Grand Slam on a Grand Stage
The world’s best tennis players descend upon the Big Apple for the fourth and final major tournament of the year, from August 29 to September 11. Like the three other events that make up the Grand Slam (the Australian Open, the French Open and Wimbledon), the US Open has a personality that fits its host nation and city. Enthusiastic crowds, seats filled with celebrities, and marathon matches that often last well past midnight? Only in New York!
The big news this year is the brand new retractable roof covering Arthur Ashe Stadium. Construction took place over three years, at a cost of over $150 million. If rain starts to fall, the roof can be closed in just over 6-and-a-half minutes, meaning that main court rain delays and match postponements are a thing of the past. When the roof is closed, a state-of-the-art cooling system will kick in, controlling the temperature and humidity inside the stadium. While weather won’t have as big an impact any more, you can expect the normally boisterous crowd to make even more noise in an indoor venue.
The first US Open championship was held in Rhode Island in 1881. For a period of forty years, it bounced from there to New York and then Philadelphia, before settling back in New York City in 1924. 1978 saw the championship move from the Forest Hills Tennis Club to its current home at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center. The US Open holds many unique distinctions. It was the first Grand Slam event that gave equal prize money to both the men’s and women’s champions, the first to hold matches under the lights, and the only Grand Slam event held every year since its beginnings. More than 700,000 fans are expected to attend the US Open, making it the best attended of the Grand Slam events. Although the singles matches generate the most buzz, there are numerous tournaments contested during the two weeks, including men’s and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, junior tournaments and wheelchair tournaments. Total prize money for the tournament will be over $46 million, with the men’s and women’s singles winners walking away with a record $3.5 million. Not bad for 2 weeks of work!
For two weeks, New York City is the center of the tennis universe, and the elite often live up to the advance billing. Although everyone loves an underdog story, by the end of the tournament you are likely to see the world’s best in the middle of Arthur Ashe stadium fighting for the title. Last year’s men’s singles championship saw Novak Djokovic defeat Roger Federer. They will certainly be among those favored to advance to the end of the tournament. Keep your eye on recent Olympic gold medalist Andy Murray- when he won the Gold in 2012, he followed that up with a win at the US Open. Will history repeat itself? As for the women’s draw, Serena Williams was upset in the semi finals last year as she was trying to win her fourth consecutive US Open championship, as well as complete the calendar year Grand Slam. Though she has battled through some tough tournaments this summer, she always brings her best to New York City. Last year’s surprise champion, Italy’s Flavia Pennetta, retired shortly after winning the Open, so we are guaranteed a new champion this year.
Though much of the action takes place on the court, the large number of celebrity tennis fans packed into Arthur Ashe stadium or walking the grounds of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center can easily distract you. Many of the famous fans attend regularly throughout the two weeks. Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Upton, David Beckham and President Bill Clinton have all been spotted court-side, along with Justin Timberlake, Sarah Jessica Parker and Eva Longoria. On Monday August 29th, the US Open’s opening night will be headlined by Phil Collins performing “In the Air Tonight,” helping to set the tone for what will be an incredible 2 weeks.
Serving Up An Ace
There is more to the US Open than just the tennis – the grounds offer up a number of great dining options, as well as fun places to grab a drink while enjoying the energy of the New York crowd passing by. If you have suite level tickets or court-side seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium, you have access to both Aces and Champions Bar & Grill, although restaurant passes are also available for purchase. Aces features great sushi prepared by Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto and unique seafood creations by Ed Brown, the creator of Ed’s Chowder House. If steaks and chops are more your taste, check out Champions Bar & Grill for a modern take on the traditional clubhouse atmosphere with meals prepared by Celebrity Chef David Burke.
All ticket holders have access to a number of great venues around the center. Patio Café & Bar is a charming outside café featuring seasonal salads and sandwiches paired with summer specialty cocktails. For a unique view of the grounds, go to the Heineken Red Star Café. Enjoy a cold drink on the top level of a two-story building, a perfect spot to relax, follow matches on the scoreboards and enjoy the crowds from a distance, all while enjoying great atmosphere and delicious menu items. There are a number of other great spots to quench your thirst and enjoy a snack – grab the US Open signature cocktail, the Grey Goose Honey Deuce, at the Grey Goose Bar, and be sure to grab a famous US Open lobster roll or the ahi tuna sandwich. If you want to check out the newest eateries, sample the freshest seafood at Oyster Bar 7, built into the back of Court 7, or Jacob’s Creek Wine Bar for a variety of great wines as well as full-service bar selections.
Getting There And Getting In
The US Open begins on Monday, August 29th and concludes on Sunday, September 11th with the Men’s singles finals (the women’s singles final is held on Saturday September 10th). Day sessions begin at 11am and evening sessions start at 7pm. There are 3 different types of tickets available, for Arthur Ashe Stadium, Louis Armstrong Stadium and Grounds Admission. Arthur Ashe tickets give you an assigned seat in the main stadium, with first- come, first-served access to all other courts. Louis Armstrong tickets provide an assigned seat at the second-largest court, as well as first-come, first-served seating in the Grandstand and all field courts. Grounds Admission offers general admission seats, with first-come, first-served seating at the Louis Armstrong Stadium, Grandstand, and all field courts.
The first few days of the tournament have the most matches going on at once, and it is very possible to see some of the biggest stars practicing on outer courts, as well as many matches taking place at the smallest venues, allowing for unparalleled access to great tennis, as well as the chance to see some of the future stars of tennis up close. If you hold tickets to the first evening session on August 29th, you will also be treated to a terrific fireworks show!
Don’t be worried if you haven’t gotten your tickets already. Getting into the US Open is easier than any of the other Grand Slam tournaments, especially during the first week. The grounds are also open a few days before the tournament, when you can see players practice – there is no charge for attending the practice days.