Other than league play, the greatest benefit of being a USTA member is the ability to purchase US Open tickets before they go on sale to the public. But don’t fool yourself. You’re not really competing against the general public. You’re competing against your fellow members in a chance to snap up the most-coveted tickets in all of American tennis.
The pre-sale begins in just twelve days, on 9:00 am EDT Tuesday, April 24, 2012 and ends Tuesday, May 1, 2012 at 11:59 pm EST. Forget the end date. You will want to purchase on the very first day and maybe in the first five minutes.
Fans may remember the Tennis East Coast editorial about Arthur Ashe last year. Although I’m not espousing that you ever buy tickets in the Ashe upper promenade, how else are you getting into the men’s or women’s final?
What not to buy: Grounds passes and early round sessions generally do not sell out, and never during a member pre-sale. If you wait until July or August, you can score the same seats to the early rounds for less online. You can even get court side Armstrong box seats for less than the face value of a reserved (upper) seat in that stadium. Although the night session at Ashe is not a particularly good value in terms of time or money for a die-hard fan, the USTA’s buy-one-get-one-free deals may make it worth your consideration.
Here are the top five tickets to purchase quickly at presale:
1. Men’s Final: It has been a hot ticket for a long time, but in the last two years, you can’t find a pair on Ticketmaster after the member pre-sale. In fact, you might miss out if you don’t buy within the first half-hour.
2. Women’s final: Although you may still find a pair a couple of days into the pre-sale, don’t expect them available to the general public on Ticketmaster.
3. Men’s semis: Held on the same Saturday as the women’s final, availability for these tickets will also not survive the pre-sale.
4. Super Saturday/Labor Day weekend: The hierarchy goes like this–Saturday and Sunday are hot, hot, hot and Monday usually has more availability.
5. Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day: Since you think you already knew everything I’ve told you above, I’ve saved the best for last. With Courtside Ashe tickets going for $800 and up, this is the sweetest pre-sale secret of all. For $40, you get a Courtside box seat for Kids’ Day, with up-close views of music and exhibition tennis. While you can purchase a reasonable ticket upstairs to Kids’ Day well into August, the courtside tickets are open to all and sell out within an hour. No little ones? No worries. There’s no rule that you need to bring a child to the event. With these seats, even a kid at heart will enjoy the view.
Tennis Maryland wants to preface everything we say with the acknowledgment that we love the US Open, and we want to assist, in some small way, in its constant evolution and development.
The Open experience for the average fan at Arthur Ashe Stadium has become somewhat unpleasant. It didn’t feel quite like this ten years ago. But, with the growing popularity of the event, the US Open is starting to smell. If you attend the later rounds of the tournament, it can even constitute a total disappointment. We know of only one way for a fan to beat them at their own game, and it doesn’t involve a major-league boycott.
You pay well over a hundred bucks to sit in seats which might be best suited for an NFL game, which has a much larger playing field. You deal with the machinations of Wall Street-style arbitrageurs who determine that if they stop and start play over many hours and squeeze in a single match on Arthur Ashe before nightfall hits, that you don’t get your money back. Never mind that you paid to see a full day’s worth of matches.
Then, there’s the $20 glasses of sparkling wine, $14 mixed drinks, the long lines for over-priced cafeteria food, the $40 T-shirts and the booths which give away useless junk while requiring your most personal information, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a festival of fan abuse. (Disclosure: Tennis Maryland does buy a $10 beer, but that’s about it)
The Open is even located in one of the most traffic-congested, culture-voided wastelands of an otherwise Great City of the World. It is in an area in which the New York Mets play. Further, it is in an area in which, we are sad to report, there is nothing but a giant cluster of auto-repair shops and landfills and yet still manages to charge $20 and up for daily parking. (We’ll tell you where to park for FREE in the neighborhood in a later post)
There’s been lots of spirited discussion about the lack of a roof at Arthur Ashe Stadium for years. It is the only major tennis tournament in the world without such a contingency plan in effect. For the fourth straight year, the Men’s final was not held as originally scheduled for yesterday. If you’re from out-of-town, you spend money and time to get to New York, to get out the Grand Central Parkway to Timbuktu, on a Manhattan hotel room (or take your chances on a dicey motel in a nearby Queens neighborhood), feeding your family, and then getting to watch a little tennis before they cancel the entertainment portion of your vacation.
The only fans who benefit from the lack of a roof on Arthur Ashe are local New Yorkers who can swoop in and pick up cheap tickets from prior canceled sessions. The rest of us, who New Yorkers derisively refer to as hailing from “the provinces”, foot the bill and get very little in return for our financial support.
We can’t promise perfection, but the only way a real tennis fan with a net worth of less than 3 million dollars can have a satisfactory experience at the Open is to buy a grounds pass for the first few days of the tournament. Do not buy a ticket to Arthur Ashe Stadium, which temptingly costs only a few dollars more. The cheaper grounds pass entitles you to see, for example, 47 of the 49 singles day matches held during the day sessions on the first two days of the tournament. By not buying a ticket to Arthur Ashe, you will miss the terribly disappointing views, and more importantly, the wasted time of two or three terribly lopsided matches, if you’re lucky.
Imagine that your kids think they’ll actually get to see Roger Federer or Serena Williams play. Well, they won’t. They’ll see an ant playing tennis, and you’ll assure them that the ant is, in fact, Roger Federer or Serena Williams. You’ll confirm the ant is indeed the player by pointing the little ones to the Jumbotron. The Jumbotron at which you’re all gazing that happens to carry the same feed delivered to your home and on the Jumbotron affixed to the front of Arthur Ashe Stadium itself. Which you can see with a grounds pass.
Whatever you do, do not make the mistake of attending a night session. For the aforementioned sub-standard, nose-bleed experience, you’ll only get two scheduled matches on Ashe (at best) and nothing else. The real excitement, the excitement that happens everywhere but Ashe, will have quit for the day. Once the day session wraps up around 7:30, the only tennis to see at the National Tennis Center is the tennis you can’t see. At least if you were naive enough to buy day session tickets at Ashe, you could still wander off and see a perfectly good match in the front row on the outer courts, if only by accident.
In summary, our advice is this: Don’t buy a ticket to Arthur Ashe, well, ever, until they fix Ashe. Buy an early rounds grounds pass and see competitive world-class tennis up close and personal. You’ll still deal with the over-priced food, souvenirs, beverages and depressing surroundings of Flushing Meadows. But, this way, you will definitely send them a message. Fix Ashe. Tear it down if necessary. Make it smaller if needed. But, please, let the fans SEE the players. And let’s guarantee tennis is played there every day and evening during the US Open.
If you’ve been to smaller tournaments, then you know it doesn’t have to be this way. We only expect the Slams to operate with a roof. We don’t expect it from everyone else. At ATP and WTA tournaments all over the country, you get a far more intimate, fan-friendly experience for a fraction of the price. At these smaller events, the winner doesn’t get a $1 million check. But if you can’t even read the words on that giant check from where you’re sitting at the Open, you might as well just watch it on television. What’s worse is that you can’t even read that giant check from your seats and you helped pay for the prize money. And if there’s a monsoon and there’s no roof, then it is a waste of everyone’s time. And money.
On this one issue alone, it’s hard to get an informed opinion from credentialed media, who, although they are highly respectable and independent professionals, don’t feel the full pain of the average fan during the tournament because they are not in the exact same boat.
In closing, we urge readers to get out and see the rest of the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Center. See Armstrong. See Grandstand. A grounds pass will get you an amazing view without a reserved seat. They’re likely going to tear those stadia down soon. See the new Court 17, the classic Court 13 and the much smaller courts. You’ll be very glad that you did. There have been audible grumblings during this very Open by players and officials as to the US Open management’s bottom-line, my-way-or-the-highway mentality. Sadly for them, only the collective power of the fans and their wallets can improve this priceless American tennis experience.
