The inaugural New York Open, held just down the road at the Nassau Coliseum, was billed as a “return to New York” for tennis fans who have long been stuck shelling out large sums of money to see live tennis matches at the U.S Open. Even a well-behaved fan will walk away at least a few hundred dollars lighter after making the trip to Flushing each September so it was with great delight that I heard about a second Open coming to Long Island. I was even more excited to hear that I could get into the event for 40 dollars and have a seat where the players didn’t appear to be ants.
Prior to the New York Open there hadn’t been an Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) tennis tour event in New York since the Hamlet Cup was played in Commack up until 2004. In visiting the New York Open at Nassau Coliseum I was lucky enough to have tickets to the final match and I was impressed by the arena and the quality of play.
The first thing I noticed was that the court itself was black which I didn’t think much of until I heard a lot of chatter in the crowd about the subject. It is in fact the first ATP event to utilize a black court and served as a cool talking point for the crowd of around 3,000 people on Sunday afternoon.
The event also featured an observation deck referred to as “The Overlook,” and a lounge located right behind the baseline which offered a premium view of the action and also enabled guests to have drinks and food ordered to their seats. The other premium seating area was located courtside directly behind the player’s chairs and featured reclining chairs and tables for each guest.
I had the chance to speak with a few staff members who all said that prior to the final they had not seen more than 1,500 to 2,000 people at any of the matches which is alarmingly low for those invested in the tournament sticking around. This attendance issue could be attributed to a lack of marketing as there was very little fanfare on radio or in print in regards to the tournament.
This issue should correct itself next year as the quality of the draw was very high for a tournament not worth a large amount, in terms of ranking. The NY Open is a 250-level ATP event meaning the winner earns 250 points towards their ranking. This would be the equivalent of making it to the Round of 16 in a Grand Slam event.
The final featured Kevin Anderson of South Africa and Sam Querrey of the United States- two guys who you would have thought were long lost brothers as they play the exact same style. Both players feature huge serves that routinely went above 125 miles per hour along with penetrating groundstrokes meant to end points early and punish weaker opponents from the baseline.
Anderson came into the tournament ranked 11th in the world while Sam Querrey entered the tournament ranked 12th. The match started out in a manner no one suspected as Anderson was able to secure a break in the second game of the match after Querrey donated a few points with some weak second serves.
Later in the set Querrey was able to break back when Anderson returned the favor and made some very poor errors on the forehand side. The rest of the set went pretty routinely until the seventh game where a bit of controversy unfolded. With Anderson serving down 30-40, he appeared to hit a serve that resulted in an unreturned ball from Querrey to level the game but the chair umpire overruled the call as he indicated that the ball had hit the net and would need to be reserved (this is called a “Let” in tennis). Anderson seemed visibly annoyed at this call as myself and others around me agreed that the ball didn’t appear to hit the net and no sound could be heard to indicate it had.
Upon restarting play, Anderson missed his first serve and had to play a more conservative second serve. Querrey pounced on this softer second effort by hitting a rocket of a forehand which forced Anderson to make an error, giving Querrey all he needed to take the first set 6-4.
The wheels came off in the second set for Querrey though, as Anderson applied more pressure on the return of serve. This resulted in Anderson dictating the action for the entire set, which he easily won 6-3. The split of the first two sets set up a third set for the championship and both players gave the crowd what they wanted in playing a great set of tennis. Both players seemed to remember who they were in the third set as neither player allowed a break of serve.
The biggest chance of the set came in the sixth game with Querrey ahead 3-2 and Anderson serving at 15-30. After missing his first serve he cooked up a highly imaginative second serve that had so much spin on it that it resulted in an ace as it just clipped the outside of the line and killed the momentum Querrey had been gaining in the game.
As the match approached two hours both players were showing signs of fatigue, with Querrey more so looking to end points early with absolute bombs on the serve and risky yet powerful ground strokes. This approach was able to bring the set to a tiebreak, but that was the end of the line for Querrey.
The tiebreak quickly got out of hand with Anderson going up 6-0 and Querrey absolutely destroying his racquet out of frustration for letting this match slip away. Often times we see players get angry for the wrong reasons but I can understand why Querrey felt so angry.
He had played a fine match versus a player he can’t help but feel he can and should beat. Anderson is simply a more consistent version of himself and unlike many players on the tour, Querrey did not have a power advantage against Anderson.
Querrey has long relied on overpowering his opponents and his lack of technical ability both on the ground and at net is something that is apparent when matching him play. Anderson was likely aware that he was more fit then Querrey and he grinded out a well-deserved win in just over two hours of match play.
Both players fought hard and gave the fans a highly enjoyable evening of tennis. If the New York Open can continue to draw big names into the tournament like Kevin Anderson and Sam Querrey then I believe this event will become a fixture on the ATP tour.