Next week thousands of tennis fans will take the No. 7 subway line from midtown Manhattan to Corona Park for the US Open. Along the way, as the train squeaks and creaks its way aboveground, they’ll see the rapidly transforming neighborhoods of western Queens, where a new glass tower seems to rise up each week.
This week considerably fewer fans will take a different line from midtown, the No. 5, to see a slightly smaller event in Crotona—not to be confused with Corona—Park. The NYJTL Bronx Open is a brand-new WTA tune-up tournament taking place at the Cary Leeds Center for Tennis and Learning. If you miss the old Queens in all of its low-slung, concrete, graffiti-filled glory, this trip through and above The Bronx might be for you.
And it will be worth it, because the Cary Leeds Center, a sparkling silver gem of a facility that was opened in 2017, is worth seeing all by itself. And so is the tennis, despite the fact that several of the bigger names in the draw have bailed out. Here’s a look at the tournament’s first day, with photos by Anita Aguilar.
Cary Leeds was a tennis player from New York who starred at Yale and played on the pro tour, and who passed away in 2003. The $27 million project was spearheaded by his father, Laurence Leeds, chairman of Buckingham Capital Management, and paid for in a public-private partnership between New York City and New York Junior Tennis & Learning (NYJTL). The courts are open to the public, and the center teaches and tutors underserved youth from the surrounding community.
Designed by New York firm Gluck +, the center was called “one of the city’s best new works of public architecture,” by The New York Times when it opened. It offers multiple levels for spectators...
...and two sunken show courts. The goal was to keep the center from rising up and looming over the surrounding parkland.
On Monday, the tournament spilled out onto the side courts. Crotona Park opened in 1888.
Coaches had the best in the house—right on the court.
On this 90-degree day, fans, and a chair umpire, found what shade they could. The only sounds piercing the quiet of the park were the nearby cicadas, and the grunts of the players. Over the course of the afternoon, it would have been possible to meet and have a chat with just about every fellow tennis obsessive there. (1397)
Autograph seekers would be in luck here. As you walk up the path to the center, you pass by players stretching, getting massages, and, of course, staring at their phones.
Camila Giorgi won her first match since reaching the Citi Open final three weeks ago.
Yulia Putintseva, who lost, didn’t seem so enamored of the event. She chucked her racquet more than once, stared at a noisy group of kids in the crowd, and shook her head at a ball girl who was late getting her towel to her.
The ball kids are a little younger than the ones we’ll see at the Open next week. During a break, two of them chased each around the stands. But for the most part they got the job done.
Karolina Muchova, fresh off her quarterfinal run at Wimbledon, brought her smooth strokes to the second show court in The Bronx, and emerged an opening-round winner. There may not be many chances left to see the 22-year-old Czech in such an intimate arena.