THE ROOF THAT CLIMATE CHANGE BUILT? White pipes, industrial beams, stark squares and stratospheric walkways that only daredevils would traverse – the partial roof that dramatically looms over Ashe Stadium is a stunning maze. The compelling patterns seem more suited for MoMA (the Museum of Modern Art) than the BJKNTC (the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center). The Aussie Open roof is flat, simple and functional. Wimbledon’s roof has an artistic flair. Ashe’s roof – though late in coming and unfinished until next year – will (excuse the pun) “top” them all. It will have 13 million pounds of steel and 115,000 bolts, and all of Wimbledon’s Centre Court could fit into its center opening.
Serena said the partially-roofed stadium is “different…it feels more intimate.” Saying that Ashe Stadium, with its over-23,000-seat capacity, is intimate is like saying a sledgehammer is delicate. Still, one is impressed with the new Ashe, an extraordinary work of art and engineering, which, starting next year, will at last keep the US Open dry. For the past seven rainy years, the men’s final has been played on Monday.
Roger Federer was asked whether the new roof will change Ashe Stadium. “Forever,” he succinctly replied. “I don’t know if it’s a good thing or not, but old Ashe was great. I loved it. That’s all I knew until this year.
“But of course I like the feeling of these big center courts with the roof on. We’re used to it [at the] Australian Open, Wimbledon, [in] Shanghai, [and] other places.
“So for that matter, I like it. It’s going to increase the level of play from all players…[But] probably more for the top players, because you know what to expect and you’re not going to have to fight the wind as much – you can play closer to the lines and make it better tennis. So probably it might be better for the top guys.
“Then we will see [about] the conditions next year when it’s fully covered and…how it will play indoors when it’s going to rain…It’s quite loud…In American sports it’s quite common that the fans talk during games or matches. The roof might bring that [volume] back down.”
NOTES ON NAUGHTY NICK: It’s said that whether you love or hate naughty Nick Kyrgios, it’s hard to ignore the free-form talent. He’s just 20, which is why so many are cutting the gifted but problematic youngster ample slack. His friend, Davis Cup teammate and advisor Lleyton Hewitt, says he’s a good bloke.
Chris Fowler chides critics, saying, “I challenge any reporter who is critical of Kyrgios to think of where they were at 20.”
But John McEnroe noted that “you want to be remembered as a player, not a clown…the schtick is getting a little old.” And just when you find yourself speculating on the meaning of that big tattoo on the Aussie’s considerable right forearm – “Time is running out” – you again recall that the manchild is just 20.
WEAK PERFORMANCES BY A MAYOR AND TWO MAYERS: Though Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer nearly downed Roger Federer in Shanghai last fall, he faltered badly at Ashe Stadium today, losing to Roger 6-1, 6-2, 6-2. Florian Mayer was one of nine players in the men’s draw to retire in the first round. But neither Mayer’s performance was as weak as the mayor’s. New York chief Bill de Blasio began the Opening Night ceremonies with a shrill speech filled with loud bombast and over-the-top “ain’t we just great” claims.
FOREVER YOUNG – THE OTHER DONALD PREVAILS: Candidate Trump is not the only newsworthy Donald in this town. American Donald Young was down two sets and 0-3, yet still managed to come back to defeat the considerable Frenchman and No. 11 seed Gilles Simon. Young once beat Andy Murray at Indian Wells, but to come back from so far down in America’s Grand Slam was something else. It was the match of his career.
Early in his career, Young was seen as a compelling American hope. Starting at 15, he was given one wildcard after another, only to suffer dispiriting losses. His confidence never really jelled. Today, he told IT that he regrets accepting all those wildcards that proved so counterproductive.
BTW: Young’s impressive win brings to mind the question of who Jim Courier will select to join John Isner on the Davis Cup team to play Uzbekistan the week after the Open: Jack Sock, Steve Johnson or Young.
MOST IMPORTANT SHOT ANALYSIS OF THE OPEN? Darren Cahill claimed that Andy Roddick once came within two rows of blasting a ball out of Ashe stadium.
TOMMY HAAS ON THE VERY BEST: Tommy Haas, 37, has played against generations of foes. We asked him to talk about the best strokes he’s faced. The former No. 2 and four-time Slam semi-finalist said, “The best server I ever faced was probably Pete Sampras. Best player, Roger is up there. I think he’s the greatest of all time…The results speak for that…Playing against Rafa is one of the most physical challenges out there. Djokovic, Murray…what they have done physically and also defensively, it’s a whole new level…Agassi is still one of the best strikers I have ever played against…There [are] still a lot of [great] one-handed backhands out there with Gasquet, Wawrinka, Almagro.”
SAY IT ISN’T SO: Andy Murray said, “I’m getting old – 28 years.”
‘I CONSULTED MY COACH AND ALL I GOT WAS THESE ROTTEN BABY PICTURES’: Andy Murray joked with ESPN that when he spoke with his coach about his game, all he got from Amelie Mauresmo, a new mother, was baby pictures.