Wednesday 3rd September
New York, USA
US Open Tennis, Flushing Meadows
What an amazing day!
We began by exploring the venue, the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. It is really fantastic – spacious and incredibly well-equipped with food and commercial concessions, as sports venues tend to be here in the US. The weather was wonderful – hot and sunny, but less humid than Tuesday had been, so a little less like walking through warm soup (although I still wouldn’t have fancied playing five sets of tennis in it!).
We had tickets for the main stadium, Arthur Ashe, right up at the back at one end of the court. From there, we began by watching a mixed doubles match with a significant amount of US involvement as Spears/Gonzalez bt. Townsend/Young.
The next match-up on Arthur Ashe was Victoria Azarenka vs. Ekaterina Makarova. We decided to watch the beginning and then head out to the field courts to see some more games close-up, before heading back for the climax of the game. However, the result was something of an upset, with Azarenka capitulating pretty rapidly, so we didn’t make it back in time to see any more of that match!
No regrets, though, as we dipped in and out of some fantastic juniors matches on the outer courts, including pausing for a time to cheer on Katie Swan from the UK. Sadly, our support was insufficient to inspire her to a victory over the ninth seed, but I am sure that she appreciated the sentiment…
We were also lucky enough to wander over towards the practice courts just in time to see John McEnroe signing some autographs (while wearing a t-shirt bearing his own name, rather oddly…) and then, amazingly, to catch the end of Federer’s practice session with his coach, Stefan Edberg. By the time that we made it to the tellingly-large viewing gallery immediately overlooking the practice courts, Rog (as I think I am now entitled to call him) had completed his session and was relaxing with his team, apparently not at all fazed by the large crowd that had gathered to wait for autographs, etc., on his route back to the clubhouse.
After a break in the shade to escape the unrelenting sun, we headed back into the stadium, hot dogs in hand, for Stan Wawrinka vs. Kei Nishikori. While Stan is the current Australian Open champion and third seed at the US, we were not familiar with Nishikori, although that is presumably on us, not him, as he is the tenth seed for this tournament. It seemed to us that the outcome should be a foregone conclusion, particularly as Nishikori had played five sets in the previous round, finishing his match at 2.30am on Tuesday morning. However, as the match unfolded over five sets we saw another upset, with Nishikori becoming the first Japanese man to make the semifinal of a Grand Slam tournament since 1918.
The match was captivating, and we didn’t consider moving (other than to fetch more cold water and frozen lemonade to combat the searing heat!), although that meant that we sadly missed seeing Ross Hutchins playing mixed doubles on Louis Armstrong. He and his partner lost, but only just, on the strange super-tie-break used in place of a third set in doubles match at the US Open.
Because Wawrinka and Nishikori’s match went on for so long, the afternoon session (which we had tickets for) went on past 7pm, when the evening session was due to begin. The way that it works is that everybody has to clear out of Arthur Ashe stadium between the afternoon and evening sessions, but holders of afternoon tickets can stay within the complex until it closes. We had thought that we would be exhausted after eight hours in the sun, but we were wired following the drama of the Nishikori win, so we decided to get some food and watch Serena Williams’ match on one of the big screens in the central area of the Flushing Meadows site. With Williams’ opponent, Flavia Pennetta, disposed of relatively rapidly, we then decided to stay on for a bit of the Murray/Djokovic match, although it did not start until after 9.30pm.
And thank goodness that we did! We moved closer to the entrance to Arthur Ashe, sitting on the edge of a fountain immediately beneath the big screen. And then within a couple of minutes, as the players were being introduced to the crowd, a young man walked up and offered us night session tickets! He was attending with clients, but they had had to leave after the Williams match because they had early meetings the following morning. Our knight in shining armour thought it was a shame to waste excellent tickets, so offered them to the first people he saw – and we were lucky enough for that to be us! Samad, who we sat with for the remainder of the evening, was an absolutely lovely guy – a true gent. Samad, if you are reading this, thank you, from the bottom of our British hearts, for making a great day into a truly magnificent one!
Poor Andy just didn’t have enough in his legs to beat Djokovic, but it was an incredible match. The guys sitting in front of us, who had been attending the US Open for decades, all said it was one of the best games they had ever seen, and the atmosphere was incredible. The tickets that Samad gave us were amazing, too – we had been really impressed with our original seats, up in the Gods, but this view was something else.
The match finally came to an end at around 1.20am (fortunately, the subway in NYC runs all night!), and we headed “home”, tired but happy after 15 hours of incredible tennis. We are both still pinching ourselves, and can’t believe quite how lucky we were!