US Open

US Open bids farewell to Armstrong

2016-09-07 08:58
US Open (File)

New York - Louis Armstrong's moving 'What a Wonderful World' serenaded fans on Tuesday as the US Open bid farewell to the stadium named after the legendary jazz trumpeter before it confronts the wrecking ball next week.

Armstrong has seen it all in its 39 years, from heavyweight duels involving Jimmy Connors, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg to even low-flying drones dropping in to cause panic.

But once the tournament ends on Sunday, the generally loved but occasionally despised arena at Flushing Meadows will be torn down.

It will be replaced by a 15 000 seater court in 2018 with a retractable roof as part of the tournament's $650 million reboot.

As a reminder of the importance of marching in-step with progress, it rained Tuesday, bringing a frustrating interruption to proceedings on the uncovered Armstrong.

Connors featured in one of Armstrong's most famous storylines when he played the 1991 US Open as a wildcard ranked at 174 in the world.

The street-fighting Connors won his fourth round match against Aaron Krickstein on his 39th birthday, whipping the crowd into a frenzy in the four hour, 42 minute five-set epic.

"That's why they came. That's what they want," said Connors who went on to make the semi-finals.

No 39-year-old has come close to that achievement since.

McEnroe also enjoyed the Armstrong surrounds to get the better of Bjorn Borg in the 1980 final in another five-setter.

Borg had defeated McEnroe at Wimbledon just weeks earlier but the noise and humidity of New York were never Borg's passion, losing all four finals he played in the city.

Armstrong himself once lived two train stops away but the arena had its roots in the 1964 World's Fair, starting life as the Singer Bowl.

It was adapted as a tennis arena when the US Open moved from nearby Forest Hills and was popular with fans as no reserved seating was required.

It was first come, first served which was always a boost for those on the top row who had the bonus of being able to watch action on the neighbouring Grandstand if the match on Armstrong failed to engage them.

On Tuesday, all-American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan played the last scheduled match at the 10 000-capacity arena but they were beaten in the doubles quarter-finals by Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez of Spain.

"My favourite match on this court used to be the one where I played Andy Murray but lost in four sets a couple of years ago," said Feliciano Lopez.

"But beating the Bryans here today is now my favourite match."

Both Spaniards added their messages of thanks and farewell to the hundreds of others scribbled on the wall deep inside the stadium.

It was always hard to keep the stadium out of the headlines.

Last year, a drone, flown by a local school teacher, crashed into an empty part of the stands, scaring the wits out of eventual women's champion Flavia Pennetta.

"With everything going on in the world ... I thought, 'OK, it's over.' That's how things happen," said the Italian.

This year, former French and Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka played three of his matches there.

"Thanks for all those years!! So many amazing memories on that court !! Louis Armstrong Stadium," tweeted the Swiss after saving a match point to beat Dan Evans on Saturday, riding a wave of powerful support inside the arena.

The United States Tennis Association (USTA) will give the stadium its last rites on Thursday when fans will be allowed to play on the court before it's shuttered for good.

Read more on:    us open  |  tennis
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