Deirdre and I are trying to do some "New York City thing" at least once a week, not necessarily to justify living here (we don't need to do that) but to emphasize the positives, and guard against the inertia of inactivity.
So today we took the 7 train out to Queens to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, right across the subway tracks from Shea Stadium and just next door to artifacts from the 1964 New York World's Fair. This is the second week of the U.S. Open, the largest tennis event in the United States, and one of the four Grand Slam events during the year (the other three being the Australian Open, the French Open, and Wimbledon).
In some previous years, we've gotten tickets for the session with the two women's semi-final matches at the Arthur Ashe Stadium, but we haven't discovered the secret of getting good seats, and the seats we got were very high up. So we've abandoned that goal. Someday we may have courtside seats at the Arthur Ashe Stadium and get a whole new perspective, but we're pursuing other treats these days.
If instead you resign yourself to not seeing headline events in the Arthur Ashe Stadium, you can get ground's passes during the first week of the Open for between $40 and $50 (depending on the day) for either a day session or an evening session. These get you into unreserved seating in the smaller Louis Armstrong Stadium, and also the 9 or so other courts where matches are played. During the second week of the Open, you can buy a ticket in the upper extremities of the Arthur Ashe Stadium for about the same price and go anywhere else in the complex instead.
The other courts have intimate bleacher seating, and they're quite fun. During the first week of the Open you might see seeded players in their early-round matches. During the second week, you can see all the other stuff that goes on at the U.S. Open that doesn't get the TV coverage. Despite the limited seating, the matches at these courts still involve a chair umpire, five lines persons, and four ball kids.
I enjoy the Junior's matches. This is an opportunity to see boys and girls (as they are officially called) before they go professional. Two years ago, we saw Andy Murray play in one of the boy's matches. He won the Boy's single title at the U.S. Open that year, and is now the top-ranked British player and the new big hope of Britain now that Tim Henman is on the decline.
We started out this morning at Court 11, watching a girl's match between two 16 year old Americans, Madison Brengle and Lauren Albanese. Miss Albanese's smooth low serve and powerful returns led her to a 6-4, 6-1 victory. (See was also a wild card in the women's draw but was defeated in the second round by Kuznetsova.) We then watched a set of the highest seeded American still in the girl's draw, Julia Cohen, against Raluca Olaru from Romania, a match that the American later lost. We scooted over to Court 9 but were too late to see anything more than the tail-end of a match where the highest seeded player in the girl's draw — 15 year old Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova from Russia — defeated Jade Curtis from Great Britain.
Sometimes you can sit between two small courts and get a bit of a split-screen effect. We watched a really fun "Mixed Champions" doubles match on Court 10 with four retired players: Mary Joe Fernandez and MaliVai Washington were just narrowly defeated by Gigi Fernandez and Andres Gomez in a two-set plus 10-game tie break format, but they all had a great deal of fun in the process. Here's MaliVai and Mary Joe being interviewed before the match:
And here they are on court:
Adjacent to the court with the doubles match was Court 9 featuring one of the Men's Wheelchair Singles matches between Maikel Scheffers of the Netherlands and Shingo Kunieda of Japan. Here's Sheffers:
My predictions for the women's semi-finals tomorrow afternoon (for what they're worth): The fun match will be the one between Amelie Mauresmo and Maria Sharapova. It'll be a real nail-biter, but I predict a Mauresmo win. Jelena Jankovic has had a good run, and she'll be a real factor in the years ahead, but tomorrow she will be easily defeated by Justine Henin-Hardenne, leading to what is now a classic Mauresmo/Henin final. Go Amelie!