Goodnight, Irene; hello, tennis

NEW YORK -- "Eeeyahhgggh!


It was only a few minutes past 9 a.m. on Opening Day, but Svetlana Kuznetsova and Francesca Schiavone -- Grand Slam champions both -- were already in mid-tournament, bellowing form on practice courts No. 4 and 5, respectively, at the Billie Jean National Tennis Center.

A dark blotch of sweat was rapidly expanding across the back of Kuznetsova's turquoise T-shirt, and Schiavone earnestly worked her hitting partner around the court. The only tangible sign of the departed Hurricane Irene and her 65 mph winds? The courts, washed clean by about seven inches of rain, were a little slippery.

At 11 o'clock Monday, the blue gates to yawning Arthur Ashe Stadium were still locked as workers scrambled to hoist banners, complete wiring and arrange potted plants. The rest of the grounds showed surprisingly little evidence of the storm. A jazz guitarist played outside Louis Armstrong Stadium and inside, highly touted (and increasingly highly annoyed) American Ryan Harrison exchanged rallies with Marin Cilic on a breezy, sunny day.

There was a festive air around the grounds that were populated by fewer than usual; Harrison's match, despite its attractive profile, suffered sparse attendance in the early going. Nevertheless, the Grey Goose and Heineken were flowing and the Nike and Lacoste stores buzzed with patrons. Bits of downed leaves and branches could be seen in spots but somehow, the U.S. Open -- spared any flooding from nearby Flushing Bay except in a few outlying parking lots -- began on time.

"Because the path of the storm was so accurately modeled, we had a 48-hour window to dismantle the site," said Chris Widmaier, the United States Tennis Association's managing director of communications. "Everything that wasn't screwed down had to find a new home indoors. And then we had to put it all back together in less than a day."

Twenty-five USTA employees, led by site chief Danny Zausner, stayed at the tennis center through the storm and, working in three teams, surveyed the damage as it happened.

On Monday, however, there remained a few loose ends.

About 20 percent of the USTA's temporary workforce was unable to clock in for duty on Monday. The 7 Train, which connects Manhattan and Flushing, seemed to be working as usual.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova's match against Alexandra Dulgheru was moved from its 11 a.m. leadoff spot on Ashe to the second match on Armstrong. This, Widmaier explained, was to accommodate late-arriving fans more than anything else.

And fans weren't the only ones arriving late.

Andy Roddick was traveling from Texas, as were Sabine Lisicki and Aravane Rezai, finalists at last week's tournament in Dallas. Rezai caught a flight to Cleveland on Sunday and drove from there, arriving Monday. The schedule was tweaked to accommodate the tardy players, but Vesna Dolonts wasn't quite so lucky.

The 22-year-old from Moscow last played an ITF event in Kazan and was said to be traveling from Russia. Her flight was scheduled to land in New York around 1 p.m. EST -- about six hours before her opening-round match with Venus Williams to begin night action on Ashe.

Most of the marquee players have been in New York for several days or more and were complaining mostly of boredom after spending Saturday and Sunday in hotel rooms, mostly in Manhattan.

"A lot like Scotland," said Judy Murray, mother of No. 4-seeded Andy Murray.

"I'm a Florida girl," said Maria Sharapova the day before the storm, "so I'm used to this. I think everyone's a bit overreacting about everything."

This was, as it turned out, a prescient observation.

The major inconvenience to those players staying in Manhattan was finding food on Saturday and Sunday.

"I couldn't get my Starbucks this morning," Mardy Fish reported on Saturday, "which was annoying. The hotel coffee wasn't quite as good."

His wife, Stacey, he said, had been out shopping for magazines and flashlights.

"She's preparing for Armageddon, I think," he said.

It didn't quite happen that way. One British journalist, summing up the cynicism of the pre-storm media buildup, tweeted a photo of a Mini Cooper parked in Manhattan -- with a single leaf stuck to the hood. The caption: "Storm Damage."

Still, the USTA was feeling pretty good about its recovery effort.

"We feel very fortunate that there was no significant structural damage, it was more on the cosmetic side," Widmaier said. "We play some pretty tough tennis here at the U.S. Open -- it's going to take more than a hurricane or an earthquake to stop us."

Greg Garber is a senior writer for ESPN.com.