30 July 2016

US Open - tips, tips, tips!

There is nothing like the US Open. Hot, loud, crowded, amazing.

2014 US Open women's final: Serena vs Wozniacki
My first visit was back in 2002. On opening night, I saw my first live Serena Williams (in a catsuit no less), then Andre Agassi. Not a bad way to start my US Open experience!

Since my debut, I've been back 4 other times (2011-2014) and have had various types of access: tournament credentials (meaning I got to hang out in the player lounge and restaurant) plus media credentials a few years - I've been spoiled. My last visit was 2014, and I logged for ESPN after attending all four days of the qualifying tournament (see my match logging post here). I've also done a US Open grounds tour (view my recap here) so long story not short, I know my way around the US Open.

Back in 2011, after I attended all four slams that year, I wrote up a slam rankings post (read it here). The US Open didn't fare as well as the Australian Open (my all-time fave) and Wimbledon (though the ticketing situation makes me rethink that a bit). I've had a few New Yorkers argue that the food at the US Open isn't that awful, or that it has improved, but I have my views.


Anyway, onto some helpful tips if you are new to the US Open, are thinking about going or are returning after a long break. I skipped 2015 (had such a wonderful time in Cincy I felt like I didn't need to go to the US Open) and am returning for 4 days this year.

So....on to it!

Ticketing:
The US Open uses Ticketmaster, and they have an official reselling site which is so handy. There is even a temporary Ticketmaster office set up as you exit the subway station/LIRR arrival area just at the end of the boardwalk. So this means you can actually logon to the website onsite to try and buy tickets, and/or you can print off tickets there before you enter the gates. So handy.
Fans on their way over the boardwalk

Usually, I buy individual tickets and unless they are sold out, I always buy Arthur Ashe Stadium tickets. My reasoning is this: the tickets are not that much more than grounds passes. For example, this year for the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, a grounds pass is $85. My Arthur Ashe ticket is $115 face value (I bought it as part of a package). $30 more for a guaranteed seat for Ashe stadium and entrance into any other stadium makes sense to me. Even if you just want to see one big match on Ashe it's worth that difference to me. I have sometimes loaned out my Ashe ticket to other fans who want to see a fave on Ashe, and nice fans have done the same for me.

If you are not into Ashe at all (which I get - it's definitely the worst tennis stadium I have ever been in), you can opt for reserved seating tickets to Louis Armstrong or Grandstand in addition to grounds passes. During the first week, a grounds pass will get you plenty of action, but that's usually my last resort at slams because I prefer to have a seat somewhere if only just to escape the crowds if needed.

Ticketing packages:
This year, I opted to get the "Holiday Weekend Mini Plan." I made a deposit back in February for $200 ($100 deposit per ticket) and then in March I was able to 'convert' my deposit into actual seats and tickets. Once I did that, I had to pay the balance for my tickets. FYI, that package (which is good for all sessions from Friday night-Monday night of Labor Day Weekend) cost $674 each.

Usually, I wait until the last minute and Labor Day weekend almost always sells out - it's just a crazy weekend but I love it. If you wait too long, you will have to buy tix on the resale site, or through Stubhub. I've done both and the price can hurt. There are other packages only, and in my experience from doing this at a few events it's worth it. You can always sell any tickets you can't sell online. Check out all the plans here.

Practice Courts:
If you love watching players practice, then you'll love the US Open. Before being gutted after the 2013 US Open, the US Open practice courts were a hard spot to watch player practices. Fans love watching practices - it's often the only time many can get up close to players - and it's great the US Open finally made the area easier to watch. Now there's a viewing gallery over the practice courts as well as a schedule posted nearby which is most welcome. 

In addition to the practice courts, a lot of top-tier players like to practice on Louis Armstrong and Grandstand so keep an eye on those courts if you're sweeping around, especially during the qualifying rounds.

