This year, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the US Open, we’re counting down the 50 most memorable moments in the history of America’s Grand Slam. Today, we take a look back at No. 20.
When Arthur Ashe Stadium was built in time for the 1997 US Open, the soaring new structure seating about 23,000 spectators gave the tournament a new identity. But, with the passage of time, as unsettled weather kept disrupting the tournament schedule and dampening the spirits of the spectators, a plan was put in place to erect a roof over Ashe Stadium to modernize the facility and protect both the fans and the players.
That roof was unveiled in 2016, much to the delight of longtime US Open followers. Moreover, the players predominantly liked the security of the roof. Only a year before, the Novak Djokovic-Roger Federer final was delayed three hours by rain. But now the roof meant that the show would go on as planned, precisely on schedule, in timely fashion.
The first player to officially hit a tennis ball in an official match with the retractable roof closed was none other than Rafael Nadal, the popular Spaniard who had already secured two of his three titles.
Nadal spoke in glowing terms about the importance of the roof for all of the entities in tennis. He said, “It is an amazing job the USTA did. I think it is a great improvement for everybody, for the players, for the fans who are visiting Flushing Meadows, and for sure for the people who are following the tournament on the television.”
Meanwhile, a new and larger Grandstand opened up, and it was an enormously appealing meeting place for fans all through the tournament. Some observers missed the old Grandstand that had showcased so many memorable skirmishes over the previous 38 years, but the new Grandstand immediately captured the hearts of spectators who wanted something newer and more spacious as a gathering ground to sit and enjoy the game.
Moreover, wider walkways were installed on the grounds, making it more festive for fans wandering all over the facility. The year 2016 will be remembered as a time of critical transition for the US Open.
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