NEW YORK — Tony Dorson has been going to the U.S. Open for more than 25 years. He never had to wait so long to get to his seat as he did Monday.
Lines that snaked for a quarter mile or more — from the exit point of the No. 7 train to the East entrance of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center — made for delays of up to an hour to get inside the grounds.
All a product of newly installed metal detectors the U.S. Tennis Association is making all ticket-holders pass through this year before entering the grounds.
“Never seen it like this,” said Dorson, who was on hand for the first session of the two-week event. “People are frustrated. For me, it’s worth it, because I love tennis.”
There were wands, bag checks, confusion about being in the right place, cellphones left in pockets and irritated fans. The wait made for an odd scene Monday morning as some of the world’s best players hit the courts with no or few fans, many of them caught on the other side of fences.
The USTA had already limited the size and number of bags fans can bring into the tennis center. It had been considering adding metal detectors even before the Boston Marathon in April, when bombs killed three people near the finish line.
Tournament spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA now has what it calls “airport-type security,” with the metal detectors and the use of wands to check spectators who set off the detectors. Fans won’t need to take off shoes or belts.
Widmaier said fans have voiced their displeasure over the long wait to get in Monday. He said the USTA would continue to ask fans to prepare for delays while also trying to streamline the security process. Gates were scheduled to open a half-hour earlier than usual Tuesday — 9:30 a.m. (EDT) — for matches beginning at 11 a.m.
“Do I still think it will be somewhat delayed? Yes, I do,” Widmaier said. “But given what we saw this morning, we’re going to learn from that and make the process more efficient.”
The U.S. Open will draw upward of 650,000 fans over the two weeks, many of them watching from 23,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest tennis stadium in the world.
AMERICAN BLAKE RETIRES
Wiping away tears, former top-five player James Blake announced he will retire after the U.S. Open.
“No real surprise here. This is my last tournament,” the 33-year-old Blake said at a news conference during the opening day of action at Flushing Meadows.
“I always wanted to end my career at the U.S. Open,” the American said.
Blake, who attended Harvard before turning pro in 1999, reached a career-high ranking of No. 4 in 2006. He is currently 100th and has a 9-13 record this season .
“I don’t kid myself. I know I have had a great career in my eyes, but it’s not one that’s going to go down in the history books,” Blake said.
Blake said his proudest career moment was helping Andy Roddick and the U.S. team beat Russia in the 2007 Davis Cup final.