Getting there: 
I usually stay in Flushing so I typically arrive on the subway at Mets-Willets Point station. From there, it's about a 10-minute walk to the East Gate, but I often like to walk around to the South Gate because I love seeing the Unisphere and the lines are usually much shorter. If you choose to stay in Manhattan, the subway is fine but I usually prefer the LIRR which tends to be a few dollars more but I just prefer to travel above ground for the most part.

For full info about arriving onsite, click here. If you are coming to NYC for multiple days and plan to take the subway, do buy a Metrocard to keep your life simpler.

The Grounds:
If you're a first-timer, the best suggestion I can give you is to do a few laps around the grounds before committing to a match. If you get into the gates before play, check out the outer courts as players will be practicing and you can also note where water fountains, bathrooms and food/drink kiosks are located. Here are a few tips as well (and check out some of my pics from 2014 here):

  • American Express always sponsors a little earpiece radio playing US Open radio. Be sure to pick one up as it's fun to be able to listen to what's going on around the grounds or on other courts. Or if you miss match commentary!
  • The onsite bookstore is always worth a look. In years past it used to be located near the East Gate, but in 2014 it had been moved over near behind the big fountain area. Either way, there are great books and calendars for purchase. I always buy something there.
  • Hang out by the fountain under the big screen. It's just fun!
  • I always bring a few USB chargers, but if you haven't there are Chase charging stations on the grounds. 
  • Don't miss checking out the Court of Champions wall located near the South Gate.
  • Before you enter the grounds, be sure to read up on what you can or can't bring in here. Less is always more as to me it's annoying to have a heavy bag all day. A few must haves: phone, sunscreen, a hat, a few empty plastic water bottles, USB charger and a credit card. Honestly, that's about all you'll need! There are cash machines onsite, but the US Open is so friendly in taking plastic.  I have always brought in a bit of food but nothing crazy but in my experience the US Open security isn't too bad compared with Wimbledon and the French Open.

Food/Drink:
As I mentioned earlier, some locals disagree with me but I don't rate the food that much at the US Open. Of course I've been spoiled by being able to eat in the player restaurant and media cafe in years past, so I miss the sushi when I'm not credentialed.

But I have a few faves, especially drinks. The Honey Deuce (see left) is a must drink when at the US Open, if only for the great cups they are served in which list former champs on the back. For non-alcoholic drinks, I love the crushed lemonades. So good and refreshing.

Personally, I find the stadium food inside Ashe to be pretty dire, but some sandwich options are okay. Around the grounds, there's more than just the Food Village including the Heineken Red Star Cafe near the fountains and a few other hidden shops that offer enough options to keep you going. I never leave the site to eat, but certainly if you are into that, heading to nearby Flushing for great Asian food is an option!


Where to stay:
As I mentioned earlier, I usually stay in Flushing but in years past I have also stayed in the East Village or Long Island City. When I've travelled alone to the US Open, I've stayed at the Flushing YMCA and used Airbnb. Both have been great and super convenient (check out my Airbnb tips here). My mom and I have stayed at the Howard Johnson in Flushing and that's been fine. I'm not a big spender on hotels when I go to tennis tourneys, it's just not worth it to me when I'm onsite all day and night.


If you have time to explore New York City, here's my travel blog on my favorite places to visit!

What have I missed? What else would you like to know about the US Open? Hit me up in the comments.

    4 comments:

    1. Rafael Nadal will meet Denis Istomin in today's game played in US Open. In their last H2H meeting played at Miami Open, Nadal won the match with 2:0. I wonder if D. Istomin prepared us with a surprise today. Based on the past results of the two players, I would expect Nadal to perform well during this game and go for a victory. It should be interesting to see if Nadal will win by 2 sets difference as his last head to head meeting.

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    2. Tennis is a game that has to be played with maximum fun. While hitting the ball from the racket we have to use the maximum power of our body so that it is easy to score points.

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    3. Would love to go there Us open is where it is at! Www.lovetennisblog.com

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    4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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