By Xinhua Writer/Photographer Qin Lang
NEW YORK, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- Every year in late August and early September, the Billie Jean King Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows in New York bristles with the anticipation of one of tennis's most significant events: the U.S. Open. Top players flock to the Arthur Ashe Stadium for one of the four annual Grand Slam tournaments, fashion icons come out in support of their favorite stars, and the New York crowd enjoys every serve and rally.
As a sports photographer, I have always dreamed of walking into the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and the Arthur Ashe Stadium, venues that have witnessed numerous miracles and legends.
I photographed my first U.S. Open in 2014. For the next three years, I took thousands of shots in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, covering 20-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer, the legendary Williams sisters, and the almost unbeatable Novak Djokovic.
Djokovic is my longtime idol. When I shot the 2015 final between him and Federer from the photographers' bench at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, the distance between Novak and me was only about 10 meters. However, even though we were so close, it seemed as if we were so much further away, as taking photos is entirely different from watching the match as a spectator. I have to focus on every shot and try to capture the most dramatic moments.
The U.S. Open is about dreams coming true. In the 2015 women's singles final, Italy's Flavia Pennetta, at 33 years old, played against her 32-year-old compatriot, Roberta Vinci. Both players had eliminated No. 1 and No. 2 seeds Serena Williams and Simona Halep respectively in the semi-finals. Whichever of Pennetta or Vinci won the title would shatter a longstanding record. In the end, Pennetta triumphed 2-0 to become the oldest first-time major champion in the Open era. After competing a forehand winner on match point, Pennetta flung her racket into the air. That moment immediately touched my heart. I have always tried to get into players' heads and tried to capture their emotional moments. At that time, Pennetta was like an artist who had just finished her most beautiful dance under the spotlight, gracefully greeting the audience. As a photographer, I have captured a variety of winning celebrations, but Pennetta's is my all-time favorite.
Besides covering all the big serves, returns and celebrations on court, there are also some other photo-worthy moments during the U.S. Open. The west side of the Arthur Ashe Stadium offers stunning views of the Manhattan skyline on sunny days. That skyline is pictured in my lens and becomes one of my favorite U. S. Open images. When I climbed up all the steps in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, hoping to find a unique angle to shoot, I found the gorgeous Manhattan skyline silhouetted against the sunset. The question of when to click the shutter became pretty easy for me at that moment, and I felt like pressing the shutter instinctively to take the picture.
During the U.S. Open, photographers know they always have to be on their toes. In the first week, photographers need to cover several matches at the same time. When covering night sessions, photographers work until the early hours of the next morning. If shooting from the dugout, photographers may run the risk of being hit by a serve by Andy Murray or Serena Williams which might reach 130 miles per hour. But despite all of that, clicking the shutter in the Arthur Ashe Stadium is still the moment I look forward to most every year. Enditem
Editor Note: New York-based Xinhua photographer Qin Lang has covered four U.S. Open championships, the 2015 Women's Football World Cup, the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2018 World Cup in Russia. She has also covered New York Fashion Weeks for five straight years.