NEW YORK – Loud screams and warm applause returned at the US Open tennis tournament on Monday, bursts of sound that offered some form of reaction to almost every action. Also back: long lines to go through the doors and buy something to eat or drink.
One year after spectators were completely banned from Flushing Meadows due to the coronavirus pandemic, imparting a dystopian feel to a normally lively event, 100% capacity is again allowed – proof of vaccination required; no mask required – at this and other sporting events.
College football resumed on Saturday, with tens of thousands of players in attendance for clashes such as Illinois vs. Nebraska or Hawaii vs. UCLA. The NFL lets its teams sell every ticket for the regular season; its first Sunday is September 12.
It’s hard to say that there has been a recent increase in covid-19 cases thanks to the highly contagious delta variant. Ready or not, our fun and our games are progressing, with full stages and, in some cases, few protocols.
“Playing without fans here last year was brutal,” 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens told the crowd at Arthur Ashe Stadium after beating Madison Keys in three sets in a rematch of their own. all-American final four years ago.
As for Monday’s varying degrees of noise, including what she called “calling at random times”?
“We missed it all,” Stephens said.
Yes, we have all done it.
Having an audience there makes it all mean more – for those who participate and for those who watch, who are more than part of the landscape.
They are a character in the series.
“After all, that’s what we’re here for. We’re trying to give them the best performance possible,” said Lloyd Harris, a South African. “For me, the more I play in front of people, the bigger the audience, the better I play tennis.”
The people in the seats add to the soundtrack, as Stephens noted, but also to the pageantry, the whirlwind of emotions for everyone involved, providing a human element at a time when it is disappearing in many ways. regards. Just one example: this US Open is the first without a single line judge on any court, just chair umpires assisted by an electronic line call system.
Elsewhere, however, people were everywhere.
They ordered the Honey Deuce, billed as the signature US Open cocktail, served for $ 20 in a souvenir glass.
They stood along the bridge between court 13 – where Serbian Dusan Lajovic beat Frenchman Benoit Paire – and court 14 – where Canadian Leylah Fernandez knocked out Croatian Ana Konjuh.
A particularly noisy group at Court 5 offered their support to Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman, two-time US Open quarter-finalist.
“The event has changed 100%. It’s a whole different feeling,” said Schwartzman, adding that he “also feels a little weird” to be at the first Grand Slam tournament in over 18 months at full capacity.
Occasionally, a sound explosion could be heard in one of the 16 courts hosting the action.
As Americans flock to Broadway shows, cinemas and music concerts, deaths from Covid-19 have been high across the country. That’s why there was a hint of concern on the part of Juan Manuel Gomez, a fan from Guadalajara, Mexico, who watched Roland Garros finalist Stefanos Tsitsipas train on Monday.
“We know there was a risk, but we think it was worth taking,” said Gomez, whose wife, Lety, shot a video of Tsitsipas with her phone.
Of visiting Times Square while on vacation with their two sons, ages 9 and 13, she said, “We feel safe here,” knowing that onlookers had to show proof of vaccination to enter.
According to guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear masks outdoors, even among crowds, unless they can avoid close contact with unvaccinated people. . (The vaccination requirement does not apply to players, about half of whom have been beaten.)
Pat James, a 65-year-old retiree from Mendham, NJ, who was with her friend and neighbor, Barbara Ruggeri, was elated when the US Tennis Association was pushed by the New York mayor’s office to add the requirement last week .
“I actually didn’t have as much apprehension about covid as other issues, like terrorism,” said James, after posing for a photo with the Unisphere at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York which is located not far from one of the main entrances to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. “I was a little apprehensive last night. But we are both vaccinated. When we walked into a crowd, we put on our masks. I just wish people would get vaccinated, to make it happen. ended.”
Even though no one knows when “it” will really end, the hustle and bustle of our lives seems to be on the way back.
Definitely for two weeks at Flushing Meadows, anyway. We are far from 2020.
“You can’t compare the atmosphere. It’s much better. You feel the energy. You feel alive on the court,” said Simona Halep, two-time Grand Slam champion who signed hats and balls from tennis thrown at her by the front row fans after a victory over Camila Giorgi in the stands. “So, yeah, I hope we’ll stay like this forever now.”
Tennis fans walk the grounds of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center during the first round of the US Open Tennis Championships on Monday, August 30, 2021, in New York City. (AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
Tennis fans watch Ricardas Berankis of Lithuania serve Diego Schwartzman of Argentina in the first round of the US Open tennis championships on Monday, August 30, 2021, in New York City. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)
Sloane Stephens of the United States serves Madison Keys of the United States in the first round of the US Open Tennis Championships on Monday, August 30, 2021, in New York City. (AP Photo / Seth Wenig)
Camila Giorgi of Italy serves Simona Halep of Romania in the first round of the US Open tennis championships on Monday, August 30, 2021, in New York City. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)
Tennis fans line up outside the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the first round of the US Open tennis championships on Monday, August 30, 2021, in New York City. (AP Photo / John Minchillo)