Some people arriving at the 2015 US Open expected the worst after almost a whole year of construction to begin putting a roof over mammoth Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Unattractive images of huge concrete girders, buttresses and all manner of support structures appeared likely to be the trade-off that had to be made to cover a 23,771-seat arena that staged rain-delayed Monday US Open finals for five years in a row between 2008 and 2012.
That was the reason the United States Tennis Association put out for bids on covering Ashe and ensuring, as has been done at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, that matches will available rain or shine for millions of television viewers around the world and for the broadcasters who pay big bucks in rights fees.
In the picture above it’s possible to see how well one of the eight large support columns has been integrated with the existing look of Arthur Ashe. The blue used is in keeping with the blue beams that already supported the highest sections of the existing stadium.
One of the reasons that architects at the Rossetti firm were able to finally figure out how to put a roof on the stadium, which is sinking into a mound of coal ash decomposing at a rate of one half inch a year, is that the existing stadium structure is not used to support the roof. Instead the eight columns were drilled about 180 feet deep into the ground to provide a stable base.
A translucent Teflon-coated woven fiberglass material will be installed over the current opening and be operational for the 2016 US Open. It will be possible to close the roof in approximately five minutes in the event of rain.
Regarding ventilation, the roof is positioned 15 feet above the current highest seat, allowing for air circulation.
All in all it has been a masterful architectural accomplishment. A USTA official has pointed out that the whole Wimbledon Centre Court could be fitted inside the 250 feet by 250 feet (62,500 square feet) opening in the Ashe Stadium roof.
Just for this year, to prevent distracting shadows on the court, covers have been placed over the southern and western sides of the support infrastructure high above the court.
In the construction phase, Navajo Indians, like some of their brethren in Canada who worked on New York skyscrapers (memorialized in dizzying black and white photographs) in the first half of the 20th century, were among those fearlessly scaling beams hundreds of feet above the ground.
With the completion of the Arthur roof next year, only the French Open, among the four Grand Slam events, will remain without a cover on its centre court.
In preparation for her second match on Wednesday against No. 64-ranked Polona Hercog of Slovenia, Genie Bouchard had a hit with her temporary coach Marko Dragic on Tuesday. She was on P2 practice court and, although the practice view stands behind her court were packed, there was a larger line-up to get in to see Rafael Nadal (bouncing ball on racquet above) who was on P1, only about 14 hours after he finished his opening-round win over Borna Coric late Monday night.
There wasn’t any interaction between the two courts while this observer was there, but watching stars practice certainly seemed to interest many fans more than players like Richard Gasquet and Philipp Kohlschreiber who were playing matches on the other side of the A-frame shaped stands on Courts 4, 5 and 6.
After her straight-sets victory over Alison Riske on Monday, Bouchard explained her participation in both the women’s and mixed doubles, saying, “I just want to play matches. I’ve been practicing too much.”
At the time, she didn’t know if she and Nick Kyrgios would make it into the mixed draw, or whether or not they might require a wild card. Ultimately, they made it directly in and will face Elina Svitolina of Ukraine and little-known Artem Sitak (ranked No. 45 in the ATP doubles) in their opening round. If they advance, they could face a confrontation with the battled-tried team of Martina Hingis and Leander Paes, the No 4 seeds.
In women’s doubles, Bouchard will partner Elena Vesnina of Russia, and they take on the tandem of Madison Brengle of the U.S. and Tatjana Maria of Germany in the opening round. Their possible opponents in the second round would be the sixth seeds, Americans Raquel Kops-Jones and Abigail Spears.
On Monday, discussing her frame of mind during matches these days, Bouchard said, “if I think too much about the score or the outcome, I know that’s bad for me. I don’t want to focus on that.
“I want to keep my energy up and my spirits and my attitude the same whether I’m winning or losing. That’s something I’m trying to work on.”
Heading into Wednesday’s match – third match on the Grandstand after 11 a.m. – Bouchard cannot take anyone for granted. Although she is ranked No. 25 to Hercog’s No. 64, the 24-year-old Slovene has a 30-22 record for the 2015 season while Bouchard is only 10-16.
So Wednesday’s match will be a serious challenge as are all matches of late for the 21-year-old Montrealer.
On Wednesday, Milos Raonic takes a 3-3 head-to-head record into his seventh meeting with Fernando Verdasco, which will be the second match on the Grandstand – preceding Bouchard exactly as he did on Monday.
Raonic should feel some confidence against the 31-year-old from Madrid because he has won all three times they have played on hard court. Verdasco is 3-0 in their meetings on clay.
Wednesday’s match will be their first in a Grand Slam event.
Looking at Verdasco’s record against other big servers, he is 3-3 with Ivo Karlovic, but has won two of their three matches on hard courts, and is 1-1 with John Isner, the pair splitting two hard-court matches.
“It will be a tough match,” said Raonic, 10-4 at the US Open in his career, about facing Verdasco – formerly known as ‘hot sauce’ by some admirers. “Every single time we’ve played it’s been that way. I’m going to need to play better. But I have it within myself to find those answers and hopefully make the most of the opportunity.”
Hopefully the back spasms that forced him to cancel a practice session Tuesday will not be an issue.
It may be Raonic’s (and Verdasco’s) last match on the Grandstand. The 6,106 capacity stadium will be replaced by a larger arena, and relocated arena in 2016.
Crowds have been massive over the first two days of the 2015 US Open. That includes people of all ages as can be seen in this picture taken of the fountains in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium.