Even more than an internationally renowned tennis tournament,the US Open is an annual celebration of all things New York
aris, London, New York and Melbourne, Australia, are each great cities that play host to one of tennis’s four major championships, known collectively as the Grand Slam. Naturally, every one of these tournaments takes on its city’s character, but none more so than the US Open. For two weeks spanning the end of each August and the beginning of each September, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York, just a short drive or subway ride from Midtown Manhattan, becomes the home of a tennis exhibition so quintessentially New York that it rivals a bagel topped with cream cheese and lox, the Sunday Times and the Statue of Liberty.
It’s also a place to see, hear, taste and feel some things that are totally unique to the Big Apple. Here are just a few.
Arthur Ashe Stadium, left, the main stadium of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City, is illuminated during the 2005 US Open
HEAR TRASH TALK ON THE 7 TRAIN
Arguing about sports is a sport unto itself in the city that never sleeps. And no one is about to back down from his or her opinion. On your way to Flushing Meadows, which is in Queens, don’t be surprised if you see a 7-year-old carrying an oversized autograph-covered tennis ball and hotly debating whether Rafael Nadal or Roger Federer is better with a suit-wearing Wall Street business executive on the 7 train. It can be more entertaining than a Broadway show. Don’t be bashful; join the conversation. Just don’t take it personally when another little kid rolls his eyes at you for saying Novak Djokovic is better than either Nadal or Federer.
EAT REAL DELI FARE
Stadiums all over the world serve up great food these days, from burgers to hot dogs and lobster rolls to slow-cooked-pork tacos. You can buy all that and more at the tennis center in Queens. But if you really want to get into the spirit of things, try the half-pound pastrami or corned beef on rye served up at the tennis center’s outpost of the world-famous Carnegie Deli, a New York institution. Trust us, you won’t find sandwiches like these anywhere else on the tour.
STARGAZE AT SUNDOWN
Night matches bring an air of sophistication to the tournament. It’s the ultimate scene in a town that’s all about maximizing your exposure. When headliners like Federer and Serena Williams play under the lights, stars like Tony Bennett, Alec Baldwin, Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake can usually be spotted either courtside or peering down from luxury suites.
CATCH AN AUTOGRAPHED BALL
Winners of matches played on the center’s Arthur Ashe Stadium court are asked to sign three balls and then hit them into the 22,547-seat stands. Thanks to modern rackets and the strength of today’s athletes, almost everyone who can see the court is within range to catch one.
Spectators fill the stands of Arthur Ashe Stadium on day four of the 2012 US Open
WITNESS A FIFTH-SET TIEBREAKER
This is the one Grand Slam event for which players don’t have to win the final set by two games. Why? Because residents of the Big Apple have places to go and things to do, and while they love tennis, they’re not patient enough to sit through a marathon like John Isner’s 2010 win over Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon, which had a final score of 70–68 in the fifth set. Fuhgeddaboudit! The Yankees are playing the Red Sox at 8 o’clock, and they’ve got to get from Queens to the Bronx in 45 minutes!
DAVID DUSEK is a senior writer for Golfweek. He previously worked for Tennis magazine and Golf Magazine.