Something was in the air in Flushing Meadows on Monday at the opening day of the U.S. Open.
It was the smell of marijuana, according to one of the top women’s players.
No. 8 seed Maria Sakkari said she smelled something unexpected during her 6-4, 6-4 loss to Rebeka Masarova on Court 17.
“It was weed,” Sakkari said, according to The Associated Press.
Sakkari was leading 4-1 in the first set when she mentioned the odor to the chair umpire during a changeover.
“The smell, oh my gosh,” Sakkari said. “I think it’s from the park.”
Smoking any and all substances is not permitted in New York City parks, including Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. The USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center is located in the park.
But sometimes compliance with those regulations goes to pot.
This is the second time in two Opens that a player has mentioned the odor of cannabis wafting onto the court.
Nick Kyrgios complained to the chair umpire about smelling marijuana during a second-round match at Louis Armstrong Stadium last year.
“People don’t know that I’m a heavy asthmatic, so when I’m running side to side and struggling to breathe already, it’s probably not something I want to be breathing in between points,” Kyrgios said after winning the four-set match.
The chair umpire in Kyrgios’ match made an announcement reminding fans that smoking is not permitted.
Sakkari said she practiced on the same court Sunday and noticed the smell then, but added that it didn’t affect her performance in Monday’s match.
“You don’t really think about it, because all you care is just to win the match,” Sakkari said. “I smelled it, but that was it. Like, it wasn’t something that I paid attention to.”
Most players at the U.S. Open consider dealing with the crowds and noise and traffic of the tournament and the city that hosts it as part of the experience.
“Sometimes you smell food, sometimes you smell cigarettes, sometimes you smell weed,” Sakkari said. “I mean, it’s something we cannot control, because we’re in an open space. There’s a park behind. People can do whatever they want.”
Defending champion Iga Swiatek, who opened the Arthur Ashe Stadium slate with a 6-0, 6-1 victory over Rebecca Peterson, said of playing at the Open: “Every year I feel like I can handle a little bit more. For sure, when I was younger, the amount of people, it was all really overwhelming for me . . . I don’t feel like it’s really hard for me to focus right now, so I really enjoy the noise and the crowd, and it’s giving me a lot of energy. It did, especially last year at the last stages [when] I was pretty tired. Like, maybe the traffic sometimes. Yeah, I don’t like the traffic.”
American Francis Tiafoe got a lift from the Ashe crowd during his 6-2, 7-5, 6-1 victory over Learner Tien.
Even though both competitors are American, the crowd was squarely behind Tiafoe, who made a “pump up the crowd” gesture after winning a point in the final set. At various points during the match, Tiafoe was exhorted to “go, Francis!” by at least one leather-lunged fan in the lower seats.
But it was another fan who caught Tiafoe’s attention. “There was a lady going nuts for me pretty much the whole match today,” he said. “ ‘ Let’s go, ’Fo!’ You would have thought we were family members. She was going nuts . . . It’s cool. That’s what you want, right? She had a great time today. We spoke after and I signed her daughter’s ball. Her daughter’s super-excited, cried when I did it. That stuff matters. It counts.”
Second-seeded Novak Djokovic defeated Alexandre Muller, 6-0, 6-2, 6-3.
Spaniard Roberto Carballes Baena, ranked 63rd, downed fourth-seeded Holger Rune, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, for his first victory over a top-10 player. The 20-year-old Dane reached the quarterfinals of the French Open and Wimbledon to break into the top five.