Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that I’m a very big tennis fan. Like abnormally so. But it’s fine because tennis is a great sport that everyone should enjoy. I’ve been attending the US Open here in NYC since I was a small child and during this time I’ve picked up some tips that I’m now going to share with all of you because the Open is coming up and I think everyone should attend the Open at least once.
Plus, in less than I week I will be in Cincinnati, OH watching the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters tournament so this is a mini-celebration in anticipation of that fun event.
1. BUY YOUR TICKETS EARLY. You’ve already failed at this, but no worries, just make a note for next year. If you’re a USTA member you can buy tickets in April, but even as an obsessive tennis fan I find that to be too extreme. If you have an American Express card you can buy tickets a week before the general public. Tickets usually go on sale at the beginning of June. And they tend to go quickly. Hence my advice.
2. GET AN AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD. In addition to being able to buy tickets early, American Express also offers cardholders (do I sound like an advertisement?) 2-for-1 ticket deals during certain sessions. This includes the first four night sessions and days during second week (not Labor Day). For example, I’m going the first 3 nights and each of my tickets those nights were $11 (plus $8 in ridiculous fees). Can’t beat that, can you?
3. SPEND AS LITTLE TIME IN ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM AS POSSIBLE. Unless you’re going towards the end of the tournament the matches you’re going to see in the Open’s main stadium, Arthur Ashe, are going to be (with a few exceptions) D-U-L-L!!
4. EMBRACE THE NOSEBLEED SEATS. I’m going to assume that no one reading this blog has the means to spend thousands of dollars on tickets (but if you do remember the little people). Which means we’re spending under one-hundred dollars to be fairly far away from the action. Ashe stadium is the largest tennis stadium in the world and it shows. Yes, the players look very small, but you can still see the action from anywhere in the upper deck (trust me, I’ve probably sat in all the seats).
5. WATCH FOR THE USHERS WITH THE COLORED TICKETS. If you’re at a night session that goes late (and even some day sessions, we’ll get to that in a minute) and the aristocracy in the lower levels need to leave before their chauffeurs start making time-and-a-half (or something), the powers that be will let the proletariat descend from the upper deck to be closer to the action. To take advantage of this as soon as possible, watch for the ushers with the colored rectangles of paper and go to them immediately. Then sprint down the stairs and line up outside one of the entrances (there will be people to direct you) and wait to be allowed into the Promised Land. I recommend shoving your way towards a seat on the ends of the court (not the side) as you will have less head turning to do, plus you’ll be higher up so you’ll have a better view of the entire court.
Note I did not follow my own advice here.
The powers that be also allow the proletariat down to the front if the day session goes late. In this case they just make an announcement, there aren’t tickets, so keep your ears open.
6. CHECK OUT THE TWO OTHER STADIUMS. Besides Ashe Stadium there are two other main stadiums: Louis Armstrong and the Grandstand. Louis Armstrong is nice, but still quite big. The Grandstand is, in my opinion, the perfect-sized stadium for tennis. There’s a covered area on one side but that’s almost impossible to get a seat in as people flock to any shaded area. I recommend sitting on the corner of one of the non-shaded parts. Keep in mind that it’s bleacher seating (no backs) so it can get uncomfortable. (Note: Lines to get into both will appear extremely long, but once there’s a change-over (aka a break in the action) they move everyone in (and out) quickly.)
7. VISIT THE OUTER COURTS. There won’t be any big, big names out there, but during the first week of the Open this is where all the action happens. The top players will have (in most cases) fairly easy matches on the stadium courts so you should head to the outer courts to see more competitive matches. Look out for players like Nicholas Almagro (hits the ball as hard, and a personal favorite of mine), Ernests Gulbis (a real character and a great player when he’s “on”), Richard Gasquet (has an amazingly beautiful backhand), Theimo de Bakker (up-and-coming young guy), and Taylor Dent (the hardest serve I’ve ever seen, it’s terrifying in person). I’m not recommending any women because (as much as it pains me) I can’t stand women’s tennis.
8. EAT THE FOOD. The food court at the Open, located outside of Ashe Stadium, has some delicious (given the setting) food. I highly recommend the burritos from the Mexican place and the meatballs from the Italian place (the pasta is kind of gross but the meatballs are surprisingly delicious). Both are very reasonably priced (or I’ve lived in NYC for too long), the burrito, which comes with chips and salsa was $9 last year (cheaper than Chipotle!) and the pasta and meatballs was around $11. Also, Ben and Jerry’s also has ice cream stands all over the grounds and there is nothing better than a Half-Baked bar as you’re boiling in the heat.
9. CHECK OUT THE PRACTICE COURTS. The practice courts are a great place to see the big stars up close. Most of the time they’re pretty packed but if you can shove your way to the front or get a spot on one of the bleachers that overlook the practice courts you’re all set. Or you can hide under the trees that surround the courts (I’m not kidding, you will have a great view). Also, if autographs are your thing, the practice courts are the place to be.
10. GO TO THE QUALIFYING ROUNDS. Like all tournaments the US Open has a qualifying round. Basically the top players get into the tournament automatically, the tournament has a few wild cards to give away as it sees fit (to up-and-coming players mostly), and then there’s a mini tournament before the main tournament where players outside of the top-100 can play three rounds to make it into the main draw of the tournament (how many times can I say tournament in once sentence?). The qualifying rounds, which are free to go to the Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before the actual tournament starts, are where you see players truly fighting it out. Why are they fighting it out? The prestige is pretty great, but if a player makes it out of qualifying they are guaranteed $18,000, even if they lose in the first round of the main draw. And who doesn’t want $18,000?
Anyone else a big tennis fan? Anyone else planning on going to the Open?