Saturday, September 19, 2015

U S OPEN, Labor Day Monday: Photographs


For American tennis fans, there is no more entertaining spectacle than the U.S. Open, which just finished last Sunday. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, located in Queens, NY, hosts this annual event on 3 stadium courts and 22 other courts inside its grounds.


On Labor Day Monday, at the tournament's half-way point, I walked the grounds to photograph and see some play on those 22 "outside" courts. So popular has this event become that I was unable to get a general pass to the grounds for the previous Friday, even though I arrived there only fifteen minutes after the Center opened for the day. Instead, I purchased a grounds ticket for Monday. 

Given my love of playing and watching the game of doubles, I would have preferred Friday when most of the 22 outside courts were featuring the early rounds of doubles: men's, women's and mixed.  On Monday, those same courts mainly featured the earlier rounds of the junior matches.  Nevertheless, as you will see from the following 57 photographs, I found plenty to watch and document.







Boardwalk from Mets-Willets Point Subway Stop [IRT Flushing Line/#7 Train] to The East Gate of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center; to right: Citi Field (NY Mets Ballpark), Queens, NY




End of Boardwalk, Adjacent to the East Gate, Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Queens, NY




End of Day Matches, Evening Ticket Holders Entering Grounds from the East Gate, Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Queens, NY




Day Match Ticket Holders Returning Home, IRT #7 Train, Queens, NY

The IRT #7 subway train offers the easiest way to get to the US Open, and is the only train that services the Center (and Citi Field, where the New York Mets play baseball).

However, if one chooses to drive a car, I recommend driving to the Open in a Mercedes-Benz.  Because it is the Official Vehicle of the tournament, Mercedes-Benz offers free parking for all attendees who arrive in one of its vehicles.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Day Ticket Holders Exiting, South Gate, Flushing Meadows-Corona Park;  in distance: Unisphere, 1964-1965 New York World's Fair, Queens, NY

The other entrance to the Center is by the South Gate, accessible by walking through Corona Park and the old World's Fair grounds. I imagine that residents of Queens constitute its main users.

As you can see from the next photograph, which looks 180 degrees in the opposite direction, Ashe Stadium, South Gate and the Unisphere compose three points of a straight axis.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court of Champions, inside the South Gate; in distance, Arthurt Ashe Stadium, Queens, NY

Upon entering through the South Gate, one passes through the Court of Champions.  Dedicated in 2003, it inaugurates one or more players each year. To be eligible, a player must have won at least one US Open singles title and have been retired at least five years from singles play at the Open.



Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court of Champions, detail, Queens, NY

The six players here commemorated are, left to right: Tony Trabert,  Andre Agassi,  Pancho Gonzalez,  Ken Rosewall, Margaret Osborne Dupont, and Monica Seles.



Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court of Champions, detail, Queens, NY

The two players seen in this photograph are Helen Wills and Bill Tilden.



Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden, Soul in Flight, sculpture by Eric Fischl, 2000; in mid-ground, Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens, NY



Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden, Soul in Flight, sculpture by Eric Fischl,  2000, Queens, NY

On center between the South Gate and Arthur Ashe Stadium is a fourteen-foot high sculpture of a player about to hit a serve.  Its title is Soul in Flight.  The sculptor, Eric Fischl, explains that it captures the grace, dignity and "powerful determination" of Arthur Ashe, even as it is "not a likeness" and not intended to be a portrait.

Although, for these reasons, some have complained about it, I think that these same reasons make Soul in Flight a much more powerful and lasting statement.  I applaud then-USTA President Judy Levering (who happened to coach my daughter in High School tennis) for her comments at its unveiling: "It's provocative, but that was Arthur Ashe."




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden, M Paul Friedberg and Partners, 2000, detail showing wall with inscriptions, Queens, NY

Flanking Soul in Flight, the Arthur Ashe Commemorative Garden, consists of plantings, pavers and two flanking granite walls with inscriptions detailing Ashe's life, along with a statement of his that embodies his philosophy: "From what we get, we make a living; what we give, however, makes a life."





Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Avenue of Aces, Donor Recognition personalized pavers, detail, Queens, NY

After entering the grounds from the East Gate, look down to find various personal pavers in recognition or honor of someone, to which you, too, are invited to donate.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Men's Singles Trophy, Queens, NY

As with all previous winners, Novak Djokovic received a full-sized replica of this trophy after his victory over a resurgent Roger Federer, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4.

The US Open trophy is the only one, among the four major tournaments, in which the winner's replica is of the same size as the original prototype, and as Roger Federer pointed out several years back, "the one at the Australian Open is quite small."




