Round 1. Williams def Ahn

Match Recap from Announcer Andy Taylor, Voice of the US Open

Serena Williams advances to Round-2

Since 1998, every thread of Serena Williams’ character has been on full display in this modern-day “Coliseum” that is Arthur Ashe Stadium. Here, she captured her first Major at just 17-years-old. Over the decades, she reached 9 more US Open Finals, hoisted the trophy an additional five times, and amassed 23 Grand Slam singles titles in all. There’s been exuberance, tears, jeers, controversy, comedy, raw vulnerability, and indisputable authenticity.

This stadium, this New York experience, has always been a reflection of who she is at that moment in time. Fans have filled Arthur’s House to experience her talent – to be part of her character’s growth. That said, never has this structural piece of her evolution felt more empty. Literally — thanks to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

This year, the Coliseum is a Museum. Legends like Serena are simply on display, only to be admired through glass. Or in this case, through the lens.

New York fans and their filterless expectation have forever run parallel to the lofty, near unrealistic expectation Serena has of herself. Understandably, perhaps she wonders if she needs – and ultimately succeeds – because of that additional push?

After all, finding her rhythm during tennis’ fan-less return hasn’t been easy. In Lexington, she fell to Shelby Rogers in the Quarterfinals. Last week, she self-destructed in the 3rd-Round of the Western & Southern Open – losing to Maria Sakkari after being up a set and a break.

The good news? Tonight, Serena faced an opponent who had nothing to lose. Kristie Ahn made a remarkable run to the US Open Round of 16 last year with wins over Grand Slam champions like Svetlana Kuznetsova and Jelena Ostapenko. Yet, despite dropping serve in game-1 of both sets, Serena corrected course and confidently crumbled a free-swinging opponent in two. All five of her previous fan-free matches went the distance. That’s a good sign for Team Serena.

Now that she’s back in Arthur Ashe Stadium – with this year’s creaks, echoes and awkward silence – maybe she can answer that nagging question hanging over the sport’s return: Just how critical are fans to her ultimate success?

Announcer Andy Taylor. 2020 US Open. Round 1 Serena Williams Match Recap

Head to Head: First meeting between these two players

Announcer Andy Taylor. 2020 US Open. Round 1 Serena Williams Head to Head

[3] Serena Williams -08- (USA) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction

She captured her first Grand Slam title here in Arthur Ashe Stadium as 17-years-old. Today, she owns 23 Majors and 4 Olympic Gold Medals. From Palm Beach Gardens, Florida – Six-time US Open Champion Serena Williams.

  • R1 — W | Kristie Ahn -96- (USA) | Score: 7-5, 6-3
Kristie Ahn -96- (USA) | Round-1 Announcer Introduction

At last year’s US Open, as a Wild Card, she made a breakthrough Grand Slam run, reaching the 4th-Round of a Major for the first time. From New Jersey, born in Flushing Hospital right here in Queens – Kristie Ahn.

  • R1 — L | [3] Serena Williams -08- (USA) | Score: 5-7, 3-6

A New Reality | 2020 US Open Tennis Championships

In late February and early March, announcer Andy Taylor compèred two of the final professional tennis events before the global coronavirus pandemic put the skids on the 2020 season. In Doha, he hosted Aryna Sabalenka’s relentless run to the Qatar Total Open title. Then in Honolulu, he emceed Team USA’s Davis Cup Qualifier victory over Uzbekistan. Including Bob and Mike Bryan’s final professional match.

As U.S. coronavirus cases continued to mount, the day following Team USA’s 4-0 victory, all professional sports came to a grinding halt. Over the next five months, as Americans were asked to stay home and “socially distance,” nearly 6-million contracted the illness. Tragically, over 180-thousand perished. Worldwide, COVID-19 killed over 840-thousand and sickened 25-million (at the time of this writing).

New York hosts the resumption of the 2020 tennis season

Early on, New York City was the epicenter of COVID’s outbreak. The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center became prime real estate for New York’s coordinated pandemic response. Additionally, the state used Louis Armstrong Stadium as a warehouse to pack meals for patients, front-line workers and students dependent on the city’s school lunch program.

In late July, after New York “flattened the curve,” Governor Cuomo green-lighted the USTA’s plans to resume the 2020 tennis season in Flushing. Without fans. Without qualifying. Rather, the Western & Southern Open was moved from Cincinnati to the grounds of the US Open. Furthermore, the USTA implemented strict COVID-19 testing policies. It limited the number in each player’s entourage. Additionally, it created a protective “Bubble” for all tournament participants at nearby hotels and on-site.

Andy Taylor | 19th US Open Tennis Championships

After a five month pause, with the coronavirus “politicized” and still spreading unchecked through portions of the population, Andy was hesitant when asked to be a part of the sport’s return. However, after carefully considering the USTA’s extensive health and safety protocols, he soon realized the US Open could in fact be one of the safest environments to avoid COVID’s spread.

Masks are mandatory. For crew, testing occurs every fourth day. To ensure best broadcast quality, the USTA understood that Arthur Ashe Stadium’s announcer would need to work without a mask. Therefore, they isolated Andy in his own booth. Thus, keeping production team members free from aerosols emitted during player introductions.

Rather than fly, Andy drove to Flushing. He uses his own vehicle to shuttle back and forth from the hotel to the venue, which limits his exposure to others. Additionally, this allowed Andy to bring his own hot plate and coffee machine, completely eliminating the need for others to bring him meals and supplies. Essentially, the Voice of the US Open is working from a bubble within “The Bubble.” Responsibly limiting contact with colleagues and players as much as humanly possible.

A new Grand Slam Global Pandemic Presentation

With the global emphasis on social distancing to avoid further outbreaks of COVID-19, the world of sport production is reinventing “the show” by harnessing new technologies that have emerged over the past decade. As always, the core goal is to meet fans where they are.

In other words, with fans exclusively watching on television – or on-the-go through mobile devices – the 2020 US Open “stadium show” is now geared toward the camera, rather than the ticket holder. This year, Andy and the stadium production team are working closely with ESPN to integrate the broadcast and stadium presentations. Instead of narrating player introductions exclusively for fans on site, intros and all aspects of the stadium show are now part of the broadcast product streamed to fans worldwide.

The true creator is necessity, who is the mother of our invention.

Jowett | English translation of Plato’s “Republic”

Live sport presentation is a brave new world. Through perseverance and bold experimentation, the US Open continues to innovate; determined to feed each tennis fan’s hunger after five months of the world’s new and humbling collective-reality.