NEW YORK (Reuters) - It has taken just one week for the newly renovated Louis Armstrong Stadium to earn a spooky reputation as the U.S. Open graveyard after four of the five top women seeds saw their Grand Slam hopes buried under the blue hardcourt.
Players, who are often a superstitious lot, may avoid black cats and walking under ladders but so far have seen no reason to give Louis Armstrong a wide berth and have shrugged off the string of high-profile upsets in the arena as nothing more than a frightening coincidence.
The last major piece of a five-year $600 million renovation of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Louis Armstrong with its retractable roof and a $200 million price tag was christened with an historic upset on Monday when world number one and top seed Simona Halep suffered a shock 6-2 6-4 loss to Kaia Kanepi.
Only on five previous occasions in the professional era had a women’s top seed flubbed her opener at a major and never before at the U.S. Open.
For Halep there was nothing ominous in the loss but the house of horrors whispers had begun.
“Actually I’m happy I was first one there, even if I lost,” smiled the Romanian. “It is a nice stadium, and every court here, it’s beautiful.”
The next victim was Denmark’s world number two Caroline Wozniacki, who fell in the second round 6-4 6-2 to Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko.
The top two seeds were soon joined at the exit on Saturday when former champion and fourth seed Angelique Kerber and fifth seeded two-time Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova became unexpected third round casualties.
Add Spanish 12th seed Garbine Muguruza and German young gun Alexander Zverev, the men’s fourth seed, to the growing list of upsets and there is increasing talk of devilish forces at work.
For years the graveyard moniker was attached to Wimbledon infamous Number Two Court that became better known as the ‘Graveyard of Champions’.
A long list of former champions from Evonne Goolagong to Serena Williams and Jimmy Connors to Pete Sampras all met their demise on the green grass of Court Two that earned its sinister reputation over decades and not days.
Demolished as part of renovation of the All England Club, the Graveyard of Champions is long gone.
However, the restless tennis spirits that once haunted Court Two might have found a new home in Flushing Meadows considering four Grand Slam champions - Halep, Wozniacki, Kerber and Muguruza - all perished on Louis Armstrong this week.
“I don’t know. I think it’s a great court. It’s a beautiful court, it’s nice,” said Wozniacki. “Guess Wimbledon used to have a Graveyard Court.
“Maybe that is going to be the new Graveyard Court.
“I think it’s a little too early to tell.”
Editing by Pritha Sarkar