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Stadium, Rossetti Architects, 1997, detail, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Stadium,  Superstructure Column for the new, retractable roof, Rossetti Architects, 2015, Queens, NY

These blue columns, of which there are eight to conform to the octagonal shape of the original Ashe Stadium, are mounted on concrete piles, some of which attain depths of over 150 feet. Because the site was a former ash dump and its soil is swamp-like, these columns, which will support the new, retractable roof, are completely separate from the structure of the old stadium.

In fact, as Rossetti's lead architect for this project notes, the roof structure is "essentially an umbrella....[and there is a 15-inch gap between it and the Stadium] so the buildings can move completely independent of one another in an earthquake."

Now that the Open has ended, cranes and construction crews will return to the National Tennis Center to install the retractable canopy. That canopy, a rigid, translucent, Teflon-like fabric, will enable the top to be closed or opened within seven minutes.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Stadium, Practice Courts and Arthur Ashe Stadium, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Stadium [L], Heineken Red Star Café [L], Rossetti Architects, Queens, NY

Along with the outer roof structure, two other new architectural  additions are the viewing stand for patrons to watch players practice on the six practice courts just west of Ashe Stadium [top photograph] and the streamlined, modernist Heineken Red Star Café which borders the South Plaza.  The US Open Collection Store occupies the ground floor of the Café building.

Both of these additions are also from the design boards of Rossetti Architects.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Arthur Ashe Stadium, South Plaza, Wine Bar Food, Queens, NY

Conveniently located within the west edge of the South Plaza is Wine Bar Food, operating under the eye of Chef Tony Mantuano (of Spiaggia).  Enjoy tapas dishes with wine pairings, crowd watching and still keep an eye on the big matches on the Jumbotron.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Mercedes-Benz AMG GT S, Queens, NY

Preening and on display between the South Plaza and exterior courts #1-6 is this 4.0 liter, 503 hp, V-8 Mercedes-Benz; as you already know, it is the Official Vehicle of the US Open.





Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Baseline Stage, The Gold Magnolias, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Baseline Stage, Mary C and the Stellars, Queens, NY

Besides food, wine, beer, the Jumbotron, and just people to watch, those with a grounds pass may also enjoy musical entertainment. On Monday afternoon, it was provided by the Gold Magnolias, a southern-soul band, followed by Mary C and the Stellars, singing and playing some hot pop soul.





PEOPLE:



Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Watching the Jumbotron, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Man with Radio Bud, Queens, NY

The ear piece this man and others are wearing is a radio which broadcasts the stadium match announcing.  Because Labor Day Monday was "American Express Day" at the Open, all attendees were offered this radio. On other days, only those who purchased tickets with an American Express card would be given one.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Man Checking Schedule, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court of Champions, Man with Red Bowl Cut, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court of Champions, Man with Orange Mohawk, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Court of Champions, Federer Fan, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, South Plaza, Lovers, Queens, NY





Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Waiting for Play to Begin, Queens, NY

In 2011, Court 17 became an enhanced show-court with seating for 2,500 spectators. Today, with new, permanent seating, this sunken court accommodates 3,000 but remains an intimate venue to see matches close-up. It also is equipped with scoreboards on either end and electronic line-calling.





PLAYERS:



Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Tommy Paul Serving, Queens, NY

A first round junior boys match shows Tommy Paul (seeded 5), an 18-year old from New Jersey, serving to Mattias Siimar of Estonia. Paul won, 6-4, 6-3.  He lost in the finals to his 17-year old teammate, Californian Taylor Fritz (seeded 1), 6-2, 6-7 (4), 6-2.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Mixed Doubles, Service  Line Judge, Queens, NY





Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Women's Doubles, Arruabarrena & Klepac, Queens, NY

The third round women's doubles match I saw was between Lara Arruabarrena of Spain and Andreja Klepac of Slovakia, here seen above just after they defeated the number 3 seeded team of Tímea Babos of Hungary and Kristina Mladenovic of France (6-4, 4-6, 6-4).  They would lose the next, quarterfinal round to the Italian team of Errani and Pennetta.

What amazed me in this third round match was that neither team played what I would call winning doubles. Almost never did I see both players from either team at the net, together. Most every point was played with server and returner slugging away from the baseline, while their partners waited for an opportunity to poach.

Of the four players, Klepac seemed the slightly better net player, and I would say a few of her net-poaching put-aways may have been the margin of their victory.

