30 August 2019

The Big Apple and starry, starry nights

Drama-filled night time matches have become so synonymous with the US Open that the New York Times calls the tournament the 'slam that never sleeps'. This year it commemorated the city's affection for late night matches with its biggest illustration ever!

If you wake up in New York, the city that never sleeps, one thing you can look forward to at this time of year, is a noisy, potentially raucous night time tennis match at Flushing Meadows. Playing under lights, in front of a post-work, ready-to-relax crowd in Queens, players create a kind of magic in matches that imprints Big Apple energy on an event that never felt the need for Wimbledon’s restraint.

Above, Chris Buzelli's illustration for the New York Times. You can see an interactive version of it on the paper's website here. The story behind the the illustration is revealed on the paper's website here.

“Loud, rambunctious, screaming, wanting more, picking sides, yelling,” is how tennis commentator Ted Robinson described the drama they created says the New York Times. “It was awesome. “There was nothing like it in all of tennis. And it was New York. You had not only to beat the best players, but you had to beat New York.”

This year the paper, which always excels in its coverage of the US Open, commissioned a huge illustration for a special sports section (right). The idea was to show the 10 biggest moments ever played at the Grand Slam under lights and Chris Buzelli, a New York illustrator, drew a constellation with the tennis stars mapped out in the night sky. The result, published this week, is huge (44inches by 19.2 inches) which is apparently the size of a small fridge.

Night time matches were not always a hit. When Borg lost to Connors in the first floodlit final in 1978 his coach, Lennart Bergelin, was furious. “How can you have a championship like this. These lights, so bright and far away, everybody running in and out, the airplanes. This is not a tournament, but a circus, a circus!”

But the lights improved, the fans loved it, and planes were instructed to take what became known as the “Flushing climb” to avoid disturbing the tennis below.

There is a limit for matches in the wee small hours. This year at the Australian Open, Konta and Muguruza finished a match at 3.12am in front of just 250 sleepy heads, and last year Andy Murray was not pleased to conclude a match in Washington at 3.01am. As he said, by the time you have concluded all the post-match recovery, it is about 6am which is hardly good for a world class athlete.

But somewhere between the decorum of daytime and the breaking of dawn there is a happy medium where darkness brings drama and the tennis can shine.

If the US Open makes you feel like getting on court, find a Local Tennis League here

Main image: Unisphere -- Flushing Meadows by Ron Cogswell, NY August 5, 2010 by (CC BY 2.0)