By Ann Liguori
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The retractable roof atop Arthur Ashe Stadium stole the show on Day 1 of the US Open.

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Yes, Rafael Nadal won. So did John Isner, Jack Sock, Madison Keys, Novak Djokovic, Roberta Vinci and Caroline Wozniacki. But it is the roof that is commanding the most attention and awe.

It’s truly an engineering feat that took three years to build, over a dozen years to plan and $150 million of private money to complete. And aesthetically, it works — the steelwork fitting in nicely on the grounds and complementing the Manhattan skyline in the distance.

PHOTOS: Day 1 Of US Open

Just prior to the opening ceremony Monday evening, the roof was closed. (All the matches from the day session had been completed on the Ashe court). Then as part of Phil Collins’ performance, the roof dramatically opened as the pop superstar sang his hit song “In the Air Tonight,” much to the delight of the ticketholders of the evening session. The opening (and closing) of the roof takes about seven minutes, and seeing it open for the first time added to the excitement of the evening.

The roof, about the size of 17 Olympic-size swimming pools, was designed by the Rossetti architectural firm and the WSP/Parsons Brinckerhoff structural engineering firm.

Because the stadium is built on a former marsh and couldn’t support the weight, the roof is a separate structure supported by giant pillars and braces.

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Ironically, there’s little rain predicted during this fortnight, so we may not see the Ashe Stadium roof covered again this championship. And we’re assured the men’s final won’t be pushed to Monday, which happened five straight years.

Whether the roof is opened or closed, it affects conditions on the show court. Certainly even when the roof is not covered, the steel structures lessen the wind inside the stadium.

Shadows from the structure when the roof is not closed give the players another element to consider during their matches, as half the court is covered in a giant shadow from one doubles line to the other by 11 a.m., and then the shadow moves the length from baseline to baseline later in the day. Viewers of the TV coverage have already complained about the shadow, saying it’s more difficult to watch the ball.

And when the roof is closed, the humidity and temperature inside changes. Part of the roof operation includes a cooling system that kicks in to control the heat and humidity inside the stadium.

Whether you’re in favor of the roof or not (and I am!), the way they engineered and built it seems ingenious. The roof, the new Grandstand court and other improvements only add to the biggest sporting event in the country.

Well done, USTA.

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