Court position and shot selection are the most important considerations for doubles, and court position of one-up/one-back is a losing proposition.  Controlling the net is the most powerful position on the court for doubles players, and server or returner must find ways to work herself up to join her teammate. This almost never happened, and for that reason, it was ineffective doubles as well as pretty uninteresting to watch!




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Mixed Doubles,  Yung-Jan Chan & Rohan Bopanna enter the court, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Mixed Doubles,  Su-Wei Hsieh & Henri Kontinen enter the court, Queens, NY

With the women's doubles match over, the mixed doubles teams entered, and I was curious to see how they would play. As you can see from the four photographs below, all four players consistently managed to work their way up to the net, and the result was much more exciting tennis.  I never was able to get a photograph like any of these during that earlier match!



Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Mixed Doubles,  Su-Wei Hsieh & Henri Kontinen at net, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Mixed Doubles,  Su-Wei Hsieh & Henri Kontinen at net, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Mixed Doubles, Yung-Jan Chan & Rohan Bopanna at net, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Court 17, Mixed Doubles, Yung-Jan Chan & Rohan Bopanna at net, Queens, NY

Chan and Bopanna won this quarterfinal match, 7-6 (7), 5-7, 13-11.  They would lose in the semifinal round, 6-2, 7-5, to the eventual winning team of Hingis and Paes (more on them below). 





Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Feliciano López, Queens, NY

Feliciano López, with a world ranking of 16, took an easy practice on Labor Day Monday afternoon.  He is an exciting serve-and-volley player who lost to Novak Djokovic in the quarterfinals, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2). With last week's Open results, he will move up to 13 in the rankings.




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Queens, NY

Practicing on the court adjacent to López was Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He lost to Martin Cilic in five sets in the quarterfinals.  His Open results will move him up one spot in the rankings, to 16.





Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Leander Paes & Martina Hingis, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Leander Paes, Queens, NY

Also practicing Monday afternoon was the winning mixed doubles team of Martina Hingis and Leander Paes. Hingis is 35 years old and has retired from singles play.  Paes is 42 years old, does not compete in singles, but remains one of the best doubles players in the world. Remember what I said earlier: doubles is about court position and shot selection, and Leander does these as well as anybody on the tour. 

Just consider whom they beat in the mixed doubles final: the American team of Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sam Querrey. Mattek-Sands, at age 30, is ranked 80 in women's singles, 3 in doubles and has a pretty powerful serve which can exceed 117 mph.  Querrey, at age 27, is ranked 41 in men's singles and has a serve that has been clocked at 141 mph. He also holds the record for serving the most (10) consecutive aces in a match against James Blake.

One would think that power and youth (a 20-year age difference, in this case) would provide a winning combination.  But not in doubles.  In the game of doubles, power and youth (+$2.50) may get you a cup of coffee, but is no guarantee to a win.

The fact that we can still watch doubles matches featuring people like Paes and Hingis, or doubles specialists like the Bryan Brothers, is due to a lawsuit that the Bryans instigated against the ATP tour ten years ago. The tour wanted to bring top singles players (many who rarely play doubles) into doubles by only allowing players with good singles rankings to play in the doubles draw.  Just imagine what this would have resulted in: more boring matches with one-up/one-back and very likely the death of the professional doubles game.   Here's a good article on this by Douglas Robson, "How the Bryan Brothers Saved Doubles."





VENUS & SERENA PRACTICING:


Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams and David Witt, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams hitting a backhand, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams hitting a backhand, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams hitting a forehand, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams volleying, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams serving, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams serving, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams serving, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Venus Williams serving, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Serena Williams, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Serena Williams & Patrick Mouratoglou, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Serena Williams serving, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Serena Williams serving, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Serena Williams serving, Queens, NY




Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Practice Courts, Serena Williams serving, Queens, NY

A high point of the day was to watch the morning practice of these two great players as they honed their ground strokes, serves, and in Venus' case, her volleys.  The new viewing gallery for the six practice courts is a wonderful addition to this great tennis venue.



3 comments:

  1. Great post! More doubles coverage than Tennis Channel!!!!! Loved it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thank you, and I agree, re. doubles. Good doubles is much more fun to watch than most singles play, but the channels prefer to repeat a singles match during rain delays that give the viewers some terrific doubles.
    Were I in charge of camera coverage, I would have segments of Leander Paes ready for every rain delay!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Tyko - Great post! I really loved how you captures Serena and Venus practicing. I've learned to love tennis since college and am happy that the indoor season has started (played 3 hours yesterday).

    ReplyDelete