NEW YORK – There is a non-scientific, anecdotal law with tennis’s roof rules.
And that’s this: as soon as you spend all those millions building one atop a big stadium to avoid having dead air on television during rain delays, it hardly ever rains.
In New York, where the US Open men’s final was delayed for a number of years in a row because of copious rain during the tournament, this is especially ironic.
The new Louis Armstrong Stadium was christened on opening day of this year’s US Open. But it took until Friday before the retractable roof that is its major plus feature finally was put to use.
It came halfway through the second set of the match between No. 5 seed Kevin Anderson and No. 28 seed Denis Shapovalov on Friday. Two women’s matches had been completed earlier in the day.
The closing of the roof took four minutes, 30 seconds. In all, the stoppage in play was just over eight minutes.
Natural ventilation on both ends of the court give the new Armstrong a less enclosed feel than Arthur Ashe. Still, it was a lot louder inside with the roof shut. And when the furious hitting sounds even louder than it is, the drama factor seems to ratchet up proportionately.
“New Louis” was as full as it’s been so far this week during the match. The rain – even if it didn’t last that long – brought a lot of fans with grounds passes “inside” to populate the upper level.
The drama helped as well. The marathon five-setter eventually was won by 2017 finalist Anderson over his teenaged opponent.
By the time Shapovalov’s countryman Milos Raonic and former champion Stan Wawrinka came out for the evening session, the roof was open again.
Nondescript on the outside
The new stadium isn’t anything to put in a museum from the outside. The usual brick, those ventilation panels … It all looks like sort of a mishmash even if, on a basic level, it blends in seamlessly with the rest of the site.
But inside, it’s a great venue. It seats about 14,000. But it doesn’t feel quite that big. The pitch of the seats means that no one is too far away from the action. It has lots of bathrooms, plenty of concessions.
And it was finished on time, too.
Here are a few shots from before the tournament, to give you an idea.
The forecast for Saturday looks cloudy. But they’re not expecting any more rain until late Saturday night.
So the Armstrong roof will go back into hiding again.
Attendance broke 70,000 for the first time, despite the slightly dodgy forecast, as the stands filled up more in Armstrong Friday for the first time with the Labour Day weekend crowd starting to filter in.
As the city itself empties out for the weekend, the National Tennis Center fills up.