The “Equivalent of a Phish Concert”: One Court Reeks of Weed at US Open

German Alexander Zverev likened playing on Court 17 to being in "Snoop Dogg’s living room"

A general view of Court 17 at the US Open.
There are multiple kinds of matches at Court 17 at the U.S. Open.
Julian Finney/Getty

The smell of stoners burning green has some tennis fans and players seeing red at this year’s U.S. Open in Queens.

Although the smoking of anything is prohibited within the confines of the entire grounds at Flushing Meadows, Australian Nick Kyrgios was disturbed by the odor of marijuana during his second-round match at the U.S. Open against France’s Benjamin Bonzi last year. Kyrgios, who ended up defeating Bonzi, was so bothered by Mary Jane’s presence in the crowd that he even complained to the chair umpire about the smell.

“People don’t know that I’m a heavy asthmatic, so when I’m running side to side and struggling to breathe already, it’s probably not something I want to be breathing in between points,” Kyrgios said after the match.

Things apparently haven’t changed much at this year’s Open as multiple players, including Greece’s Maria Sakkari and Germany’s Alexander Zverev, have said they smelled the devil’s lettuce during their matches on Court 17. “Court 17 definitely smells like Snoop Dogg’s living room,” Zverev, who won his opening match on the court, said. “Oh my God, it’s everywhere. The whole court smells like weed.”

Sakkari also reported smelling the sticky-icky, but stopped short of blaming her loss on a bout of reefer madness. “The smell, oh my gosh,” Sakkari said. “I think it’s from the park. Sometimes you smell food, sometimes you smell cigarettes, sometimes you smell weed. I mean, it’s something we cannot control, because we’re in an open space. It wasn’t the smell that affected the score in any way. It was just a comment because I didn’t expect to smell it. But it has nothing to do with the match.”

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Following the comments, the United States Tennis Association launched a pot probe. “Stung by stories in the wake of Sakkari’s match Monday that made it appear the U.S. Open’s stands are the sporting equivalent of a Phish concert, the United States Tennis Association conducted its own investigation, of sorts, to weed out the source of the smell,” wrote the Associated Press.

Corona Park is located just outside the gates of Court 17 and USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said questioning of officials and a review video had found “no evidence” anyone was smoking grass in the stands of the court.

If anyone was, it might be prohibited by Flushing Meadows, but it would not be illegal as adults 21 and older are allowed to smoke or vape cannabis wherever smoking tobacco is allowed in New York, one of the growing number of states where Americans are allowed to get high on their own supply of skunk.

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