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Players like black courts for New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum

John McEnroe and Sloane Stephens play against James

John McEnroe and Sloane Stephens play against James Blake and Eugenie Bouchard in an exhibition mixed doubles match during the opening night premiere at the New York Open ATP World Tour Tennis Tournament at NYCB Live's Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2018. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Professional tennis returned to Long Island Monday afternoon, where a bit of history was made.

No records were set in terms of serve speed (though Ivo Karlovic was in action), so perhaps that is still a possibility) Nothing the players themselves did in the first day of action at the New York Open at NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum was necessarily groundbreaking.

Unlike the ground itself.

For the first time ever, a black hardcourt surface was used at an ATP event, a novelty the players seemed to enjoy.

“I liked it a lot because you can see the ball better,” said Karlovic, who topped Jared Donaldson, 6-4, 7-6 (4).

“This is, I think, a lot of people’s first time,” Bjorn Fratangelo said of playing on a black surface. “It’s pretty cool. It’s different. The lines are a little brighter, obviously, [with] white on black.” Fratangelo defeated Alexander Bublik, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) in a qualifier to advance to the main draw.

Hard courts are usually either blue or green, though the team exhibition Laver Cup in Prague also featured a black surface last September.

The New York Open is the first ATP Tour event to be played on Long Island since 2004.

The surface used at the two courts for the event was deconstructed into 425 pieces before being shipped to the Coliseum and applied to the floor, according to the tournament’s website.

Ernesto Escobedo, who beat Christopher Eubanks, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4, in a qualifier, said it was a slow court, which played to his strengths and Fratangelo agreed.

“It’s a gritty, slow, hard court,” Fratangelo said. “It plays really nice and they did a good job laying it down, but it’s definitely a slow court. [There were] a lot of long points, the balls get big and you definitely have to work hard out there.”

Karlovic, who once held the record for the fastest recorded serve in pro tennis, said that while his game lends itself to a faster surface, the environment at the Coliseum offered other advantages.

“It is indoors, which I like. There are no extra distractions like wind or sun,” he said, adding that the surface (which was applied atop foam panels) was easy to move on.

“The first day I was here, you definitely heard it,” Fratangelo said of the panels beneath the surface. “You hear it off the bounce, you hear it when you’re taking steps and running, but after a while, you just forget about it and it’s just the ground. And the bounce is pretty true. No issues.”

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