US Open Tennis: Sports Illustrated executive editor Jon Wertheim's tips and insider advice for attending and traveling to the 2015 US Open.
The U.S. Open, starting Aug. 31, is a two-week production that will draw upwards of 700,000 fans. For those planning to attend, here are various tips—culled from previous years with some new ones thrown in.
• We'll get the icky self-promotion out early. The SI Tennis page will feature S.L. Price, Richard “Pops” Deitsch, yours truly and other luminaries. Plus, this year, look for daily data visualizations.
• Having taken over all rights, ESPN will broadcast the matches on various platforms, mostly ESPN2. Tennis Channel is your home for a daily pregame show, starting each morning at 8 a.m. ET through first ball. Check your local listings, as they say.
• The qualifying event for the U.S. Open is the best value in sports, and not simply because they are free. It's top-tier tennis featuring catch-a-rising-star prospects and at least a few down-on-their-luck players, whose names will sound familiar to casual fans.
• Check out the live streaming—available in the U.S.—on USOpen.org.
• Unless you have a match that day, there's no excuse for dressing like a player when you go to the U.S. Open. You don't wear stirrups to Yankees games and shin guards and cleats to watch Arsenal. Leave the wristbands at home.
• Leave the selfie stick as well.
• Take safest play: the MTA's much-maligned No. 7 train from Times Square, Bryant Park or Grand Central in Manhattan to the Willets Point-Citi Field stop. Especially if the first-place Mets play—and they do have a home stand—prepare to stand.
Our preferred alternative: ride the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station. It’s much faster, though trains runs only three or four times an hour, so check the schedule.
• As part of our crowd-sourcing, reader @clarkcomedy notes: You can take a bus to the Open straight from LaGuardia. At the risk of sounding like a tourist-bureau p.r. flack, you'll be surprised how civil and efficient the trains are. If you insist on private transportation, take an Uber or cab over a car service, which drops you off somewhere near Montauk. Also, download the Waze app for the latest traffic report.
While at Flushing Meadows
• Buy a program and/or a daily draw sheet when you walk in. The schedule of matches is key for spectator planning, and the program is great changeover reading.
• Bring a Mophie. Unless you’re my kids, in which case you should get off your screens.
• We all agree that the USTA sells too many ground passes. But, still, take the grounds pass over reserved seating in Arthur Ashe Stadium, especially during the first week. You'll have the freedom to walk from match to match. You might also want to pick a court early in the day and stake out your terrain.
• Check out the Court 5 viewing platform.
• Root for any and all qualifiers in the main draw. Winning that first round could be the difference between financing another year on tour and quitting the sport.
• Root for the players who could use it. This year, candidates include Vicky Duval, who will try qualifying. Same for Laura Robson. Noah Rubin, who would have received a wild card, had he only won his last college match. Some no name who looks to be close to tears. Genie Bouchard, believe it or not. Maria Sharapova, Novak Djokovic and Serena Williams can win with or without your vocal support. For these other players, it can make a real difference.
• If you own an American Express card, investigate whether you're entitled to a free radio that enables you to hear the TV commentary. (Aside: Whoever does the AmEx U.S. Open sponsorships gets it. These are consistently creative, fun and feel completely non-intrusive.) If not, bring binoculars. Particularly during changeovers—"I think the trainer is on the court, icing down Sharapova's larynx!"—they can come in handy.
• In this its final year of existence, watch at least one match on the Grandstand court, one of the better venues in tennis. Same for the sleeper, Court 17. Adds reader @crohanazy: Court 13—up and coming players are on that court. In 2006 watched Jankovic and Vaidisova battle it out, and Wawrinka!
• Complain at least once about the lack of intimacy in Arthur Ashe Stadium. And complain at least twice about the lucky ones in the luxury suites who have prime seats yet fail to show or have their backs turned away from the court as they eat their canapés and knock back wine. But give the USTA credit as you eagerly anticipate the new roof.
