NEW YORK • A US$150 million (S$203 million) high-tech retractable roof for the Arthur Ashe Stadium court looked like money well spent as play went ahead as scheduled on Thursday, despite steady rain at the US Open.
But while fans stayed dry, United States Tennis Association (USTA) officials were showered with complaints about the noise inside the cavernous 23,771-seat facility that left umpires pleading for quiet and players unable to hear the ball coming off their rackets.
Wimbledon and Olympic champion Andy Murray, who has played his opening two matches on the showcase court - one under an open roof, the other closed - said he had noticed a definite rise in noise level but was pleased to have completed his match.
"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," said Murray, following his 6-4, 6-1, 6-4 win over Spain's Marcel Granollers on Thursday.
"It was tough, you couldn't really hear the ball which makes it tricky because we're not used to it.
"But we're lucky to play under the roof, otherwise there wouldn't be any tennis so it's good for everyone."
The new covering, which follows years of rain delays and postponements that often extended the tournament to an extra day, leaves the French Open as the only Grand Slam venue without a retractable roof, which they hope to put in place by 2020.
The Ashe roof, an engineering challenge that took three years to complete, is part of an ongoing US$600 million renovation of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre, which will include a second retractable-roof stadium scheduled to be ready for 2018.
"This is New York," USTA executive director Gordon Smith told reporters, implying that crowds are rowdier than Wimbledon's more intimate setting.
"Yes, there is crowd noise and yes, we want the crowds to come, we want them to be excited.
"We think that, over time, the fans will adjust and the players will adjust. It was obvious there would be more noise in a closed environment than in an open environment."
Some have found the pumped-up volume a serious distraction while others, such as twice US Open champion Rafael Nadal, have described it as music to their ears.
"I didn't feel the difference when the roof was closed and when the roof was open," he said.
" The roof is so high, you don't feel that you are closed. That's my feeling. I didn't feel the change."