The unofficial scent of New York City – well, one of them anyway – has made its way to the U.S. Open.
A pungent marijuana smell wafted over Court 17, where eighth-seeded Maria Sakkari complained about an overwhelming whiff of pot during her first-round loss, has become notorious among players in recent years for its distinctive, unmistakable odor.
‘Court 17 definitely smells like Snoop Dogg’s living room,’ said Alexander Zverev, the tournament’s 12th-seeded man who won his opening match on the court Tuesday. ‘Oh my God, it´s everywhere. The whole court smells like weed.’
Stung by stories in the wake of Sakkari’s match Monday that made it appear the U.S. Open’s stands are the sporting equivalent of a Phish concert, the United States Tennis Association conducted its own investigation, of sorts, to weed out the source of the smell.
Spokesman Chris Widmaier said the USTA questioned officials and reviewed video of the midday match and found ‘no evidence’ anyone was smoking pot in the stands of Court 17, leading to speculation it may have come from Corona Park just outside the gates of the intimate stadium court.
Greece’s Maria Sakkari noted there was odors of marijuana and cigarettes from Court 17
Alexander Zverev (L), of Germany, defeated Australia’s Aleksandar Vukic on Court 17 Tuesday
And he may not be just blowing smoke. Sakkari herself suggested just that when she complained to the chair umpire while up 4-1 in the first set: ‘The smell, oh my gosh. I think it’s from the park.’
After her 6-4, 6-4 loss to Rebeka Masarova, Sakkari told reporters: ‘Sometimes you smell food, sometimes you smell cigarettes, sometimes you smell weed. I mean, it´s something we cannot control, because we’re in an open space. There’s a park behind. People can do whatever they want.’
Flushing Meadows security staffer Ricardo Rojas, who was working the gate outside Court 17 on Monday, said he took a break in the park around the time of Sakkari´s match and ‘there was definitely a pot smell going on.’
But he noted that while he enforces a strict no-smoking policy inside the USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the park is ‘outside my jurisdiction.’
It is legal in New York for adults 21 and older to possess up to three ounces of cannabis and up to 24 grams of concentrated cannabis for personal use, and they may smoke or vape cannabis wherever smoking tobacco is allowed.
Other players in past years have complained about the pot smells emanating from Court 17, a 2,500-seat arena that opened in 2011 in the extreme southwest corner of the complex with little buffer to the park.
Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova, who easily won her match on Court 17 on Tuesday, told a similar story: ‘I smelled it actually today also. You smell it a lot. I think it’s just Court 17. That court is so far away, it’s almost in the park. I think it´s coming from the park.’
Sakkari, a semifinalist at the U.S. Open two years ago, said the smell didn´t affect her while playing. Still, some fans at Flushing Meadows had little patience for the notion that a top player would be thrown off mentally by the smell of pot.
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