NEW YORK –
The US Open is loud. “Insanely loud,” said 2022 semi-finalist Frances Tiafoe.
There are the planes. Trains. The music at the change – they don't play Don Omar and Lucenzo's ‘Danza Kuduro' or Junior Senior's ‘Move Your Feet' on Wimbledon's Center Court like the speakers blared at Coco Gauff's first round win at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Monday night.
And there are the spectators who don't necessarily adhere to the kind of decency that is often associated with tennis. They shout and whistle and applaud and get particularly vocal at Ashe, a 23,000-seat venue that's the largest of all four of the sport's major championships and really helps make the US Open the loudest slam.
“The biggest stadium in our sport, the loudest stadium in our sport,” Novak Djokovic called it after winning there on Monday. “It's the size. It is the echo due to the roof structure. It's all together.”
If there's a big star on the pitch, or if an American is competing, the roar gets loud enough. When it's someone like Gauff who fits both categories, you understand what happened on Monday. They applauded their opponent Laura Siegemund's mistakes and scoffed when she spoke to the referee. As the German's press conference began, Siegemund broke down in tears, saying, “You treated me badly.”
Add in a $150 million retractable roof that seals the space and keeps all the noise in, and have Tiafoe describe what it was like to face eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz at Flushing Meadows a year ago.
“I've never been in such a noisy atmosphere in my life,” said Tiafoe, a 25-year-old from Maryland who is an entertainer at heart and enjoys annoying people in the stands by shaking his fist or with waving the arms . “It was one of the craziest atmospheres I've ever been in. 23,000 people there felt like 23 million. Everyone was just freaking out and everyone was drunk and it was just great.”
US Open fans certainly catch the eye of players more than Wimbledon and French Open fans in particular.
“Oh, they're definitely louder,” said Caroline Garcia, a French player who reached the semifinals in New York in 2022. “In tennis we are used to it being pretty quiet during the points. … Maybe it's because the stadiums are huge here and people are used to watching sports like basketball, baseball or American football where they can chat or shout.” . The culture around it is different.”
That means, in some cases, that 2016 US Open champion Stan Wawrinka stated, “You need to adjust your focus a bit.”
Cell phones are ringing. crying children. Added to this is the occasional crunching of the closed roof or the hum of a ventilation system.
“That's why I would have had problems in this stadium,” said 18-time major singles champion Martina Navratilova about Ashe.
She's won on all surfaces and in all environments throughout her Hall of Fame career, so it's hard to imagine the environment having an impact on her—until she explains the importance of sound to a tennis player.
“First you hear the ball and then you see it. … It helps you follow the ball,” said Navratilova. “If you don't have that sensory input, you're like, ‘Where's the ball?'”
The uproar goes far beyond Ashe.
The planes are still beginning their climb as they depart LaGuardia Airport, less than 5 miles away. The passing subways can be heard, as can the honking of car horns in front of the adjacent Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
It's not possible to get rid of it all – not even the sirens that bothered Nick Kyrgios last year, or the crackling of raindrops that Andy Murray once complained about as it pounded on the closed Ashe roof.
Tennis fans are expected to hold back their applause and shouting until the points are out, but it's hard to ask thousands to be silent – try like referees and repeatedly ask for “silence, please” or admonish how it happened during Gauff's match: “If you could keep your voice down that would be greatly appreciated.”
Navratilova likened it all to trying to compete with headphones that bang the music in your ears.
“You will be lost,” she said.
Or at least confused.
This happened to Aryna Sabalenka during a game last year. As the action continued, she demanded an explanation from the referee after clearly hearing a voice yelling “Out!” at the extreme baseline.
The answer: The person who shouted was not an official. It was a spectator.
When Rennae Stubbs called the game on ESPN, she giggled and issued a warning for the coming two weeks: “Welcome to New York.”