McEnroe helps U.S. Open’s Armstrong Stadium open for business

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NEW YORK — John McEnroe looked up at a closed roof above Louis Armstrong Stadium, an entirely different view from his playing days.

Minutes later, the roof was open and McEnroe was serving, volleying – and racket throwing – making the U.S. Open’s newest stadium feel like old times.

The rebuilt Armstrong was officially opened Wednesday and will be set for the year’s final Grand Slam tournament starting Monday.

The old No. 1 stadium will seat 14,000 and gives the U.S. Open two retractable-roof stadiums. The roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium has been operational since 2016.

“We’re on our way here,” McEnroe told the crowd during the dedication ceremony, which featured a jazz performance led by Wynton Marsalis as a tribute to Armstrong.

McEnroe, who won all four of his U.S. Open singles titles in the old Armstrong, then joined brother Patrick in a doubles match against fellow Americans Michael Chang and James Blake after the roof had been opened. He dropped his racket to the court in a pretend tantrum after his brother missed a shot.

The new Armstrong completed the final stage of a five-year, $600 million project that remade the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. A new Grandstand had previously opened, and the new stadium sits almost entirely in the footprint for the original Armstrong and Grandstand.

McEnroe, who grew up nearby, didn’t know what would become of Armstrong, which had been the main stadium at the U.S. Open from 1978 until Ashe opened in 1997. McEnroe’s U.S. Open playing career was done by then, so being able to come back to Armstrong was particularly meaningful to him.

“We weren’t sure what was going to happen,” he said, “and finally not only did they put this unbelievable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, but they decided to redesign this facility here, this court and build this … and I know the players are going to be super excited and as a New Yorker and a Queens boy I couldn’t be prouder of this stadium.”

French players get life bans for fixing

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LONDON — Two low-ranked French players were banned from the sport for life after being found guilty of match-fixing by a hearing officer.

Jules Okala, a 25-year-old with a career-best ATP ranking of No. 338, and Mick Lescure, a 29-year-old with a top ranking of No. 487, “admitted multiple charges,” the International Tennis Integrity Agency announced.

Neither player is allowed to compete at – or even attend – any sanctioned event again.

Okala was found guilty of seven match-fixing charges and fined $15,000 in addition to the permanent suspension. Lescure was found guilty of eight charges and fined $40,000 on top of the ban.

The punishments come after both players were involved in law enforcement investigations in France and Belgium, according to the sport’s integrity agency.

Ash Barty wins Australia’s top sports award for second time

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Ash Barty’s Australian Open singles title in January was enough to ensure the former top-ranked player won Australia’s most prestigious annual sports award — despite retiring from the game less than two months later.

Barty has been given The Don Award, named after its most accomplished and famous cricketer Don Bradman.

Barty shocked the tennis world in March when she announced her retirement at the age of 25. The three-time major winner was the No. 1-ranked female player at the time of her retirement decision.

The Sport Australia Hall of Fame’s Don Award is given to an athlete or a team “which has provided the most inspiration to the country through performance and example in the past year.”

Barty (2019, 2022) joins Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sally Pearson (2012, 2014) and Olympic champion pole vaulter Steve Hooker (2008, 2009) as a multiple winner of the award.

Barty said she had decided before the Australian Open started that it would be her last major tournament.

“This year was certainly my most enjoyable Australian Open . . . because it felt free,” Barty said in a television interview. “I played without consequence, I played like a little kid. In my eyes, there was no pressure. It was just about me trying to redeem myself, in a way, and playing how I’d always wanted to play – go out there and play like the kid that fell in love with sport.”

Barty said she has no plans to return to tennis.

“In my mind there was never going to be a perfect ending, but it was my perfect ending,” Barty said of her retirement. “It was never about finishing on a win or on a really high emotional feeling. It was just about collectively, I felt it was right.

“Now (that decision) has led to nine months of just an incredible life off the court. It’s been amazing.”

Barty married her long-time partner Garry Kissick in late July. She also golfs frequently and is reported to be playing off a handicap of low single figures.