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Why the US Open Needs a Roof and Other Reasons Why It Sucks

Posted on the 08 September 2011 by Crapblog @crapblog
Why the US Open Needs a Roof and Other Reasons Why it Sucks
Each year Flushing Meadows hosts the US Open tennis tournament. It's the final slam of the year, and the organisers like to think that it's the best. However year after year, the same questions are raised over the many issues which piss off fans and players alike.
Now I'm aware that the US Open is a very different tournament to Wimbledon. There is a lot about it which I do not necessarily like, but I do accept. I realize that it's not all about tradition and elegance. It's about making the spectacle, American style, and so I have no problem with the garish outfits which are encouraged by what is essentially the tournament's dress code. Nor do I take offense at the ridiculous music played at every opportunity. I do try to avoid as many recitals of the national anthem as I can, but all of this is part of the pomp and patriotism you'd expect from the Yanks. However there are some features of the tournament which I do not accept:

1. The lack of roof (and covers)

When the Arther Ashe stadium was opened in 1997, it truly captured the American aphorism of 'the bigger the better'. Its 23,000+ capacity made it over 50% bigger than Wimbledon's center court, an achievement of which the USTA was rather proud. However, over the years, more and more flaws have been uncovered. The monstrous size means that there is no feeling of intimacy for the players or fans. This problem is exacerbated by the fact that the highest seats are so far away, that ticket holders often prefer to wander the grounds than watch from such a height that birds of prey would have trouble seeing what was going on. This leaves thousands of seats empty of most days, meaning that the exciting atmosphere which should be created is replaced with a feeling of slight awkwardness that not even the best players in the world can fill the arena.

The glaring mistake with the construction of the court, and one which has been under a huge amount of scrutiny over the past few days, is the fact that there is no roof. For the past three years, the tournament has run over to a third monday due to poor weather, and this looks set to continue. In refusing to construct a roof, the USTA has shown ridiculous arrogance for a country whose east coast experiences hurricanes every year, and in a baffling display of further stupidity, the organisers refuse to put covers over the court because they don't look 'super-awesome' (I'm guessing no one has suggested covering the courts with an uber star spangled banner, as I'm pretty sure americans would jizz over this).

The Australian Open's Rod Laver arena opened with a roof in 1988, Wimbledon famously installed a roof a couple of years ago, and Roland Garros is planning a roof within the next few years. As a result, the US Open has come under a huge amount of pressure this year, being the only stadium with no plans for a roof, at the tournament with arguably the worst weather. In response to this, a range of excuses have been provided. The Arther Ashe arena is said to be too big to have a roof installed, and of course it would be out of the question to downsize the world's largest tennis stadium. It has therefore been suggested that one of the other show courts be upgraded, but in response to this, organisers say that the courts, which are at the other end of Flushing Meadows, lie on ground which is too damp to withstand large construction work. The remaining solution is to tear down Arthur Ashe and rebuild it with a roof, but to take down a court 15 years after it was opened is not exactly plausible. It would also cost a huge amount, and this is what it really comes down to. The hundreds of millions which it would cost to build a roof would be taken out of the budget which goes into developing the American juniors, and the USTA would much rather find their next Pete Sampras than have a smoothly run grand slam.

2. The scheduling
The US Open is notable for the fact that is completely run in a way panders to the needs of the tv networks. This results in a policy whereby some players don't start the tournament until Wednesday. The result of this is the placation of the networks at the end of the tournament. As opposed to Wimbledon, where Thursday and Saturday see the women's semis and final respectively, and Friday and Sunday do the same for the men, the US Open insists on play from both sexes on every day apart from the men's final day. This results in the ludicrous situation in which men are forced to play on consecutive days at the end of the tournament, resulting in tired players, and potentially a lower level of play. In fact, the Monday finals of the last couple of years have probably resulted in better quality finals. It also implies that the women's final is not strong enough as a stand alone event, which is detrimental to the argument for equal pay.3. The fansI'll firstly say that fans at Flushing Meadows aren't as bad as those at Roland Garros. The French are notorious for heckling players and booing. But there is a hint of the Parisiens in New York. It's not normally those paying fans who are actually followers of the sport, but more those sitting in the corporate seats closer to the action. There was an occurrence last year in which fans were noticeably drunk and being rowdy when play had only just started for the day, much to the annoyance of Maria Sharapova. Following the umpire's request for silence at the appropriate moments, the fans simply laughed and continued. So whilst the Americans don't displayed the directed rudeness of the French, there is the feeling that they treat tennis as if is were baseball, which shows a huge lack of respect to the players and the sport. One cannot help but think that the ambiance promoted by the tournament only buoys this attitude.So that's what pisses me off about the US Open. Some of the problems are easily solved, whereas others will take a lot longer to rectify, however I think at the root of all this, the USTA needs to look at what it values in a tournament, and decide on whether they are really striving to put on the best tournament they can.

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