Play Matches Celebratory Mood at US Open New Complex Stars along with the Top Seeds and Fresh Faces in Tournament's First Week

By Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, September 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

Play Matches Celebratory Mood at US Open New Complex Stars along with the Top Seeds and Fresh Faces in Tournament's First Week


Ross Atkin, writer of The Christian Science Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


The star during the early going of this year's United States Open tennis tournament neither fired service aces, dinked drop shots, nor even swung a racket. No, stealing the limelight was the place where two weeks of laser shotmaking takes place - the new, improved, and expanded National Tennis Center.

What 19 years ago started as a 21-acre complex thrown up in Flushing Meadows near the end of a Queens-bound New York subway now is more than twice as big. A plane approaching nearby LaGuardia Airport could probably make an emergency landing on the vast plazas included in the new layout, which was a hit with most everyone, players and fans alike, although some fans were a little skeptical of their high-altitude seats in wonderfully named Arthur Ashe Stadium.

But, hey, this is New York, and if any city should have a tennis skyline, NYC should. And at least for this year, the center actually owns twin towers in side-by-side Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium, the high-rising old show court next door.

As for the tournament's tennis-playing towers, top-seeded Pete Sampras and Martina Hingis stood tall through the first week. At press time, they were still on board the Championship Express, heading for their third Grand Slam titles of the year. Each won the Australian Open and Wimbledon, and neither has encountered much resistance here. Sampras waltzed by two qualifiers to open his title defense. Hingis, meanwhile, began her quest for a first US title by beating pregnant opponent Tami Jones, then joked about facing two players across the net.

Barring a major upset, Sampras should have no trouble reaching Sunday's men's final, where in a best-case scenario his opponent would either be second-seeded Michael Chang or unseeded Andre Agassi, who has come to life at the end of an otherwise miserable year littered with first-round losses.

Agassi won the Open in 1994 and still was at the height of his game when Sampras beat him in the 1995 final. "It was one of the few times I really felt the electricity from the crowd and the media," Sampras recalls. "One thing tennis needs right now is a rivalry. ... Andre and I had it for a little bit a couple of years ago and that really helped out the game."

One player viewed as a potential challenger to Sampras's domination of men's tennis is Russian Yevgeny Kafelnikov, who withdrew from last year's US Open to protest his lower-than-anticipated seeding. …

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