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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ATP

Rudolf Molleker knocks out two-time champion Leonardo Mayer in Hamburg

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German 18-year-old Next Gen player Rudolf Molleker knocked out 2014 and 2017 Hamburg champion Leonardo Mayer 7-6 (8-6) 6-4 after 1 hour and 39 minutes at the Hamburg European Open.

 

Molleker beat Mayer in 2017 in the Hamburg qualifying round, but Mayer got a spot in the main draw as a lucky loser and went on to win the title.

Molleker fended off all three break points in two consecutive games of the first set, before saving two set points in the tie-break. He sealed the second set with a single break.

The German teenager saved two break points in the seventh game with two service games with two service winners and one more chance in the ninth game to set up a tie-break. Mayer took the lead twice at 6-5 and 8-7, but Molleker saved both chances with two winners and sealed the tie-break on the 18th point after a double fault from Mayer.

Molleker earned an early break at the start of the second set and held his service games in the next games before sealing the win with a service winner at 5-4 to secure his spot in the round of 16.

Marton Fucsovics cruised past Phillip Kohlschreiber 6-3 6-0 dropping just 16 points on serve. Fucsovics got an early break in the fourth game to clinch the opening set 6-3. The Hungarian player broke three times in a one-sided second set and sealed the win with a service winner.

Andrey Rublev, who lost in the second round at Wimbledon and Umag, edged this year’s Munich and Houston champion Christian Garin 6-4 7-6 (7-5) after 1 hour and 39 minutes to score his second win over the Chilean player this year. Rublev broke three times to seal the opening set 6-4. The Russian player got the break back at 4-5 in the second set to set up a tie-break, which he sealed 7-5.

Jeremy Chardy came back from losing the first set to beat Jeremy Chardy 6-7 (4-7) 7-5 6-3 after 2 hours and 34 minutes. Paire fended off a set point at 4-5 in the opening set to clinch the tie-break 7-4. Paire got a late break in the second set, but Chardy won two games at 5-5 to force the match to the third set. Chardy went up a double break to seal the third set 6-3.

Martin Klizan converted all five break points to cruise past Daniel Altmaier 6-2 6-2.

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Alex De Minaur Learning Patience After Two Month Injury Lay-Off

Alex De Minaur is ready to be patient as he looks to build some momentum in Atlanta this week.

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Alex De Minaur (@TennisAustralia - Twitter)

Alex De Minaur is learning the art of patience after missing less than two months of action earlier this year. 

 

The Australian had a rough start to the 2019 as he was forced to fight off a groin injury despite winning the Sydney title in January.

Then he had a couple of months off before once again struggling on his return at Indian Wells where he lost in his opening round.

But these setbacks haven’t stopped the 20 year-old from being patient as he looks to make his mark in the US hard court swing,“I feel like I’m doing all the right things, putting myself out there,” De Minaur told atptour.com.

“If it doesn’t happen this week, next week or the week after, I’m going to keep doing the same things. I’m going to do all the right things, be mentally strong, physically strong and I’m playing good tennis, so I think it’s just a matter of time.”

After Indian Wells, De Minaur spent a few weeks in his home in Alicante, Spain as he looked to regain match sharpness.

It was a period that proved challenging for the talented Aussie as he loves to compete, “I’m not used to being at home for that long and, I mean, us tennis players, we need to go out there and compete, at least me,” De Minaur explained.

I’m a very competitive person, and it was tough for me. I had my outlets. I was playing golf a lot. But still, I needed to get back on court. 

“Obviously seeing people go ahead of you and guys are playing these tournaments and seeing the results they were doing and me not being able to actually even be able to be out there and competing, that was very tough.”

Despite losing five of his seven ATP tour matches since returning properly in Estoril, De Minaur is determined to get back to the level that saw him rise to world number 24.

The Next Gen Star thinks it’s a confidence thing and is not easy to regain after an injury, “[It’s] just confidence. Playing matches, playing the big points right,” he explained.

“It’s something that you take for granted when things are going well. But when you have to stop and try to get back into it, it’s tough. Now I’m just keen to go out there and compete and play some good tennis.”

De Minaur continues his comeback surge this week when he competes in Atlanta, where he will face Bradley Klahn or Marius Copil in his first match.

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Nicolas Jarry Aims To Follow In Family Footsteps After Reaching Bastad Final

Nicolas Jarry looks to join his grandfather in winning an ATP title as he reaches the Bastad final.

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Nicolas Jarry (@FOXSport_Chile - Twitter)

Nicolas Jarry will look to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps tomorrow when he takes on Juan Ignacio Londero in the Bastad final. 

 

The Chilean was in fine form today as he beat another Chilean in Federico Delbonis in the semi-finals today, 6-3 6-2 in 64 minutes.

It is Jarry’s third ATP final and his second of the season following his final in Geneva, where he wasted two championship points to lose to Alexander Zverev.

Should the 23 year-old be triumphant on Sunday, he will join his grandfather as an ATP titlist after Jaime Fillol Sr. won six tour titles and finished a high of number 14 in the rankings in 1974.

Next up for Jarry is Cordoba champion Juan Ignacio Londero, who cruised past 2016 Swedish Open champion Albert Ramos-Vinolas in straight sets.

The 6-3 6-4 victory included the Argentinian winning 73% of his first service points as he dominated the Spaniard in the 1 hour and 21 minute win.

It will be the second final of the season for Londero, who has enjoyed thriving on the clay in 2019 which has helped him reach a career high ranking of 58 in the world in June.

A good sign for Londero, was that en route to winning his lone title in 2019 in Cordoba, he beat Jarry in their only previous ATP World Tour meeting.

Both men will look to cap off an excellent week tomorrow as the final is scheduled for 2pm local time.

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