Lively Louis Armstrong Stadium making strong US Open debut
The newest US Open venue has brought the bravado, and some complaints, to the American Grand Slam this year.
NEW YORK — It was so noisy and raucous inside the new Louis Armstrong Stadium on Tuesday night that Patty Schnyder’s daughter was awakened from the nap she was enjoying in the aisle while her mother played against Maria Sharapova. Kim, Schnyder’s 3-year-old daughter, then sat on her father’s lap and clapped and cheered along with nearly 10,000 other fans until Sharapova finally prevailed near midnight. Noisy night tennis, often lubricated by adult beverages and an enthusiastic New York City crowd, has always been an integral part of the U.S. Open experience. Now there are two helpings of tennis under the lights during the first week at the Open thanks to the addition of the new $150 million, 14,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium that features a retractable roof. The capacity of Armstrong makes it almost as large as the center courts at Wimbledon, the French Open and the Australian Open. “There’s a little bit more noise than maybe some of the other stadiums that I’ve played at,” Sharapova said after playing her first match in the new stadium. “But I don’t know, it’s kind of part of the U.S. Open. You can’t really shy away from the noise if you want to be a champion in New York City, right? I think you have to embrace it. There’s always an amazing amount of energy no matter what court you play on in New York in the evening.” Arthur Ashe Stadium, the world’s largest tennis stadium with a capacity of more than 23,000, adjusted its schedule to now only features two day matches instead of three so as to ensure the tennis is finished for the start of the night session at 7 p.m. On Monday, the Open’s first day, the night session attendance of 27,291 set a single-session record. So far, the tournament’s biggest names — Serena Williams, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer — have only been slated to play night matches in Ashe. Still, not everyone has a rave review. Ask Simona Halep, the No. 1 seed in the women’s draw who played the firstever match in the new stadium on Monday and promptly became the first No. 1 seed ever to lose in the opening round. Defending U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens played her first match of the tournament in Armstrong instead of Ashe and didn’t love the ambiance. Armstrong is more intimate than Ashe, but there are also food concessions along the concourse, allowing fans to congregate, talk and take pictures closer to the court between changeovers. “There was a lot going on, like I said, between the airplanes and the subway behind the court, the concessions being in the lower bowl, and people walking in (during) the games at, like, 2-all, 3-all,” Stephens said. “There’s just a lot going on.” As for the court itself, it gets shade because of the sides and retractable roof, which can help when the temperature is in the 90s as it has been this week. But the shade doesn’t mean it’s not hot. “It’s a nice stadium,” No. 4 seed Alexander Zverev said. “For a No. 2 court at a Grand Slam, it was absolutely perfect. One thing is that it feels like there’s not a lot of air coming through, so it’s kind of like in a sauna. But the court itself is nice. The stadium is nice. I actually enjoyed playing in it.”