This has been a stressful US Open. Between the weather, the warped courts, the men’s mutiny, recriminations that men are treated better than women, empty Arthur Ashe, the recurring roof ramblings and all of the court changes, Tennis Maryland sincerely believes that players, fans and officials will need months of group therapy to overcome the demons of Flushing Meadows.
While we’re all in this together, it feels as if the real battles of US Open 2011 have been fought off the courts. Now that we’re in semifinal mode, let’s hope that the stellar play of the next three days erases the memories of the last week.
We’re going to pick Angeliquie Kerber to upset Samantha Stosur tonight. We said it. That will be the last upset we pick in this tournament. Three sets, two tie-breaks. Kerber is already 1-0 on Grandstand and 3-0 on Court 17 this fortnight. If the match were to be held on Ashe, we wouldn’t give her a great chance. Stosur’s already won two matches on Armstrong, so she would have been ready to play in Ashe in a comfortable setting. Venue is always important in tennis. That’s why we’re going long and predicting Angelique.
In other news, Djokovic will beat Federer and Nadal will destroy Murray this afternoon. In the least shocking prediction, Serena will do a defensive linesman’s war dance on Wozniacki’s lifeless game tonight.
No, her dad doesn’t own a professional sports team and her mother isn’t related to a Kennedy. Her father was a cabinet-maker, her mother a teacher. The NYC immigrants from Ecuador scrimped and saved to make their daughter’s dream come true. And what a dream it is! Here’s Irina at her very first press conference after advancing to the CitiOpen Semifinals last month. She’s gone from #378 to #79 and is going even higher than that, having reached the final 32 of the US Open on this very night. This GA Tech Yellowjacket is going places fast, especially after her victory on Arthur Ashe tonight over Dominika Cibulkova. This is her story.
1. Seat-savers in Armstrong and Grandstand: Do you know the reason that the US Open says “no reserved seating” at these courts? That’s because these seats are supposed to be open to any butt at any time. Some people leave stuff in their front-row seats on these courts and bolt around the grounds for hours at a time. Others closely guard these seats for their peers. Look, don’t tell me that seat is taken when the chair umpire has called time and told everyone to take their seats. If they aren’t here yet, then it’s ours for at least the next two games. The change is over, and if your buddy shows up two games from now, we’ll consider giving it back. Depending on big he is.
2. The US Open’s reserved seats in the ‘unreserved’ Grandstand: Sure, we know the families and coaches need a couple of seats behind the players, but the US Open blocks off hundreds, leaving the rest of us to fight the seat-savers. Yesterday, the only person who occupied one of the reserved seats was Pam Shriver, who was doing live commentary for ESPN. So, when it’s her live shot, the camera cuts to her with no one else around. Making it appear the stadium is empty to give her some elbow room does nothing to demonstrate the decent crowd that is actually at the match.
3. Fashionistas: Ok, you’re at the US Open. Maybe you’ve watched Wimbledon and you think everyone should be dressed up. Maybe you’re going to the boss’ suite after work. Then, we’ll give you a pass. We know it’s New York, but being dressed to kill in the upper promenade on an early night session is just silly.
4. The Food Lines: Unless you want to eat lunch at 10am or 4pm, plan to wait as much as 20-30 minutes from the time you pick your food line to the time you get to salt your fries and scour the grounds for another 20 minutes to find a table from the Food Court Seat-Savers.
5. The Bumpers: We don’t know how to say this. We’ve been going to the Open for well over a decade. We’ve noticed that the crowd has become increasingly (exponentially) international. We like that. It’s an international event and the eyes of the world are on Flushing Meadows. What we don’t like is the increasing number of pushy people (and their kids) who nudge and bump us as they pass without even the slightest notice that they are aware of what they are doing. We’d be surprised if most everyone who attends the US Open doesn’t know how to say “excuse me” or “sorry” in English or in body language. We know that customs vary around the world, but when you’re at the US Open, try to observe ours.
We’re not completely curmudgeony. Look for our list of our five favorite things about the early rounds coming up next.