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
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.
New York Open Saturday Recap: Kyle Edmund and Andreas Seppi Advance to Sunday’s Final
The Brit and the Italian both comfortably prevailed in their semifinal matches, and will play for the championship Sunday afternoon inside Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum.
Kyle Edmund never trailed in Saturday’s first semifinal against fellow seed and ATP Next Gen upstart Miomir Kecmanovic. In the second game of the first set, Kecmanovic was serving at 40-0, but then lost the next five points to drop serve, which included two double faults. Miomir’s next service game at 0-3 went to deuce, when Edmund promptly crushed two forehand return winners to gain a double break. Edmund would take the first set 6-1.
Kyle’s forehand was on fire in this match, with his backhand showing some noticeable improvements as well. However, as the second set progressed, Kecmanovic started ripping his own forehand and backhand with much more authority. But at 4-4, Miomir lost control of his groundstrokes, resulting in a break at love. Edmund would then hit multiple aces in the final game, closing out the match 6-1, 6-4. Kyle won an impressive 79% of first serve points in the match.
Regarding the tighter second set, Edmund stated, “You play top players in the world, you expect a fight back.”
“I had to weather that storm a bit, he was gaining more confidence,” Kyle said.
In the second semifinal, Andreas Seppi also allowed his opponent just five games, eliminating qualifier Jason Jung by a score of 6-3, 6-2. Just like the first semifinal, Seppi broke his opponent in his first service game, and never looked back. Jung understandably started off a bit tight in his first-ever ATP semifinal, and never settled into the match. Seppi will now vie for his first title since 2012.
The singles championship match will take place Sunday at 4:00pm local time. Edmund leads their head-to-head 4-1, with a 4-0 edge on hard courts. Their last meeting was just last month in Auckland, where Kyle won 6-3, 7-6(4).
Casper Ruud comes back from the verge of defeat to reach the final in Buenos Aires
Casper Ruud came back from one set down to beat home favourite Juan Ignacio Londero 4-6 7-5 6-1 to reach the final in Buenos Aires. Ruud was three points from defeat, but he reeled off 10 of the last 11 games to win the match.
Londero broke Ruud for the first time at 1-1 in the opening set with a forehand and hit a forehand winner on set point. The Argentine drew an error from Ruud at 2-2 to break serve. Londero was broken at serve with three forehand errors, as he was serving for the match at 5-4. Ruud broke serve at love two games later, as Ruud drew level to 5-5 with a backhand return winner.
Ruud will play against Portuguese lucky loser Pedro Sousa, who reached the final after Diego Schwartman pulled out of the match due to a left leg injury.
Andrea Petkovic Demands More Action From Tennis In Fight Against Racism
Andrea Petkovic has urged tennis authorities to make a stronger stance against racism.
Andrea Petkovic has demanded that more action needs to be taken if Tennis wants to tackle racism successfully.
The German who is currently injured and is a part-time host for ZDF Sport has spoken about the need for tennis to take stronger action against Racism.
Speaking of her own experiences and background, Petkovic has urged the need for tennis to speak out on these issues more regularly, “We, in particular, as athletes who play abroad, get to know foreign cultures,” Petkovic said in an interview with Sueddeutsche.
“We are seen as role models and we should position ourselves against racism again and again. I myself am the daughter of a migrant family who came to Germany from the former Yugoslavia and was warmly welcomed here. Germany made this success possible for me, without the support of the German Tennis Association I would never have made it this far.
“It makes me sad to see how things are developing, that the voices are getting louder from the right. However, a large majority in Germany are still resisting it.”
As her tennis career soon reaches its climax, Petkovic is starting to speak out on more sporting issues therefore putting pressure on tennis authorities to listen on these issues from a different perspective.
At the moment the German just had knee surgery, ruling her out of Indian Wells, and the 32 year-old admits her schedule will be lighter as the years go by, “I definitely want to play this year and maybe add the Australian Open 2021 to it. There won’t be that many tournaments. I listen to my body.”
The world number 80 will look to be fit for the WTA tournament in Stuttgart, which starts on the 20th of April.
Jannik Sinner beats Norbert Gombos to set up second round clash against Danil Medvedev in Marseille
Jennifer Brady cruises past Elina Svitolina in Dubai
Anastasya Pavlyuchenkova rallies from slow start to beat Belinda Bencic in Dubai
Andre Agassi’s Failed Doping Tests Covered Up By ATP, Claims Former Rival
16-Year-Old Tennis Prodigy Who Compares His Tennis To Federer Shines At Rio Open
Cape Town is set for the “Match for Africa”
Daniil Medvedev Unsure If The Big Three Will Be Toppled In 2020
Injury-Stricken Andy Murray Still A Threat On The Grass, Says Former Coach Corretja
Belinda Bencic overcomes first hurdle while Keys breezes through at Australian Open
Coach Of Dayana Yastremska Blasts Wozniacki’s Claim Of Fake Medical Timeout At Australian Open
(VIDEO) Australian Open Day 14: Novak Djokovic Proves He Is Invincible
(VIDEO) Australian Open Day 13: Sofia Kenin Fulfils Childhood Dream In A final Nobody Predicted
(VIDEO) Australian Open Day 12: Dominic Thiem Sets Up Djokovic Showdown
(VIDEO) Australian Open Day Seven: Roger Federer Fights Back Once Again
(VIDEO) Australian Open Day Four: American Men Continue To Exceed Expectations
Hot Topics3 days ago
Novak Djokovic Is The Greatest Of All Time, Says Coach
ATP2 days ago
Alexander Zverev Going In The Right Direction, Says Becker
Hot Topics2 days ago
Dominic Thiem Targets New Ranking Milestone On South American Clay
WTA3 days ago
Kiki Bertens sets up final clash with emerging star Elena Rybakina in St. Petersburg
WTA2 days ago
Kiki Bertens wins back-to-back titles in St. Petersburg
Hot Topics2 days ago
Practice Session With Halep A Bonus For Kim Clijsters Ahead Of Highly Anticipated Comeback
ATP3 days ago
Casper Ruud comes back from the verge of defeat to reach the final in Buenos Aires
ATP2 days ago
New York Open Sunday Recap: Kyle Edmund Wins His Second Career ATP Title