US Open

Pete Sampras Puking, Jimmy Connors Making Magic and More: Goodbye, Louis Armstrong Stadium

As Louis Armstrong Stadium closes down, we look back at some of its best moments.

by Patrick Sauer
Sep 7 2016, 10:00pm

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

If you ever happen to visit Flushing, Queens for the U.S. Open, we here at the VICE Sports tennis bereau highly recommend a visit to the Louis Armstrong House in nearby Corona. It's a short walk—and an even shorter 7 Train ride—and you can hit up Leo Lattcini Mama's for amazing mozzarella-and-meat heroes and the Lemon Ice King for dessert. Make a day of it.

The Louis Armstrong House is the place the legendary Jazz musician and his wife Lucille called home from 1943-71, a warm simple well-kept neighborhood hearth that happens to have the most advanced technology, circa 1967. The House features recordings, period furniture, and all manner of bric-a-brac from the jazzman's life, but it's the Jetsons-era kitchen that charms the most. A Nutone food processor with all the attachments built right into the countertop? The future really was there.

Louis Armstrong Stadium was the future of tennis once, too. In 1978, when the U.S Open left the genteel grass of Forest HIlls for the raucous hardcourts of Flushing, Satchmo was the tournament's 18,000-seat centerpiece. Originally opened in 1964 for the World's Fair, the Singer Bowl (of sewing machine fame) was an integral part of Robert Moses's suburbs-first dreamscape. The venue hosted Olympic trials, boxing matches, and the best of psychedelic-era rock stars like Led Zepplin, Janis Joplin, the Who, and Jimi Hendrix.

The sweetest music ever made on the grounds however, came from the tennis greats who made Louis Armstrong their own. Until Arthur Ashe Stadium opened in 1997, relegating Armstrong to second-tier status, the "Lou" was the place to be. In nearly forty years, it's hosted more than 2,000 matches. Giants on the rackets of giants right from first serve, opening with a Bjorn Borg 6-2 6-0 victory over Bob Hewitt.

As of yesterday evening, the original Louis Armstrong—a retractable roof-ed version is slated for 2018—held its last contest. For the record, it was a 7-6, 4-6, 6-3 doubles upset by two countrymen named Lopez, Spaniards Feliciano and Marc (sadly, not Brooke and Robin) over American counterparts, the greatest doubles team in history, brothers Bryan, Mike and Bob. It was a solid match to say goodbye, but the loudest, booziest, nuttiest tennis venue of them all deserves a proper send-off. Crack open a tallboy and a can of Penn 3s to enjoy a few of the brilliant highlights from the wonderful tennis world of Louis Armstrong stadium.

Jimmy Connors v. Adriano Panatta, 1978

We could fill in a bunch of backstory here, but nah. Just watch Connors make magic. Your eyes do not deceive you. The backhand abides.

Tracy Austin v. Martina Navratilova, 1981

Austin's career was injury-riddled and short-lived, but on this lovely afternoon the Californian in her pink dress 6-1, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-1) defeated the legendary Navratilova, who unraveled at the end. It was Austin's last real moment in the sun, but Martina got some shine as well. She wept post-match as the crowd roared for the effort of the newly-minted American citizen.

Monica Seles v. Jennifer Capriati, 1991

As the women's game evolved into a game of power, two teenagers put on a slugfest for the ages. In the semis, 18-year-old new queen on the block Seles beat the 15-year-old upstart Capriati 6-3, 3-6, 7-6, grunting through two match-point saves on her way to taking the U.S. Open and reclaiming her No. 1 ranking from rival Steffi Graf. Seles would stay atop the WTA until that fateful day in Germany...

Pete Sampras v. His Gullet, 1996

In a literal gut-wrenching 4-hour-9-minute five-set quarterfinal match, Sampras defeated Spaniard Alex Corretja 7-6 (7-5), 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (9-7). At 2-2 in the final tiebreak, Pete lost his cookies on the back of the court. His ill-timed upchuck even cost him a time violation warning, LOL. How Sampras, who was staggering like a beaten prizefighter, fought through a barfing spell to win is beyond human understanding.

Steffi Graf v. Gabriela Sabatini, 1988

Sorry, there's only one true Golden Slam winner. Stefanie Maria Graf. 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 over Sabatini. All in the same year or GTFO, Serena.

Bjorn Borg v. John McEnroe, 1980

The astounding 1980 Wimbledon Final between Borg and McEnroe is always atop the shortlist of greatest matches ever played, so the U.S. Open Final a few weeks later gets short shrift. It shouldn't. It too went five sets, with McEnroe coming out ahead 7–6 (7-4), 6–1, 6–7 (5-7), 5–7, 6–4. It's not exactly a thing of beauty like the display in England. It's sweatier, grimier, discombobulated, as the fans were quaking and the stands were shaking for their home borough Irish brat to defeat the cool Swede. Johnny Mac prevailed, and Borg never took home a U.S. Open title. It's the perfect Louis Armstrong tennis match.

Play us out, Pops...