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McEnroe helps U.S. Open’s Armstrong Stadium open for business

Louis Armstrong Stadium Dedication Ceremony

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 22: Former professional tennis player John McEnroe speaks during the Louis Armstrong Stadium Dedication Ceremony at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 22, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images)

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NEW YORK -- John McEnroe looked up at a closed roof above Louis Armstrong Stadium, an entirely different view from his playing days.

Minutes later, the roof was open and McEnroe was serving, volleying - and racket throwing - making the U.S. Open’s newest stadium feel like old times.

The rebuilt Armstrong was officially opened Wednesday and will be set for the year’s final Grand Slam tournament starting Monday.

The old No. 1 stadium will seat 14,000 and gives the U.S. Open two retractable-roof stadiums. The roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium has been operational since 2016.

“We’re on our way here,” McEnroe told the crowd during the dedication ceremony, which featured a jazz performance led by Wynton Marsalis as a tribute to Armstrong.

McEnroe, who won all four of his U.S. Open singles titles in the old Armstrong, then joined brother Patrick in a doubles match against fellow Americans Michael Chang and James Blake after the roof had been opened. He dropped his racket to the court in a pretend tantrum after his brother missed a shot.

The new Armstrong completed the final stage of a five-year, $600 million project that remade the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. A new Grandstand had previously opened, and the new stadium sits almost entirely in the footprint for the original Armstrong and Grandstand.

McEnroe, who grew up nearby, didn’t know what would become of Armstrong, which had been the main stadium at the U.S. Open from 1978 until Ashe opened in 1997. McEnroe’s U.S. Open playing career was done by then, so being able to come back to Armstrong was particularly meaningful to him.

“We weren’t sure what was going to happen,” he said, “and finally not only did they put this unbelievable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium, but they decided to redesign this facility here, this court and build this ... and I know the players are going to be super excited and as a New Yorker and a Queens boy I couldn’t be prouder of this stadium.”