Billie Jean King stood at the modest speaker’s stand Tuesday afternoon, patiently jabbing at the controller used to open and close the new $150 million roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Flustered, King hit the button a few more times while concerned USTA officials huddled and communicated with the control center. After a delay of about 10 minutes, the steel and polyester fabric roof slid open even quicker than it had closed (5 minutes, 12 seconds), concluding the initial test drive.
The roof is the great novelty — and the much-needed upgrade — this year. But this will be a vastly improved US Open in many other ways as well. A new 8,000-plus seat Grandstand stadium now dominates the southwest corner of the grounds. Visually, it’s a gem, even if old hands who loved the “soul” of the old grandstand deride it as antiseptic. We’ll see how it functions as a venue for players and fans.
There will be a lot more room to move around at the tennis center this year, and nobody is going to be upset about that. The courts outside Ashe have all been demolished and moved 40 feet to the south in order to create more space for walkways and less cramped spectator seating and facilities. If you plan to be a return visitor, you might think someone took the place and stretched it out, making it bigger and roomier.
5. Expect serious scheduling challenges
Unlike Wimbledon, the US Open has day and night sessions. So what happens if rain interrupts a day program? Do you finish the order of play and cancel the night session? Officials will have to decide whether to move outside matches into Ashe after they were started on other courts. (Usually play continues on the same court when there is any kind of interruption or postponement.)
Fairness issues will undoubtedly kick in as officials try to stay on schedule, satisfy broadcasters and treat players equally.
“We have looked at all kinds of protocols and talked to the relevant parties [ATP and WTA],” Smith said. “We are just going to have to go on a case-by-case basis.”
The best solution: Assume that the Murphy’s Law kicks in — that after you build the $150 million roof, you never get rained on. Ever again.