US Open stars lie low as Hurricane Irene approaches

As Hurricane Irene barrelled up the US East Coast on Saturday, top tennis players preparing for Monday's start of the US Open took the expected arrival of the storm in their stride.

Updated: August 28, 2011 10:18 IST
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New York: As Hurricane Irene barrelled up the US East Coast on Saturday, top tennis players preparing for Monday's start of the US Open took the expected arrival of the storm in their stride.

Officials at the final Grand Slam of the season had already taken the precaution of cancelling Saturday's Arthur Ashe Kids' Day festivities, preferring not to draw thousands of people to the National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows on a day when residents of low-lying areas of the New York area have been instructed to evacuate.

The center, with its 20,000-seat Arthur Ashe stadium court, outer courts and training facilities, was to be closed on Sunday, when the fury of the storm was expected to peak in the area.

A few players hustled through an abbreviated schedule of pre-tournament Media Day interviews, while others, including world number one Novak Djokovic and American Serena Williams, opted not to make the trip to the facility in New York's borough of Queens.

"I kind of usually always take a break anyway shortly before the tournament," said world number three Roger Federer of Switzerland, who said he would have planned to wrap up his practice on Saturday in any case.

"I won't be playing tomorrow. I'm not even going to try to. It wasn't on the plan anyway to do so.

"But sure it's somewhat scary, because we don't know how hard it's going to hit us. I've got family. We're in New York City. It's not just a regular city. It's quite something with all the buildings.

"So it's unusual, but we'll follow the news closely and we'll try to stay as safe as we can so we get through it."

Scotland's world number four Andy Murray scrambled to find indoor practice courts - and stood in line at a supermaket to stock up on provisions.

"I think people are right to be pretty cautious about it," Murray said. "We don't see weather like this from the UK. I think we just have to wait and see what it's like, because I have no idea what to expect.

"We had to go and get stuff from the supermarket for the room in case, well loads of places are going to be closed. There was a 2 1/2-hour queue at the supermarket, so everyone's taking it pretty seriously."

Former US Open champion Maria Sharapova, thought the fuss was overblown.

"Well, I'm a Florida girl so I'm used to this stuff," said the Russian, who is a longtime resident of Florida. "I think everyone's a bit overreacting about everything, but of course you have to take precaution and all that.

"But, I mean, where are we going to go? So I just hope that our hotel is nice and tough and sturdy. That's all we can do, right?"

Sharapova said she wasn't sure if the impending storm had affected the famous hustle and bustle of New York City.

"So I'm not really sure if everyone was sleeping in in New York on a Saturday morning or if it's the hurricane effect, but it was pretty quiet," she said.

Despite the disruptions, including the closure of New York-area airports and public transportation, officials expected the event to begin as scheduled on Monday.

They had done some battening down, securing benches and similar items in anticipation of high winds, and they raced to complete qualifying matches on Friday.

Irene, packing sustained winds of 85 miles (140 kilometers) an hour, blasted ashore in North Carolina on Saturday, a weakened but still massive category one storm that was heading north.

At least two people were killed in storm-related incidents, officials said, and torrential rains and high winds shut down major highways and airports and left 300,000 people without power in eastern North Carolina.

Top American Mardy Fish, who also lived for years in Florida where tropical storms are more common, said the prospect of seeing a hurricane in New York was "pretty surreal".

"Obviously, it doesn't happen a lot," said Fish, whose biggest concern so far was that he had a hard time finding an open coffee shop.

He said his Californian wife, Stacey, "is a little freaked out about it".

"Stacey went to shop quite a bit last night, got a bunch of magazines and flashlights," Fish said. "She's preparing for Armageddon, I think."

Defending men's champion Rafael Nadal of Spain said he didn't know what to expect but would just take things easy on Sunday.

"I don't know what's going on," Nadal said. "Nobody knows exactly what's going on, no?

"But having the club closed, all the places in Manhattan will be closed. Just stay in the hotel, maybe watch some films."

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  • Tennis
  • Stanislas Wawrinka
  • Bernard Tomic
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  • Rafael Nadal
  • Andy Murray
  • Sania Mirza
  • Maria Sharapova
  • Tiger Woods
  • US Open 2011

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