Last year, I finally had the chance to go to the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadows as I sampled the Men’s Semifinals in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The Tennis Center is quite a facility and there are two other stadiums inside that are large enough for The List. To see singles action in both the Grandstand and Louis Armstrong Stadium, you have to attend during the early or middle rounds of the tournament and I decided to go with Friday Third Round action. There’s several ticket options for the Open and the most popular and practical is Grounds Admission. This allows you access to all courts, except Arthur Ashe. When it comes to Armstrong and Grandstand, the Grounds Pass let’s you sit in the upper level. This makes for a unique dynamic as during the in-game changeover, there is a rushed effort for newcomers to find an open seat. Most times, this is smooth as it coincides with people getting up to use the bathroom or see another match. Where it was a problem was in Armstrong, where the crowds were so large that the changeover didn’t last long enough to completely let in the lines waiting before the stairs. It’s not worth making it ticketed-only like Ashe, so it is what it is. As for buying the tickets, it’s impossible to find them on-sale through the USTA, so you’re at the mercy of the secondary market. They were consistently $85 when I monitored weeks ago and I figured I’d wait till the day before the event to get one, figuring people would put up their tickets if plans changed. Big mistake as that doesn’t happen and brokers control the price. On Monday, tickets jumped $20 higher (as the weather looked obvious to be nice) and then another $20 higher on Tuesday. They kept climbing and I settled with buying one at $135. The morning I left, Grounds Passes were up to $160. If you ever plan on going, buy in advance and read up on the rain policy.
I left my house at 7:00 AM and the cost between parking and using public transit was the same. I chose a longer travel time to avoid the headaches and congestion of driving through NYC. Gates open at 9:30 AM, an hour and a half before competition starts and that gave me a chance to tour and photograph the stadiums. Glad I did because there is very little opportunity to do that during the day. Once complete, I had a gameplan for who I wanted to see and it began with a tasty matchup between Kei Nishikori (7th seed) and Alex de Minaur. This one was in Grandstand and I snagged a coveted shaded seat well before the start as those seats understandably went fast. In the context that this is the 3rd show court in the Tennis Center, it’s one of the best in the world. However, judging from it on it’s own, ehhhh, I wasn’t a fan…General admission seats are very uncomfortable as bleachers with a back make for a tight squeeze. The shade feature is nice, but why isn’t there more of it? The circular design creates for a wavy appearance as ramps round the top. This court in 2017 replaced the old Grandstand that stood in the shadows of the old Armstrong and I wish they built it with regular seats (I’m sure they have the money). The atmosphere is decent as it is the most intimate show stadium with individual shouts easily heard and chants/cheers getting traction quickly. This was definitely a pro-Kei crowd, but it was de Minaur that shined as he played flawlessly while Nishikori struggled. The young Australian got the upset in four sets.
After successfully fighting bladder urges and hunger pains through the match, I gave up my quality shaded seat to go get some grub in the food village. I opted for a Fuku Chicken Sandwich. Good, but not $16 good. Instead of eating at one of the tables, I went over to Louis Armstrong Stadium, where Stan Wawrinka would be facing lucky-loser Paulo Lorenzi. Before that were to begin, Ash Barty was in action and I ate while watching her put away the second set for the win. The 1-year old stadium is absolutely gorgeous. The design features a very steep upper-level that provides a great viewpoint. Because there is limited seating on the ends, intimacy isn’t as high as other stadiums like these in the 12,000 to 15,000 seat range, but it is still excellent. The terra cotta panels give the stadium a very unique element. By far, Armstrong is my favorite tennis court from a stadium design perspective.
The match was terrific as Lorenzi put up a gritty effort. Rallies were long, as evidenced by the 3 hour time for a match that only went three sets. The latter two could’ve gone either way and Stan saved so many break points with an impressive serve. He finished with 26 aces and he gave the crowd a jaw-dropping moment when he broke his racket in two pieces just below the frame (quite an achievement with this time period’s equipment). Wawrinka has been a favorite of mine when he started coming up the singles ranks, in the shadow of his other Swiss counterpart. He is vastly underappreciated given that he has won a remarkable three majors in an era dominated by the Big Three (he has just as many as Andy Murray, who gets far more press). I loved seeing those in the crowd with “Stan the Man” shirts on and this NYC crowd gave him a fair amount of love. They did try to will Lorenzi into a fourth set, understandable given the desire to see more quality tennis. Regardless, good match and that capped the end of the day. I tried to make it to Court 17 after this one for the Dimitrov-Majchrzak match, but the coinciding day/night session crowd meant that the grounds and court were filled to the brim. I did rue that I wasn’t in the night session at Armstrong, where Daniil Medvedev did a full heel turn. The rest of the tournament should be very enjoyable and look for full review write-ups on both stadiums.