UNIONDALE, N.Y. — The organizers of the newest tennis tournament in the New York area wanted to make a splash.
Strict rules dictate how a pro tournament must be run. The venue, the equipment, the officials and the seeding must meet professional standards, and tour events cannot simply pick and choose the players they want to invite.
But there were a few things organizers of the New York Open could control — the color and surface of the court itself — and their choice is almost completely off the tennis grid: black hardwood.
The gritty, matte surface and white lines make the two courts inside the renovated Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island resemble airport runways, and the owners of the tournament hope the fashionable black look will pique the curiosity of fans.
“We wanted to do something different,” said Josh Ripple, the tournament director. “It’s a new event, in a new place and nobody really knows what to expect. We might as well go for it on Day 1.”
The ATP-sanctioned men’s tournament is making its New York debut after four decades in Memphis, and it is the only tour-level indoor tournament in the United States. Qualifying rounds begin Sunday, and the main draw starts Monday. John Isner, Sam Querrey, Kei Nishikori and Kevin Anderson have committed to compete on the unusual courts, which were manufactured in Germany and carefully laid in place over two days last week.
Normally, hard-surface tennis courts are green or blue. Clay courts can be green or red, though the Madrid Open once tried them in blue. So far natural grass has only one known color, but two weeks of Wimbledon sometimes affect that as well. The New York Open opted for a bold color scheme its organizers say has never been used in a tour event.
Last September, the Laver Cup, an international team exhibition held in Prague, also used black courts manufactured by Haro, the company that built the ones for the New York Open. Ripple said he had been mulling the idea of using a black court for several years, and when he saw one at the exhibition in Prague, he made the decision to install them in New York.
“It looked like they were playing on a Broadway stage,” he said.
There are two perpendicular courts built atop the cement floor of the arena, the former home of the Islanders: a stadium court tucked into one end and a grandstand at the other. The courts are separated by a 26-foot viewing structure; the arena will have room for 6,000 fans.
The slightly larger stadium court is made up of 460 plywood panels that lay atop a half-inch of foam to create a 10,020-square-foot black court. The surfaces of the wood were pre-painted in Germany with about 230 gallons of gritty black paint, and the cost of each court, including shipping (in 56 crates) and installation, is about $140,000.
According to Ripple, the surface is medium to fast, designed to help the top seeds advance into the later rounds. It is common practice for tournaments to customize the court according to its field of players. The amount of grit in the paint determines the speed: the more sand, the slower the surface.
At the New York Open, the first ATP Tour event in the state since the Hamlet Cup in Commack in 2004, a few of the high seeds — Isner, Querrey and Anderson — are big servers who do well with fast courts. But Nishikori, Ripple said, likes it a little slower, so the medium-to-fast finish was chosen.
“That should enable everybody to be competitive while at the same time supporting some of the players we would like to see progress through the course of the week,” Ripple said.
Franz Fasold, the president of Ace Surfaces, which installed the courts, said the wooden courts were used frequently in Europe and provided more cushioning for the players.
The wood itself, with the cement-like paint on top, provides a true bounce of the ball. The foam panels underneath help disperse impact.
In addition to the two courts at the arena, Fasold’s crew installed two more courts at a local club for the players to use for practice.
Jared Donaldson, who practiced on the courts on Friday, said he was 0-4 on wooden courts in European competitions, but none were black.
“It’s cool, it’s unique,” he said. “The ball really stood out against the black. I think it’s good for our sport, not only to have different court surfaces, but also different court colors.”
The biggest challenge for the black courts, Fasold said, is keeping them black. A combination of dust, foot marks and enhanced lighting (the black surface absorbs light) can make them appear to lighten as the tournament goes on.
“By the end of the Laver Cup, they looked more of a charcoal shade than straight black,” Fasold said. “But that is mostly an optical illusion.”
Once the tournament is over, the courts will be dismantled, packed back into the crates that brought them to New York and then sent out on the road again. One of them will be trucked out to San Jose, Calif., for Roger Federer’s charity exhibition match against Jack Sock in March. The other will be used at Madison Square Garden for a women’s one-day tiebreaker event on March 5.
Then it will be dismantled again and carted back to Nassau Coliseum, for storage until next year’s New York Open.
Published at Sat, 10 Feb 2018 17:00:05 +0000