U.S. Open building second roofed stadium

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NEW YORK — The old No. 1 stadium at the U.S. Open is about to be replaced by a better-than-ever No. 2.

Louis Armstrong Stadium hosted two decades of championship tennis, memorable matches on the court that often hid its inadequacies off it.

Rain would send spectators scattering, fleeing onto crowded concourses and toward cramped restrooms.

Not anymore.

When the new Armstrong opens for play in August at the U.S. Open’s 50th anniversary, complete for the first time with both a day and night session, the U.S. Tennis Association believes its second stadium will be second to none.

Topped by a retractable roof, it’s the final stage of a five-year, $600 million project that remade the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, all without ever interfering with the tournament.

And as USTA officials showed off the progress of the stadium Thursday under rainy skies that were forecast to last into the weekend, it was comforting to know they now had two places where they could keep the action going if faced with the same weather in late summer.

“Now with two stadiums with roofs, you know that if you’ve got a ticket to the U.S. Open, you’re going to see tennis, regardless of the weather conditions,” USTA President Katrina Adams said.

The roof over the main Arthur Ashe Stadium has been operational since 2016, the middle of a transformation that included a new Grandstand stadium and additional seats on outer courts.

Work began on the new Armstrong following that tournament. A temporary, 8,500-seat Armstrong was constructed for last year’s event while work continued on the new $200 million Armstrong that will seat 14,000 and stands about 95 percent completed.

It will be the first naturally ventilated stadium of its kind with a retractable roof, as openings at the north and south end allow outside air to flow through even when the roof is closed, which will take less than five minutes. Usually, some form of air conditioning is needed to cool a stadium when the roof isn’t open.

The stadium fits almost entirely in the footprint for the original Armstrong and Grandstand, which was constructed where the Singer Bowl was built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. The U.S. Open would move there for the 1978 tournament and Armstrong would remain the main stadium until Ashe opened in 1997.

“For 40 years we made great use of that stadium. The magic on court and history and what went on has always been spectacular but quite frankly the fan experience was maybe subpar at best,” said Danny Zausner, the chief operating officer of the National Tennis Center. “They were so lost in the action on the court they never really recognized that those bathrooms were built for the `64 World’s Fair.”

The new restrooms and concession stands will be four times bigger, and fans will be able to see the action on the court from the expanded concourses. The seating capacity that was 10,500 in Armstrong’s final years will increase, with 6,600 reserved seats in the lower bowl and 7,400 general admission ones upstairs.

“We’ve got so much more open space, so the days of seeing maybe 500 people standing in line outside to try to get into the stadium should hopefully go away, because we have that many more seats,” Zausner said.

The Armstrong schedule will feature three day-session matches for the first nine days of the year’s final Grand Slam tournament, and a night session with two matches for the first six days. And the best part for those ticket holders, as with the ones who had Ashe seats for the last two years, is they are going to see tennis.

“For this year’s U.S. Open, we can guarantee up to 40,000 fans that if we were to get rain – hopefully we won’t, but if we do – that between these two stadiums 40,000 people will be able to watch tennis uninterrupted,” Zausner said.

Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov give Canada 1st Davis Cup title

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MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell to his back behind the baseline, then waited for teammates to race off Canada’s bench and pile on top of him.

A few minutes later, the Canadians finally could lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of us all here, we’ve dreamt of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time, beating Australia behind victories from Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he downed Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by rolling past Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the top of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates finally got to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is just so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had dropped both his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set loss in the semifinals to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the left-hander moved quickly around the court, setting up angles to put away winners while racing to a 4-0 lead in the first set.

Auger-Aliassime then finished off his superb second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. He twice had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov dropped the opening singles match, and he replaced his weary teammate to join Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wouldn’t even be necessary. After his teammates poured onto the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced around in a circle.

Canada had reached the final only once, falling to host Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov for the clinching point after Auger-Aliassime had lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime having since surged up the rankings to his current spot at No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and finally added the Davis Cup crown to the junior Davis Cup title Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led them to in 2015.

Australia was trying for its 29th title and first since current captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But it was finally time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card into the field when Russia was suspended because of its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we get the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and prove that we can do it.”

But Canada will be tough to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both already have been Grand Slam semifinalists and Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the hottest players on the ATP Tour. He won all of his four titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz in the previous Davis Cup stage in September, just after the Spaniard had won the U.S. Open to rise to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians into the quarterfinals, which they started this week by edging Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today – well not after the last couple of years,” said Pospisil, the team veteran at 32. “They’ve been crushing it.”

Australia beats Croatia 2-1 to reach Davis Cup final

Day Four - Davis Cup Finals 2022
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MALAGA, Spain – Australia had to fight back twice to reach its first Davis Cup final in 19 years after beating Croatia 2-1.

Lleyton Hewitt’s team recovered from losing the first singles. Then the Australian doubles pair battled back from a set down in the decider.

Australia won its 28th and last title in 2003. It has finally got back to the final.

“I am so proud. Australia has a really rich history in this competition,” said Hewitt, who played a record 43 Davis Cup ties for Australia from 1999-2018.

“We have been fortunate to win it all on a number of occasions a long time ago. And I know what it meant to me as a player to play a final, and I am glad these guys can play it.”

Borna Coric put Croatia ahead by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-4, 6-3, but Alex de Minaur leveled after defeating Marin Cilic 6-2, 6-2 to send it to the doubles.

Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell then secured the semifinal win against Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic by 6-7 (3), 7-5, 6-4.

“This is what this team is about, that never-say-die attitude,” De Minaur said.

Canada will face Italy on Saturday in the other semifinal.

In the opener, Kokkinakis struck 11 aces, but Coric was able to break him once in each set.

“On my serve, I felt like it was an ace or he put it back on my toes,” Kokkinakis said.

Cilic, who was on the Croatia team that won the title in 2018, committed 10 double faults. That erratic serve helped De Minaur break Cilic four times and level his head-to-head record with the former U.S Open winner at two wins each.

Thompson and Purcell bettered the more experienced pair of Mektic and Pavic, both ranked in the top 10 in doubles. Thompson and Purcell combined for 13 aces, broke the Croats twice, and never dropped a service game to come back after losing the first-set tiebreaker.

Two-time winner Croatia was the runner-up last year.

“It proved too difficult on the court today,” Cilic said. “(But) for us it has been a great year again after the finals last year to reach the semis.”

The final is on Sunday on the indoor court in Malaga.