Fans packed the US Open on day one

As the first tennis balls were struck in earnest at the US Open on Monday, thousands of frustrated tennis fans waited patiently to enter...

As the first tennis balls were struck in earnest at the US Open on Monday, thousands of frustrated tennis fans waited patiently to enter for the first time in two years, stuck in a human traffic jam that left many of angry and sick people in the hot sun.

When Madison Keys hit her friend Sloane Stephens’ first serve inside Arthur Ashe Stadium shortly after noon, there was hardly anyone to see him. By the time Stephens managed to win, 6-3, 1-6, 7-6 (7), the world’s biggest tennis arena was packed to capacity, but only after fans scoured the backlog to grab hold of the end of a captivating opening encounter.

It was an agonizing way to welcome fans back to the US Open after a year off. But from a tennis perspective, it was a captivating kickoff for the tournament, with a rematch of the 2017 women’s final, which Stephens also won.

“Looks like it was a hundred years ago, not just four,” Keys said. “Yes, the world is obviously a whole different place now when it comes to ordinary life. But also with tennis, a lot has changed.

The biggest change for the 2021 tournament is that the fans are in the stands. They had been excluded from the 2020 tournament due to the coronavirus pandemic. But it took many of them a lot longer to get inside than they expected.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Betty Gruber, a fan from Chelmsford, Mass. “And then they let hundreds of people walk right past us. I’m 82 and there are kids here and people who need to go to the bathroom. It’s very poorly organized.

In the end, it took over two hours to clear the backlog of people trying to get in. Some were lined up at the south gate, joining the back of the queue hundreds of yards beyond the giant globe monument. Some lines of people mingled with others and the flight attendants did their best to control the flow amid the chaos as people complained and sweated in the midday sun.

But once inside, they did everything tennis fans did at the US Open for years, until last year. They walked around the field, spent lavishly on food, and cheered on their favorite players on a hot day that ultimately felt pretty normal to them.

The announced attendance was 53,783 – 30,993 during the day session and 22,790 during the night session.

Nurse practitioner Maria Onuorah, 58, and her two daughters, Jessica and Chelsea, stood in line for over an hour. After getting off the No.7 train, they were immediately greeted by a wall of people, already lined up on the wooden bridge leading to Flushing Meadows Park.

“At least we got to see the last set,” Maria Onuorah said of the Stephens v Keys game. “I’m glad we finally got in because we came all the way from Atlanta to see it. “

One fan, who asked to be identified only as Harry, a software engineer from California, said there were so many people on the bridge from the subway that at one point he started shaking and staring. to balance. He said he saw a handful of people, including his girlfriend, vomit.

“It was total chaos,” he said. “I have been fairly aware of Covid all this time and I haven’t appreciated being packed with all of these people in such close quarters.”

The United States Tennis Association released a statement saying the delay was largely caused by crowds arriving later than in the past, and the slowdown centered on the bag control area.

“Customers have brought in an excessive number of bags this year, all of which need to be searched. This becomes the main bottleneck for entry, ”the USTA statement said.

The USTA added that it was looking for ways to avoid the problem in the coming days. He also said the process of verifying vaccination evidence appeared to be working “smoothly” and had not contributed to the delay. Some fans agreed, but said part of the reason was that the process was not rigorous.

“They were looking at the cards, but they didn’t match the IDs,” said Matt Stapleton, 61, transportation director for the Long Island film industry. He said he waited two hours to enter the park, but once he walked through the gates he said – surprisingly gleefully – that it was worth it.

“He’s always like that,” said his wife, Linda, laughing. “He’s just here to have fun.

Most of the fans moved around without face coverings, but most of the workers wore masks. Originally, the tournament did not include requiring proof of coronavirus vaccination, but after intervention by Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City, tournament organizers changed the rules.

“I’m glad they did,” said Jessica Onuorah, graduate student at Georgia State University. “I’m vaccinated, but I feel a lot safer knowing everyone else is too. “

Things really started to move forward in the afternoon, as they would in a normal year without a pandemic. Food dealers did good deals, fans strolled the main plaza, sat by the fountains, watched games on giant video screens, and crowds of people gathered in the stands like in 2019, and every year for decades ago.

“We missed the people in the crowd,” said 12th-seeded Romanian Simona Halep, who beat Italy’s Camila Giorgi, 6-4, 7-6 (3), in their first round match. on the grandstand court. “You can’t compare the atmosphere. It’s much better. You feel the energy. You feel alive on the court.

And once the day session was over, it all started again at night.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Fans packed the US Open on day one
Fans packed the US Open on day one
Newsrust - US Top News
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