By Rick Horrow and Karla Swatek
August 25, 2011
If there’s anything left of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center after Irene hits this weekend—if you listen to the dire predictions of the Weather Channel, that is—the USTA has an enticing new series of fan experiences and expanded programming planned for the Open, including musical acts, facility upgrades, mobile technology offerings, and youth activities.
While a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is still years from happening, the USTA is unveiling a new show court for this year’s event. Seating 3,000, Court 17 will become the fourth-largest show court on the grounds, featuring two state-of-the art video screens, full TV capabilities, and utilizing the Chase Review electronic line-calling system better known as “Hawkeye.”
Before main draw action begins on Monday, weather permitting of course, the USTA and major tennis sponsors have signicifantly enhanced their pre-tournament entertainment offerings.
Wednesday night, the USTA presented its first-ever pre-tournament U.S. Open concert. Entitled “U.S. Open Rock the Set presented by Heineken,” this private, invitation-only concert featured Brooklyn-based indie rock band Matt & Kim, and mash-up phenom Girl Talk, at Terminal 5, one of NYC’s hottest new music venues. Thursday night saw BNP Paribas present its “Taste of Tennis” in Manhattan, with some of New York’s top chefs and top-ranked players showcasing their culinary skills at the W New York. Pepsi, Riondo, and Dunlop also supported the event.
On Friday, top-ranked American Mardy Fish and Germany’s Andrea Petkovic lead hundreds of local kids in an attempt to set a Guinness World Record for the “Most people to bounce a tennis ball on their racquet in one location.” The record-breaking attempt is sponsored by Wilson—in case you’re curious, the current Guinness Record was set in England in 2006, when 383 players bounced a ball off their racquets at the same time.
Saturday brings the popular Arthur Ashe Kids Day: the full-day tennis and music festival for children and adults alike features interactive games, musical entertainment, top players, and tennis-mad celebrities including this year’s host LaLa Anthony, her husband Carmelo, and music headliner Cody Simpson.
More seriously, on the tournament’s final weekend, USTA officials will also honor the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks by putting "9-11-01" on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court. The Men’s Final is scheduled to be played on September 11 for the first time since the terrorist attacks. A memorial tribute expected to be attended by honored guests including members of the NYPD, FDNY and Port Authority will also be held before the Men’s Final, including, as was common at sporting events in 9-11’s aftermath, unfurling an American flag that will cover the entire court.