men’s doubles title with a 6-3 6-4 win over Raven Klaasen and Michael Venus in 70 minutes at the ATP Finals at the O2 Arena in London ending the 2019 ATP season on a high note with back-to-back titles in Paris Bercy and London. They remained unbeaten during the whole week at the ATP Finals in London winning all five matches in straight sets.

 

Herbert and Mahut fended off all four break points they faced scoring their ninth consecutive match win. The French doubles specialists have become the first team to win the doubles ATP Finals title without dropping a set since Jean Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau in 2015.

Herbert and Mahut fended off break points in the third game of the match before earning the only break of the opening set in the next game. The Frenchmen saved a break point in the sixth game before breaking serve in the seventh game.

They have become the French team to win the ATP Finals doubles title since Michael Llodra and Fabrice Santoro, who triumphed in Shanghai in 2005.

Herbert and Mahut have won 15 doubles titles as a team during their career. This year they became the eighth men’s doubles team to complete the career Grand Slam at last January’s Australian Open and also won the Rolex Paris Masters in front of their home fans.

Last year they came within one point of winning the ATP Finals title against Mike Bryan and Jack Sock after holding a match point.

“Thank you Nicolas for sharing the court, for having so much enjoyable moments and giving me so much joy, when I am with you on the court. You played an unbelievable final, so thank you for that”, said Pierre Hugues Herbert.

 

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ATP

Jannik Sinner wins his third ATP Challenger in Ortisei

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Jannik Sinner won the ATP Challenger in Ortisei adding another title to his impressive collection of trophies he lifted during a memorable 2019 season.

 

The 2019 Next Gen ATP Finals champion beat world number 173 Sebastian Ofner from Austria 6-2 6-4 in 1 hour and 6 minutes in the final of the Sparkasse Challenger Val Gardena Sudtirol at the Tennis Center in Ortisei.

Sinner won his third ATP Challenger title in 2019 after his previous wins in Bergamo and Lexington. He also reached the final in Ostrava. During the tournament the 18-year-old player from San Candido beat Lucas Miedler in the first round, Roberto Marcora in the second round, Federico gaio in the quarter final and Antoine Hoang in the semifinal without dropping a set.

Sinner will improve his ranking to his career-high at world number 78 in the ATP Ranking becoming the sixth best ranked Italian player after Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Sonego, Marco Cecchinato and Andreas Seppi.

Sinner broke serve in the fifth game of the opening set to take a 3-2 lead. Ofner missed two game points in the seventh game. The Austrian player faced another break point after his third double fault. In the next game Sinner saved the first break point he faced. Sinner closed out the first set 6-2 after two backhand errors from Ofner in the eighth game.

Sinner went up a break to open up a 2-0 lead, but Ofner broke back in the fourth game and held on his serve to take a 3-2 lead. Ofner saved three break points in the seventh game to take a 4-3. Sinner converted his fourth break point in the ninth game to take a 5-4 lead and served out the win with two consecutive aces.

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