Friday Night Lights

Written By: achangeofends - Sep• 06•10

Alright, so I’ve been horrible about updating you guys on my trip to the US Open. I tried my best to update my twitter regularly all weekend, so if you want some of my most candid thoughts, please check out @achangeofends. Since the procrastinator in me took so long to post this, I’m think you’ve already read the results and post match commentary from this weekend so I think I’ll stay away from hardcore analysis and give you some of my observations from the weekend.

My trip was last minute as I have zero impulse control, but I chose to only purchase tickets for the Saturday day session and the Saturday night session. I was due to arrive in New York early Friday afternoon, but due to the media hype around Hurricane Earl, I was concerned that my flight might get delayed or play might be stopped. As luck would have it, I was seated behind a tour group on their way to the US Open on the plane. As it turned out, they had some no shows and five extra tickets for Friday night. The hurricane seemed to have come up lame, so I jumped at the chance and purchased a ticket for $25 (a good deal considering the face was $58.)

I’ve never been to a night match on Arthur Ashe and I was pretty damn excited for my first nighttime tennis experience. I arrived on site at around 7:30 on Friday night. I was running a wee bit late, but Venus/Minella was up first on Ashe and you all know I’m not nearly as big a fan of women’s tennis as I am men’s. Plus, it was clearly going to be a blowout. Poor Mandy Minella never had a chance. So, I decided to take a few minutes and acclimate myself with the site. Hey, there could be valuable day session matches still going on. I stopped by one of the outer courts and caught a few games of a great five setter between Gilles Simon and Phillip Kohlschreiber, which Gilles surprisingly won. Finally, I decided it was time to check out my seat on the main stage. So I started my trek up Ashe Stadium (and up and up and up.) The view from my seat was most likely the same as from the international space station, but I still got a good deal ($25) and got to see Rafael Nadal for the first time.

As I predicted, Mandy Minella was no match for Venus Williams. However, I believe Venus was using unfair tactics against poor Mandy. Did you see this dress? I could even see it from where I was sitting. If I were Mandy, I would’ve been pretty distracted by the sparkling going on across the net. The crowd was strongly behind Venus, but they were very receptive of the young Canadian. Mandy was very gracious in defeat and stayed on court for quite a while after her loss to sign autographs for fans. She was still all smiles.

Next up was Rafael Nadal vs. Denis Istomin. I didn’t have high hopes for poor Denis. There aren’t very many players who can threaten Nadal, even on hard courts. However, I was pleasantly surprised by how well Istomin played. At some point during this match, I discovered the nifty voice notes feature on my blackberry and recorded a few key observations. However, I didn’t contextualize very well so when I listened to them later, they didn’t make as much sense as I would’ve hope. Plus, my blackberry died at some point early in the third set.

Some things that I do remember from the match? Istomin squandered his small window of hope when he was up 5-1 in the second set tiebreaker. To go up 5-1, Denis made some incredible shots, including one that ended in a split, leaving skid marks on the court. There was some real celebration after that one, even from the crowd. However, the euphoria didn’t last long, when Rafa hammered out six straight points to win the breaker. After that, Istomin called out the trainer and had some heavy wrappings placed on his thigh. I was pretty sure the squandered tiebreak and whatever thigh injury was ailing Denis would cause a complete meltdown in the third set, but he hung in there. Eventually Istomin fell 6-2, 7-6, 7-5. I’m not going to lie, I ducked out towards the end of the third set to make sure I caught the LIRR back to the city (they only come once an hour.) I also made a pit stop at the Nike store to pick up a “Roger That” shirt and hit the Lacoste store for a nice tee. Because of the late hour, there were no lines and I was sure everything would be mobbed by the time I got back in the morning. Little did I know that this was only the beginning of my weekend purchases.

In case you plan on visiting, there’s a special deal. If you spend $150 at the site on your AMEX, you get a $50 Ralph Lauren gift card, up to 3 per day. I definitely fell for their ploy and ended up coming home with two t-shirts, a hat, a mug, a rubber duck, a Masha tennis skirt, and a headband. Also to be noted, if you have an American Express card, you are entitled to a free radio so you can listen to commentary during matches. They’re great for keeping up with the matches on Ashe if you’re sitting on an outer court.

Overall, I agree, there is something compelling about Ashe night matches. The New York crowd is louder and rowdier than any other crowd of tennis fans I’ve ever seen. It’s also a pretty big society event in New York, so during popular night matches you’ll find a lot of non-tennis fans there as well. Just above the first tier of seats, there are two tiers of luxury suites. They include a few rows of seats as well as an interior section where the owners can set up food and drinks. These suites are mostly purchased by companies looking to entertain clients and generally the seats go unused for most of the match. There are also a heavy celebrity presence on Ashe at night with stars from other sports, music and television making frequent appearances. I would certainly recommend trying out the night session once, but you get the most bang for your buck by buying grounds admission for the day session.

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