Courtside Spotlight

0
1401
Arthur Ashe Stadium (Photo by ffooter/Shutterstock)
Arthur Ashe Stadium (Photo by ffooter/Shutterstock)
Arthur Ashe Stadium (Photo by ffooter/Shutterstock)

The world’s greatest tennis stars return to New York this August for the 2014 U.S. Open.

By Damon M. Banks and Bespoke Magazine Staff

 

A high level of intensity envelops New York in the summer, and as the end of August draws near, anticipation only begins to build as Arthur Ashe Stadium readies itself for some of the fiercest competition in the sporting world. On Aug. 25, star athletes from around the world arrive in Flushing Meadows for what has become one of the nation’s most prominent tennis championships: the U.S. Open. One of the four tennis Grand Slam tournaments, the annual two-weeklong event not only features top players with an unmatched dedication and passion for the game, but also a premier New York venue—the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“This event takes on the personality of [New York City], which is one of the most chaotic and pressure-packed cities in the world,” says Justin Gimelstob, a Tennis Channel broadcaster and ATP World Tour board member. “[It] provides a nice offset to some of the more serene environments that tennis is often played.”

The U.S. Open has faced its share of adversity over the years—including the logistical challenges of operating a world-renowned event just outside a major metropolis—but successfully built a reputation as one of the most prestigious tournaments in the tennis community. Its timeline dates back to 1881, when it was known as the U.S. National championship with just a men’s singles competition; in the decades since, women’s doubles, mixed doubles and specialty sets were added to create the format audiences are familiar with in modern tournaments. In 1968, it officially launched as the U.S. Open, offering a prize purse of $100,000 and drawing 96 men and 63 women to the East Coast to battle for the coveted championship title.

Today, the U.S. Open is not only an integral part of the Grand Slam, but is also a world-class sporting event that attracts the attention of millions around the world.

 

Serving up Success

Expected to be another fight to the finish, 2014’s event will see a number of top contenders vying for the title. There are numerous expert opinions about the favorites to win this year’s U.S. Open, but a few names continue to rise to the surface. Among the international contenders are Alexandr Dolgopolov, the top-ranked Ukrainian player; Flavia Pennetta, a favorite out of Italy; Milos Raonic, the Canadian all-star originally from Montenegro; and Simona Halep, a highly ranked Romanian player.

John Isner (Photo by Lev Radin)
John Isner (Photo by Lev Radin)

Up-and-coming American players are also making headlines, with John Isner touted as one of the future stars of U.S. tennis. He is the top-ranked American male tennis player and is expected to have an impressive showing in August.

“I’m a big believer that John Isner will have a huge U.S. Open at some point,” Gimelstob says. “He loves playing in his home country, on hard courts, and with his massive weapons, he’s very dangerous whenever he is healthy. If he can get through some early round matches relatively quickly and maintain an energy reserve, he can make a deep run.”

This year’s event will also prove to be a grand stage for several longtime favorites. Venus and Serena Williams, whose friendly sibling rivalry made a big splash at the 2001 U.S. Open when they went head to head, are expected to return. The powerhouse Rafael Nadal is also set to defend his ranking as the world No. 1 player, captivating audiences with his incredible abilities and his Spanish charm. Nadal, who won the 2013 U.S. Open men’s title, continues to be a crowd favorite at each tournament he plays.

 

Looking Ahead

With one of its most exciting U.S. events on the horizon, all eyes are on the sport of tennis this summer. There is speculation about what will come next for the esteemed U.S. Open, and though the changes in 2014 won’t be significant—they include a 30-foot, two-story viewing gallery for fans to view the five practice courts—there’s much to look forward to in the coming years.

These upgrades are just the beginning of an exciting transformation at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. A highlight of the renovation is the long-anticipated retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, the primary venue for the U.S. Open, scheduled for completion as early as the 2016 event, according to Daniel Zausner, chief operating officer of the National Tennis Center. The roof, designed to keep the focus on tennis rather than the weather, will ensure that the event can take place on a predictable schedule, rather than falling victim to the elements.

Beyond that major change, additional improvements include two new cutting-edge stadiums, widened walkways and a host of other projects designed to further enrich the experience of the U.S. Open for both the players and fans. Between 200 and 300 workers will be on-site for the next five years to make this dream a reality, creating an incredible space for fans and players alike to enjoy the high-profile event.

“The U.S. Open has done an excellent job becoming more than just a tennis tournament; it is now a sporting [and] entertainment extravaganza,” Gimelstob says. “The line between sports and entertainment has become very fine, and the Open does a great job keeping fans engaged throughout their experience.”