NEW YORK — Andy Murray said on Thursday the noise created by the U.S. Open’s new retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is a distraction to players and makes it difficult to react to opponents’ shots.
But the British second seed managed to shut out the noise and Spain’s Marcel Granollers during a 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 second-round victory played while rain beat down on the closed roof and crowd noise reverberated inside.
The Wimbledon and Olympic champion ground down the world number 45 in a match involving numerous lung-busting rallies and played under a cacophony of sound with the $150 million roof closed from the start.
“It’s because we use our ears when we play,” Murray said, explaining the difficulty. “It’s not just the eyes. It helps us pick up the speed of the ball, the spin that’s on the ball, how hard someone’s hitting it.
“If we played with our ears covered or with headphones on, it would be a big advantage if your opponent wasn’t wearing them.”
At times, the players could barely hear the ball off their strings and the rain hammering on the roof was almost deafening but Murray kept calm to clinch a convincing victory.
“At first we didn’t know if there was just more people come in at the change of ends, but then we quickly realised it was the rain,” Murray said.
But the Scot, chasing his fourth grand slam title, said players will cope with the extra noise.
“As an athlete, that’s what you do. We adjust to conditions, different conditions every week,” said Murray.
“I’m sure if the feedback is that the TV or the spectators aren’t enjoying the match as much then they will look into it and try and change it.
“But if it’s fine on TV, which from what I have heard it is, I don’t know what the fans have said about it yet, but the players will adjust.”
Murray led 5-2 in the first set only for Granollers to hit back but the Scot won a game lasting more than 10 minutes to break and clinch it on his seventh set point.
After breaking for 3-1 in the second set, Murray pulled away to double his lead and he broke in the ninth game of the third to earn victory.
Murray, the champion in 2012 and chasing a fourth grand slam title, will now play either 30th seed Gilles Simon or unseeded Italian Paolo Lorenzi.
In women’s action, sixth-seeded Venus Williams stayed on track for a possible semifinals clash with sister Serena by sprinting past German Julia Goerges to reach the third round.
Williams, 36, relied on her big serve when pressed in posting a 6-2, 6-3 victory under the roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium, turning away four of five break points held by the 64th-ranked Goerges.
Williams, the U.S. Open winner of 2000 and 2001, was runner-up to top seed Martina Hingis as an unseeded player in the inaugural year of Ashe Stadium and 19 years later finished the first U.S. Open day session played entirely under a roof.
“1997 was a long time ago,” Williams said on court after her victory. “I’m so grateful to be here still playing, still winning matches and I can’t wait for the next round.”
In an evening match, after 17 trips to Flushing Meadows and six U.S. Open titles Serena Williams did something on Thursday she had never done before — win a match indoors.
With the new high-tech retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium slammed shut because of persistent rain, Williams swept past American compatriot Vania King 6-3, 6-3 in a tidy 65 minutes to ease into the third round.
“It was a little different playing with Ashe closed but it still feels great,” said Williams.
Indoors or outdoors, night or day, rain or shine, it has made little difference to Williams at the U.S. Open, the 34-year-old having now racked up 86 victories at Flushing Meadows.
Williams’s victory against an overmatched King may have been one of her easiest, the world number one in complete control from the outset, looking like a champion who never had to shift out of first gear.
Williams arrived at the year’s final grand slam with concerns swirling around a sore shoulder that hampered her at the Rio Olympics and forced her to pull out of a tournament in Cincinnati.
But she put any doubts about her fitness to rest, blasting 13 aces past King while hitting 38 winners to just four by her opponent.
Romanian fifth seed Simona Halep also advanced to the third round with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Lucie Safarova on in the first full match played under a closed roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The $150 million retractable roof was installed ahead of this year’s tournament and guaranteed there would be at least some action on a muggy and overcast Day Four at the year’s final grand slam.
“It was a little bit (of an adjustment),” Halep said about playing under the roof. “But I had the chance to warm up in the morning before the match.
“I don’t want to say anything bad because it wasn’t bad. Had a nice feeling.
“It was a great experience to be there. I didn’t have to wait for the rain, so that’s a good thing.”
The roof, which has been a huge source of fascination for the Flushing Meadows crowds, was first used on Wednesday when it was put into action in the middle of Rafa Nadal’s second-round victory over Andreas Seppi.
On a midweek morning session with the roof closed and a sparse crowd sprinkled through the massive stadium, Arthur Ashe had a vacuous, sterile atmosphere.
But more importantly, with rain delaying action on the other courts, play went ahead as scheduled on the main court where Halep needed 88 minutes to dismiss an error-prone Safarova, a two-time grand slam doubles champion, who committed a whopping 44 unforced errors.
Safarova, who last year reached a career-high number five in the world rankings, represented a tricky second round test for Halep, who wildly flailed her racquet during a first set temper tantrum at 3-3 before going on to break the Czech.
“I lost a little bit the rhythm,” explained Halep. “But in the important moments I found the rhythm. I found the way that I have to hit.
“Always it’s a good match against her. Gives me confidence that I can beat her.”
Halep will play either Hungary’s Timea Babos or Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands in the third round.