The U.S. Open Tennis “Slambonis” in action drying up the court at Arthur Ashe Stadium
Yesterday at the U.S. Open Arthur Ashe Tennis Stadium, a rain delay interrupted a high-tension quarterfinal match between Victoria Azarenka and Simona Halep. On an otherwise sunny day, with attendees protected somewhat by the new high-tech roof that’s mid-installation at the stadium, the drizzle become a steady pour. People started to wonder how the court would be dried off, even after the rain was stopped as no protective tarp was pulled onto the court like in Wimbledon. And past attendees recalled US Open staff running onto the courts hand drying the surface with tennis courts. The answer came as the rain stopped: a phalanx of “Slamboni” machines.
Here’s a video of them in action yesterday:
As of 2004, there were 38 of these machines, nicknamed the “Slambonis” which were designed for the courts at the U.S. Open. When the “Slambonis” first debuted, it was estimated that using them saved about 10 minutes of play for each interrupted game. They hold 30 gallons of water, sponging and vacuuming the courts at the same time. Blowing hot air damages the surfaces, so drying machinery was ruled out in the development of the machines.
And equally important, the Slambonis had to be up to city codes. As Chris Widmaier, the U.S.T.A.’s senior director of public relations at the time said,”Because of fire department codes, we cannot keep much gas on the premises, so we had to look at electrically powered or battery-operated machines. And the machines had to be narrow enough to get through the narrow entrances and exits.”
Of course, come 2017 the Slambonis won’t be needed too much at the two main courts: Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong as they’ll have retractable roofs that can close in 5 minutes. But for now, particularly with today’s weather, the Slambonis will be busy.