12 May 2014

Behind the scenes - US Open tour


The US Open is a few months away, but I got the chance to enjoy a private tour of the fabulous Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

Did you know the USTA offers such a tour? Well, this tennis addict did not. Luckily I have friends who did and so we spent a glorious few hours on a sunny Sunday roaming around the tennis center with two personal chauffeurs!

Living so close to Flushing, NY (60 miles), I jumped at the chance to join five other tennis friends on a tour of the US Open site while there weren't hordes of people to contend with.

The lack of people was almost eerie. I drove up so didn't get the chance to walk over an empty boardwalk from the subway, but look at this!



Here are some of the places we were able to visit on our tour:
  • Men's locker room
  • Player lounge
  • Player restaurant
  • Media center
  • Press conference room
  • Arthur Ashe Stadium
  • Louis Armstrong Stadium


The highlight for me was definitely standing on Arthur Ashe Stadium. We were all alone, the only people in the entire stadium. There were no time constraints and it was a stunning 80 degree day in New York. Tennis bliss!

We were able to drink in the amazingness of the massive stadium and took photos to our heart's content. Some of the group took the opportunity to sit in the chair ump's seat as well!

I've been lucky enough to have both media and tournament credentials to the US Open in recent years and with work events as well have spent plenty of time in the players lounge/restaurant and media areas. Regardless seeing them when they aren't teeming with players and media was still very cool. 

One new spot I loved being able to see was the men's locker room!

Former champs have their names engraved on a nameplate hung on their locker so we all flocked to see Rafa's. 


Rafa and Del Potro's locker room area

All active players who have won the tourney before have their own lockers: Nadal, Djokovic, Federer, Murray, Del Potro and Hewitt. Two inactive players still had their locker nameplates up: Marat Safin and Andy Roddick. The most adorable thing was seeing Rafa and Del Potro's lockers right on top of the other!

Locker room buddies!

Sadly for this women's tennis fan, we couldn't go into the women's locker room but we were told the former champions have the same set up there.

We were also allowed to roam in and around Louis Armstrong Stadium and the grounds in general. There's a fair bit of construction going on right now (the main practice courts are all torn up - which was quite startling to see!) but we were still allowed to walk around most of the grounds which was wonderful.

After taking a tour of Wimbledon in 2011, I admit the tour of the USTA National Tennis Center was more less formal. I couldn't believe the freedom we had. Our guide told us he wasn't sure how much longer tours would be allowed to walk onto Ashe Stadium so I'm glad we had that chance. I only wished I'd brought my tennis rackets from my car and some balls to have a hit - we totally could have!

If you're in the area, I'd encourage you to arrange a private tour - just visit the USTA website here. Chris was our guide and I'd highly recommend him!

Here's a few more pics from our fab tour:


Shoes and bits left behind by players at the 2013 US Open

The posters adorning the walls inside Ashe Stadium are fantastic

Louis Armstrong Stadium

Truly had the place to ourselves!


Inside Ashe Stadium. By the GOOD seats.

Look at the empty food court!

Taxi!

The dormant fountain