Net Talk: Change coming to USA
As the US Open gets under way, our Andy Schooler looks at the changes being made at Flushing Meadows.
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Change is coming to the US Open.
Many feel it could come on court this year with the men’s draw in particular looking as open as it has done for some time.
But change has already come off court at Flushing Meadows – and there’s more to follow in the coming years.
Just over a year ago, the USTA announced a major redevelopment plan for the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – as Flushing Meadows is officially known – including the long called-for roof on the cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Some of the improvements are already in place for this year’s tournament. Here’s a rundown of what you to look out for this year and what’s to come in following years.
2014 – Most obvious to visitors to Flushing Meadows this year will be a three new courts and a viewing platform which overlooks them. The new seating, which overlooks Courts Four, Five and Six, as well as the practice courts, can handle up to 1,300 fans. As for TV viewers, Court Five is now a fully televised court - the seventh on the grounds – and thus will have electronic line calling. Elsewhere, if you look carefully outside Arthur Ashe Stadium, you will see the base of the posts which will hold the giant retractable roof in a few years’ time. Work on the project has already begun underground, laying the foundations for the engineering project that for years was deemed impossible.
2015 – The big change next year will not be to the venue but rather the schedule. For years people have complained about the 'sked' at the US Open. Most controversial was always ‘Super Saturday’ which saw the women’s final but, more significantly, two men’s semi-finals the day before the showpiece final. That was scrapped last year only for a Monday men’s final to be introduced – something which didn’t go down well with the ATP. Next year, the US Open will fall into line with the French Open and Wimbledon and stage both women’s semis on Thursday, the men’s semis on Friday, the women’s final on Saturday and the men’s final on Sunday. Also, the bizarre three-day schedule for the men’s first round will be no more in 12 months' time. Quite why it takes three days to play those 64 matches has never really been explained to me – it certainly doesn’t happen at the other Slams. However, this year will be the last using the current schedule as the men’s first round will be played over just two days in 2015.
2016 – The USTA plans to have its retractable roof in place and in use on Arthur Ashe Stadium for the 2016 tournament – although it has admitted it may take a year longer. Housing more than 22,000 fans, the structure will be between three and four times larger than the one which covers Centre Court at Wimbledon. By this time, the old Grandstand court will have been demolished and replaced by a brand new court in the opposite corner of the grounds. The new court will hold 8,000 fans – nearly 2,000 more than the current Grandstand.
2018 – The redevelopment plan – which will cost around US$550million in total - is due to reach its conclusion when the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, the venue’s second court, opens for business. It is also being built with a retractable roof, on the site of the current Armstrong which was the main court at Flushing Meadows until Ashe was opened in 1997. It currently holds just over 10,000 but the new stadium will raise that to 15,000. The construction will not affect the venue's ability to stage matches at the US Open - all the courts will be available for use during forthcoming editions of the tournament in a similar way that Centre Court was while the roof was added. Temporary seating will be put in place as necessary.
I had hoped to come into the tournament on the back of a tasty winner but my 33/1 each-way pick at last week’s Winston-Salam Open, Yen-Hsun Lu, lost agonisingly in the semi-finals.
Still, after a good run at Wimbledon with my daily tips (eight winners from 13 bets) make sure you look out for my best bet each day during the next fortnight. I will try not to disappoint!
Our betting partners Sky Bet, like all the bookies, make Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams the two favourites at the event and they've gone top industry price about the in-form Roger Federer's title chances. He's now 3/1 under the firm's Price Boost scheme.
They also have a host of other markets, including final forecast, name the finalists and two chances to win. All their odds can be found on the Sky Bet website where new customers get a free £30 matched bet. So why not have a bet on the US Open and get two bets for the price of one?
Stat of the week
This week is the 109th Novak Djokovic has spent on the top of the world rankings. That is the same number as Bjorn Borg managed in his career and puts the Serb joint seventh in the all-time list on that front. Roger Federer leads the way with 302 weeks in top spot.
What you may have missed
Andy Murray and new coach Amelie Mauresmo are close to agreeing a long-term deal which would see the pair work together for 25 weeks a year.
John Isner was forced to pull out of the Winston-Salem Open, raising concerns about his fitness for the US Open.
US Open countdown
The sportinglife.com preview package for the final Grand Slam tournament of the season included:
TV pundits – we caught up with the Sky Sports and British Eurosport teams – including former US Open champion Mats Wilander, Annabel Croft and Mark Petchey - to get their verdicts on what’s likely to unfold at Flushing Meadows.
Memorable matches – my look back at some US Open classics of years gone by.
Jo Durie – the former world number five joined us to give her thoughts on the men's draw and in particular, Andy Murray's chances.
Jo Durie - the British Eurosport commentator also took a look at the women's singles with Serena Williams under the microscope.
Tim Clement - Sky Bet's tennis expert offered up his thoughts on the tournament and picked out his best bets.
Sky Bet – we also got the lowdown on who’s been best-backed and who the firm fear ahead of the action at Flushing Meadows.
This week in tennis
All week – All eyes will be on one thing this week, the US Open. It’s the first week of the final Grand Slam tournament of the season when the big guns will simply be looking to avoid an early exit.
Are there any tennis players yet to take the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge? I know it’s all in a good cause and that but the subject of childish water throwing seems to have blocked up my feed all week! With the US the focus for both the men and the women at the moment, expect plenty more of this to come over the next fortnight. Just not too much, eh?
Last week I mentioned Sergiy Stakhovsky (@Stako_Tennis) fuming at the ITF’s decision not to allow Ukraine to host their Davis Cup play-off with Belgium in their own country.
Well, he wasn’t letting things lie this week, replying to the official Davis Cup feed: “You should be ashamed of yourself. What you did to Ukraine will trail for long time behind you.”
Stakhovsky, I should point out to those who don’t know, is a prominent member of the ATP player Council.
Finally, @NetTalkTennis and @SportingLife are me and the website on Twitter – please follow if you don’t already.
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