Thursday, February 15, 2018

New York Open - February 13, 2018

After the New York Islanders left Nassau Coliseum for Brooklyn back in 2015, the venerable venue was extensively renovated by its owners, Forest City Enterprises, who also own the Barclays Center. For two years, the coliseum was closed and essentially gutted, with an entirely new facade the most obvious addition.

Compare it to the picture below, taken three years ago. Quite the difference.

The stadium has been rebranded as NYCB Live, home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum (NYCB is New York Community Bank), though is still referred to as the Nassau Coliseum by most fans. It has been hosting the Long Island Nets of the NBA's development league (now known as the G-League after Gatorade in another branding disaster) since November, but I have yet to get out for a game. This week, however, a new tennis tournament came to town, and fellow sports nut Andrew decided to drive up for the occasion. Dubbed the New York Open, this is an ATP 250 tournament, making it the lowest tier of the tour. It had been held in Memphis from 1975-2017, moving this year because a title sponsor could not be found down in Tennessee. It remains the only indoor hard court tournament in the country. For this tournament, 28 singles players and 16 doubles teams would contest the two titles.

Andrew, a Philly resident and bandwagon Eagles fan (note the hat), picked me up at Hempstead and we headed over to Uniondale. There were no scalpers so we picked up tickets for the day session at the box office for $22 and wandered in.

Few fans joined us for the day session of the first round of the tournament, not surprising given that there were no big names scheduled to play, unless you count Jeremy Chardy. We did a quick walk around the empty concourse, and I spotted a cool photo from the 1976 ABA championship, won by the Nets.

Of course, the building has a lot of history and those Nets banners are still hanging, while the Islanders ones have yet to return from Barclays Center. I suspect a new set will be created in time for next season, when the Isles will play 13 games here (as well as 48 total games in the two seasons following).

The entire seating bowl has been replaced and capacity has been reduced to 13,000 for hockey, likely a testament to how fans have gotten bigger over the past 50 years. The renovations are really quite nice and although the venue is still small when compared to newer stadiums, it will be a great experience when the Islanders play here, without a bad seat in the building.

For tennis, there are two courts dubbed stadium (above) and grandstand (below). Seats are only sold for the stadium area and ushers were there to protect their turf - mainly to prevent fans from going to their seats during play. At the grandstand, it was free seating, though few fans cared enough for these secondary matches. Andrew and I tried both, and I realized that I prefer to sit behind the court rather than beside it as you can see the movement of the shots so much better.

We saw three matches while we were there, with #7 seed Steve Johnson (USA, ranked 49th in the world) losing to qualifier Adrián Menéndez Maceiras (Spain, 128th) in the big upset. Johnson had at least 5 match points, including being up 6-3 in the third set tiebreak, only to lose. Menéndez Maceiras went on to defeat Chardy (France, 95th) in the next round. We also saw Radu Albot (Moldova, 91st) knock off Bjorn Fratangelo (USA, 109th) on the grandstand, and later Peter Gojowczyk (Germany, 63rd) beat Slovenian Blaž Kavčič (108th) in straight sets. We left midway through Chardy's match with Stefano Travaglia (Italy, 132nd), which Chardy won in 3 sets.

Unless you are a tennis nut, you have probably not heard of many of these players. To be fair, there are some big names in the draw, but the top four seeds (Kevin Anderson (11th ranked), Sam Querrey (12th), John Isner (18th), Adrian Mannaniro (25th)) had received byes to the second round on Wednesday, while 5th seed Kei Nishikori (who has fallen to 27th after injuries) played that night. Our day session ticket would have allowed us to remain in the venue for the night session, but it wasn't worth hanging around for 3 more hours.

Still, it is interesting how those outside the top names receive little respect. In team sports, being the 100th best in the world means a multi-million dollar contract and adulation. In tennis, it means you are sentenced to play on the smaller court in front of ten fans, and you can only hope for lifetime earnings of a million. What I enjoyed most about this experience was seeing how those players are incredibly talented and often make fantastic shots, but their inconsistency dooms them. The line between good and great in tennis is very thin, but also very hard to cross. If you have a chance to see a smaller tournament, do so as you will enjoy the sport without having to fight the crowds.


They did a good job seeding as Andersen won the tournament, defeating Querrey in the final in a third-set tiebreak.

Next Up

I'm taking a day trip to Philadelphia next weekend for a college hoops doubleheader as Drexel and Penn, two schools within minutes of each other, host games just 3 hours apart. Check back after that for a recap.



1 comment:

  1. Woah, this was actually really interesting. Some big names there in the top four seeds, crazy to think they are grinding out these tournaments which you won't hear of in much of the media. Awesome stuff as always.