• Arrive early and spend half an hour or so watching players practice. It's weirdly mesmerizing, and you can learn quite a bit about players while watching them hit balls for 20 minutes. Note: Federer often practices serves inside the service line; Richard Williams still, invariably, makes his daughters laugh as he cracks jokes from the back of the court; Azarenka doesn't grunt.
• Drink a lot of water. While waiting in line at the restroom may not be an ideal way to spend time, it beats dehydration any day.
• Alternative beverages: Reader @Pschrags encourages you: “Have at least [two] of those Honey Deuces.”
• Speaking of good habits, wear sunscreen—though bring cream, not aerosol—some of you have told me that a can won’t make it past security.
• Watch the top players in the boys' and girls' singles draw. One day soon they're likely to play on the big stages (or not). Either way it makes for good theater.
• If you walk by a scoring console and see that a match is deep in the fifth set (or third set for women), watch the conclusion, regardless of whether you've heard of either player. It will give you a good sense of just how brutal tennis can be.
• We know. Your fund of funds is crushing it this year—despite this market swoon. If you fly Delta, the upgrade will come through. You wish your nanny drove, so you didn't have to waste a day going to Maine to pick up Ashley Madison from summer camp. You're important. We get it. But don't use your phone during play, and switch the ringer to vibrate.
• Most of the volunteers are tennis lovers helping the event run smoothly. Likewise, the ushers are just doing their jobs. Same for the security folks. Bear that in mind when they make you wait for a changeover or deny you unused seats in a section closer to the court or insist you check your bag.
• Bring an iPad/book/crossword puzzle/fellow tennis fan to pass the time during changeovers.
• Watch some doubles matches.
• Watch wheelchair tennis. Not out of any sense of obligation, but because it’s terrifically entertaining and filled with the kind of shotmaking we all love.
• Have a look at the Tennis Hall of Fame exhibit under Louis Armstrong Stadium. It doesn't compete with a trip to Newport, but it's close.
• Again, hydrate. A small Evian bottle may cost you dearly, so bring your own bottles and fill them up at the dozens of drinking fountains on the grounds.
• Go to the U.S. Open bookstore, which, regrettably, is hidden near the indoor facility.
• Maybe it's desensitization to overpriced ballpark food or New York prices in general, but the food-court fare—once the subject of so much derision—no longer seems so overpriced. The food ranges from passable to quite good. The terrific Sam Sifton cooked this up a few years back. The Indian joint is always my personal favorite. Also, at the Wine Bar near the main fountains, try the burrata—if only because burrata is the single greatest substance known to man.
• Alternatively, check out some of the restaurants in Flushing's Chinatown. You can walk there or take the No. 7 train one additional stop. Says @veryape: Queens has the best food in the city. On the way back, stop off at Sunnyside or Woodside for authentic everything! Reader @andrewikesports writes: Keep an eye on the sunset behind the NYC skyline from the top of Ashe as the night session gets going.
• I'm serious about the sunscreen.
While in Manhattan
If you're staying in Manhattan, take some time for some of these:
• Check out the High Line on the west side, which is just tremendously cool.
• Beyond the MOMA, the Met, the Guggenheim, etc., come downtown and check out the new Whitney Museum. If you’re feeling adventuresome, go to Williamsburg in Brooklyn—especially if you can time it with a trip to Smorgasburg. And if you take the train from Grand Central Station, take a few minutes to walk around the terminal.
• Koreatown in the low 30s, just east of Penn Station, is an easy walk from a Midtown hotel, and many of the joints are open 24 hours. Same for the "Curry Hill" Indian restaurants on Lexington in the high 20s.
• Run the six-mile loop in Central Park or stroll around the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
• As in many other cities, the bikeshare program is a tremendous value and great way to see the town. Citibike.
• Just walk around. It's hard to get lost given Manhattan's grid system, and you're bound to stumble past something interesting.
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