The US Open is loud. “Insane loud,” 2022 semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe called it.
There are the planes. The trains. The music at changeovers — they don’t play Danza Kuduro by Don Omar and Lucenzo or Move Your Feet by Junior Senior at Wimbledon’s Centre Court, the way the speakers blared during Coco Gauff’s first-round victory at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.
And, there are the spectators, who do not necessarily adhere to the sort of decorum often associated with tennis. They yell and whistle and applaud and get especially rowdy at Ashe, a 23,000-capacity venue.
“The biggest stadium in our sport, the loudest stadium in our sport,” Novak Djokovic called it after winning his match on Monday. “It’s the size. It’s the echo because of the roof construction. It’s everything combined.” Djokovic has three US Open titles but has lost six finals as well.
A US$150 million retractable roof seals the place and keeps all of that sound inside. “It was one of the craziest atmospheres I’ve ever been in. Like, 23,000 people in there felt like 23 million,” said Tiafoe, describing what it was like to face eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz at Flushing Meadows a year ago.
The fans at the US Open are definitely more noticeable to players than those at Wimbledon and the French Open, in particular.
“Oh, they’re noisier, for sure,” said Caroline Garcia, a French player who reached the 2022 semi-finals in New York. “In tennis, we are used to it being pretty quiet during the points. ... Maybe it’s because people are used to going to watch sports like basketball, baseball or American football, where they can chat or shout. The culture around it is different.”
There are ringing cellphones. Crying children. Then throw in the occasional grinding of the roof being closed or the humming of an air ventilation system.
“That’s why I would have struggled in this stadium,” 18-time major singles champion Martina Navratilova said about Ashe.
The ruckus extends well beyond Ashe. Planes are early in their climb, as they depart LaGuardia Airport less than eight kilometres away. Passing subway trains can be heard, as can honking car horns outside adjacent Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
Current second seed Aryna Sabalenka had, during a match last year, demanded an explanation from the chair umpire when action continued after she clearly heard a voice scream “Out!” at the far baseline.
The answer: The person yelling out wasn’t an official. It was a spectator.
Calling the match on ESPN, Rennae Stubbs chuckled and delivered what could be a warning for the two weeks ahead: “Welcome to New York.”