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The best bargain in tennis

Nicolas Mahut

Nicolas Mahut, who lest to John Isner in a marathon first-rounder this year at Wimbledon, is playing in the U.S. Open qualies. (Mike Powell/SI)

From $13 for a pack of smokes to $1,000 for a hot fudge sundae, examples of New York City's obscene inflation are everywhere. Even Woody Allen can't afford to make movies here.

It's worse for sports fans. Remember the New York Giants' famous decades-long waiting list for season tickets? No more. The team has been reduced to hawking single-game ducats on Ticketmaster since moving into a $1.7 billion stadium where a nosebleed seat runs triple figures.

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It's not always easy to get bang for your buck in the Big Apple. But as the qualifiers for the U.S. Open kick off today at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, Jon Wertheim gives a shout out to the best bargain in tennis -- where you can get a front-row seat for some of the best players in the world at one of the bucket-list destinations in all of sports.

The U.S. Open qualifying tournament kicks off this week at the National Tennis Center. You have hundreds of tennis pros, some of whom you'll recognize even if you're a casual fan. You have abundant storylines: veterans coming back from injury, grinders giving it one last chance, arrivistes trying to break through. (And in the case of Blake Strode and Alexandra Mueller, two players who came through an open national qualifying tournament to get into the draw.) You have one of the premier venues in the sport. And admission is free. Go.

Both the men's and women's qualifying draws include 128 players, with the last 16 earning spots in the U.S. Open main draw and a winner's share of the $1 million purse.  Play begins daily at 11 a.m., and runs through Friday afternoon.

Jon Wertheim: Best of Five