So, before I forget about it, I wanted to write about some of the tennis I watched live at the US Open on Labor Day and the following Tuesday.
The original plan was for M, S, C to go with me. But there were scheduling issues and financial issues, and finally I said to myself, fuck it, I’m going to watch tennis live in a larger venue than the DC Legg Mason tournament. If they want to join me, they can, but I’m not waiting around for them. And so I went.
Took the bus to NYC — it was full, not surprisingly, and arrived a little late but was a comfortable ride, and much cheaper than driving or taking the train. After dropping my bag at the hotel, took the #7 out to Flushing Meadows. A LOT of people were doing the same — the train was standing room only from Times Square out to Mets-Willets Point station, where the tennis grounds are located.
Went first to Ashe Stadium to watch Melanie Oudin play Nadia Petrova — she got spanked in the first set, so I went next door to Armstrong Stadium to watch part of the Soderling-Davydenko match…but not much of it, since Davydenko retired. In retrospect, I should have either stayed in Armstrong through the Wickmayer-Kvitova match, holding onto my seat for the Verdasco-Isner match, or returned to Ashe to see the rest of the Oudin-Petrova match. Instead, I wandered around the outer courts, checking out matches being played by juniors and doubles, then headed over to the grandstand to watch Nestor/Zimonjic play Kendrick/Tipsarevich in a pretty good doubles match; caught part of the third set of Wickmayer-Kvitova, then headed back to Ashe to watch Roger Federer play Tommy Robredo. I hesitated, because the outcome of the Federer match was pretty much a foregone conclusion — Robredo is good but Federer is great (although I’m still not sold on his being the GOAT) — but it seemed wrong to have the chance to see Federer play and not do so. And I really wanted to see Verdasco play; not so much for Isner. Anyhow, by the time the Federer match was over, Armstrong was at capacity, so I watched the Verdasco-Isner match on the big screen, along with many other tennis fans. Ended up watching mixed doubles in the grandstand before heading back to Ashe to watch Svetlana Kuznetsova play a pretty good match but choke in the third set against Caroline Wozniacki, then an okay match between Radek Stepanek and Novak Djokovic. Was impressed by Djokovic’s joking with John McEnroe — he alienated the crowd last year but went out of his way to please the crowd this year.
Back to the hotel at about 1am.
More doubles on Tuesday: caught part of the Bryan brothers’ match in Ashe, then headed over to see Laura Robson, British winner of Wimbledon juniors in 2008, beat Lauren Embree in a three set match. Kim Clijsters disposed of Na Li handily, so quickly that I only caught the last couple of games of the second set. Andy Murray’s match against Marin Cilic was disappointing; not because he lost, but because he never really showed up, and the match was fairly blah. At different points during the day, I watched Andy Murray and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on the practice court, along with Stubbs/Stosur, who were hitting with Conchita Martinez, and Nestor/Zimonjic. In the late afternoon, went to the Mirnyi/Ram match against Nestor/Zimonjic — the crowd was tiny, less than 150 people, because everyone was either watching the Gonzalez-Tsonga match or getting ready to go into Ashe for the evening matches. Small as it was, the crowd was hugely partisan on the side of Mirnyi/Ram. Frankly, the hecking was quite noticeable and a little disturbing (which is saying something since I’ve sat through games with Philly fans, thx). But the umpire did not do anything at all about it; at one point, a woman directly behind Zimonjic called him Ziggy (all I could think was, WTF, he so doesn’t look like a Ziggy) and taunted him, and when he turned around and told her to shut up, the umpire gave him a sportsmanship warning. He was very unhappy with the lack of crowd control on her part, and said so.
Back to Ashe to watch Serena beat Flavia Pennetta in what was a fairly good match, despite the score. Pennetta played a good match, and the partisan crowd liked her even though she was playing one of the Williams sisters. Then Gael Monfils played Rafael Nadal. Monfils took the first set, breaking Nadal early, but Nadal improved as the set went on, and was extremely strong in the next three sets, taking them from Monfils easily. At one point during the second set, after extended rallies, Nadal walked around the court in total control and appeared to not even breathe heavily, while Monfils leaned on his racquet and heaved for breath. Monfils, I understand, is a mercurial fellow and his conditioning isn’t what it could be — that was fairly clear during the second and third sets, when shots that were miraculously in during the first set started to go long and wide. He played to the crowd and appreciated the cheering, though.
After that: headed back to Manhattan, picked up my bag and went to Penn Station to wait for the 3:30am train home. Yes, I went to work on Wednesday and was a zombie, but it was totally worth it.
Random pieces of information:
- Bhupathi is pronounced BOO-pat-hi – I’m never sure if the "th" is a digraph or not. Not in this case, just a consonant cluster.
- The tournament cocktail special was a "Honey Deuce", which was Grey Goose (sponsor!), lemonade, and Chambord, with a skewer of honey dew melon balls as garnish.
- A variety of food sponsors gave out yogurt, cookies, etc. Stoneyfield Farms is now making Greek yogurt with Oikos. And I love Lu’s shortbread cookies.
- The USTA had to be making major bucks on concessions (a variety, not just hot dogs, etc.) and on the souvenir shops.
The accessibility of the players, especially on the smaller courts and the practice courts was amazing. In fact, a lot of the matches on the smaller courts were better than the larger courts, if only because they were so immediately in front of me as a spectator.
Ashe Stadium is well-designed in terms of line of sight and there does not seem to be a bad seat in the house. I say that as someone who had nosebleed-height seats, but still felt like I could see everything. Having said that, I also have to say that the crowd control was not impressive. [Perhaps exemplified by the fan who managed to get on court and hug Nadal, despite whatever security was in place.] Or maybe it was impressive by its invisibility? I dunno. I was only asked for my ticket once, when I entered in the morning. After that, never again.
Also, negotiating the exterior was a mess — the abundance of food vendors was nice, but there was no line control and bunches of people waiting to order their food of choice often blocked the walkways, griding foot traffic to a crawl. Frankly, negotiating the upper level concourse was worse than any other sporting event I’ve ever attended, college or professional.
Seating: this was the first sporting event I’ve ever attended where people sat wherever they wanted (in the upper deck) from the start. My other experience has been that you sit where your tickets say, then move down as the game progresses; not so much here. Which was profoundly irritating, because people acted put upon when evicted them to their own proper seats.
Also related to crowd control, probably a function of the size of Ashe: it was irritating as hell for there to be no seating control. People came and went in the middle of points, in between games, forget the idea of seating only on changeovers. Especially early in matches, rallies were frequently blocked by people who didn’t understand (or didn’t care) about obstructing the view of others. Of course, since the USTA staff didn’t seem to understand the concept either, letting people into the smaller courts and grandstand inconsistently, I suppose I shouldn’t bitch about rude fans.
Definitely want to go back next year, although I hope the M, S and C are more organized and can go, too. But even if they can’t, I’m going again. I’m not sure about the value of the Ashe ticket versus grounds/grandstand admission, since most of the matches I enjoyed were not played on Ashe, but I’ll still be buying tickets next April.
I took my camera and even managed to take some pictures. But they are mostly blurry and have ant-like people moving around the court. Here’s one of the south entry with the Unisphere.