2020 U.S. Open Insider Tips

This year's tournament will look starkly different from years past. But in keeping with tradition, here are some tips for watching two weeks of tennis in New York.
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The 2020 U.S. Open will feature the stars of the sport, most of them anyway. We can safely predict that there will be familiar trappings: upsets and breakthroughs and steely veterans and taut five-setters. There will be controversies, rain delays on the outer courts and, the weekend after Labor Day, two champions will heft trophies and seven-figure checks. 

Otherwise…the 2020 U.S. Open will be thoroughly unrecognizable from any tournament ever played, past, present and—with any luck—future. The players are marooned on Long Island, forbidden from breaching the “bubble” under penalty of expulsion. There will be little working media, volunteers and entourage members. And, paid attendance will take a sharp decline from roughly 750,000 in 2019 to zero in 2020. (Talk about points dropping off.) 

We cannot ladle enough credit upon the USTA for making the various accommodation and—2020 buzzword alert—workarounds to stage this event. But as far as user experience and interface go…well, not a lot to work with. 

In conventional years, unafflicted by global pandemics, this is the time we issue a lengthy list of tips and hacks for enjoying a chaotic tennis tournament. This year, with no turnstiles needed—empty suites, as opposed to empty suits—the list has been significantly culled. Next year we hope to be back to Honey Deuces and practice court platforms and shmearing ushers. This home bound year? Herewith some tips for the 2020 U.S. Open. 

• We'll get the icky self-promotion out early. The SI.com tennis page will feature the work of various and sundry colleagues. 

• Tennis Channel’s daily U.S. Open live pregame show starts at 10 a.m. EST. Brett Haber, Jim Courier, Martina and I—and daily guests—will be gabbing. Conflicts aside and disclosed, it’s good fun and crackling television.

• ESPN is your go-to for match coverage. Evert, McEnroe, Gilbert and team will be there, first ball to last. And if you don’t have cable, here’s CNET to help. 

• As sporting event websites go, USOpen.org is strong. Powered by IBM. Bookmark it. Play around with the stats. 

• Download the U.S. Open app and check out the order of play the night before to make a game plan of what you'd like to watch. 

• Root for any and all players outside the top 100, this year especially. Winning that first round could be the difference between financing another year on tour and quitting the sport. 

• Root for players who are parents. Root for players born in the ‘80s. Root for the undersized, the underaged…and even the overweight. 

• Root for the players who could use it. This year, candidates include, Sloane Stephens and Andy Murray and some lesser light who looks to be close to tears. Djokovic and Serena can win with or without your vocal support. For these other players, it can make a real difference. 

• As always, the program contains a compendium of the finest tennis writing. This year the program is available for order at www.tennisprograms.net. (By the power vested in me, I hereby declare 15% off the $20 cover price for anyone who uses code ACUSO-1.) 

• 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. (Three years ago you could have seen Amanda Anisimova and Coco Gauff.) Adds @meganfernandez: And watching them play let serves is different, fun—and sometimes heartbreaking. 

• If you notice 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. 

• Curse the robots calling the lines. But accept they are here to stay. 

• Watch wheelchair tennis. Not out of any sense of obligation, but because it’s super awesome—terrifically entertaining tennis and filled with the kind of shotmaking we all love. 

• The usual Tennis Hall of Fame exhibit under Louis Armstrong Stadium won’t be there. But book a trip to Newport or take the virtual tour here. • @andrewikesports writes: Keep an eye on the sunset behind the NYC skyline—Manhattan-henge, the kids call it— from the top of Ashe as the night session gets going. 

• Note the Bud Collins Media Center—and pause a moment to acknowledge the eponymous. And pay homage to the good, hard-working pool reporter inside. Realize the vile abhorrence of the term “enemy of the people.” 

• Note a few of the welcome absences this year—and lobby for their permanent retirement. Ballkids that handle players’ effluvia-filled towels. Pre-match interviews. Excruciating trophy presentation ceremonies. $8 bottled water on oppressively hot days….. 

• Wherever you are, wear a damn mask…. 

• …Which will improve the odds of returning to the Open, as we know it, in 2021.