US Open players hail support as diverse tennis crowds make some noise

When Taylor Townsend played her second match at this year’s US Open tennis tournament, she might have thought she was in Rio de Janeiro rather than New York.

Though Townsend is American and had plenty of crowd support, the noise for her opponent, Brazil’s Beatriz Haddad Maia, was arguably louder.Townsend still won the match but wasn’t upset to face a crowd cheering for her opponent on home soil.

“I literally came off the court, I was like, that was so fire. It was so fun. The energy. I’ve never been to a professional soccer match … I felt like that was the vibe. It was like they were chanting … then people for me would start chanting, going back and forth,” said the world number 132.

“It was really cool … this is probably one of the most fun matches I’ve played in terms of crowd support. I really was feeding off of the energy.”

To anyone who regularly attends the US Open – that energy is no surprise.The multicultural festival that the US Open has become runs counter to the image many have of tennis – a white country club inaccessible to people of colour. And it’s a contrast that’s particularly evident when comparing the crowds at the US Open and Wimbledon – the London-based Grand Slam that precedes it on the tennis calendar.

“It is a noticeably un-diverse crowd at Wimbledon … compare it to the New York crowd. Compare it to the US Open crowd,” said tennis broadcaster Catherine Whitaker on a recent episode of The Tennis Podcast.

“Tennis is a very historically class-infected sport … and [the UK is] a society so riddled by the constraints of our class system,” said Whitaker.

“I feel like there are whole swaths of society in the UK that just deep down don’t feel like tennis is for them. And that is such a shame.”

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