Despite living “only” a 90 minute flight from New York, we had never been to the US Open before 2015. Trevor had never even been to NYC for anything other than work, so we wanted to make a long weekend out of it. We had always heard that the US Open was the “big one” as far as tennis tournaments. The Australian Open was laid back, while the French Open and Wimbledon had their history and unique European atmospheres. But the US Open was brash and loud, just like New York. This is our take on the fan experience at the US Open.
The first challenge is getting tickets. We joined the USTA to get into the pre-sales (US$44 for an individual, US$72 for a “family” of 2 or more, 1 year membership). Even with that, we had to pay a ludicrous amount for decent tickets.
We’d heard that the Arthur Ashe stadium was so big, there was almost no point sitting in the upper deck because you’d be so far away from the action. We settled for the middle tier, although had to pay up for the privilege.
The first lesson of attending the US Open is to get there early, and don’t bring any bags. Lines were divided up between people with and without bags, and there were hundreds of people waiting for the gates to open. Avoiding a bag (wear a jacket with pockets or cargo shorts) makes getting into the grounds a much smoother experience.
The grounds themselves are quite big, so we spent the first hour exploring before settling onto Arthur Ashe. This was where we had our first surprise. Ushers were showing people to their seats…and in return, probably 50% of people were giving them a tip. We had never seen that at any tournament, anywhere in the world. What is it with Americans tipping for every possible service they receive? And, to be honest, the ushers weren’t very good. There was a constant stream of people getting up and down from their seats in the middle of play, whereas at other tournaments that is strictly controlled.
We were at the US Open for the Day Session on the first Friday, which equated to the 3rd round for both Men’s and Women’s singles. On Ashe, we watched Makarova beat Svitolina and Venus beat Bencic. We skipped the Djokovic vs Seppi beatdown.
This was our second lesson. In retrospect, we shouldn’t have bothered with Ashe tickets at all. Both of the women’s matches we saw were straightforward, and we had no interest in seeing Novak beat down Seppi. Instead, we explored the outer courts where we could have had seats for a lot less money. The best match of the day session, by far, was Bouchard vs Cibulkova on Armstrong.
Part of that was obviously the quality and closeness of the match. But it’s true what they say, the cavernous Arthur Ashe stadium is so big that the atmosphere can be lacking. Especially when there isn’t a high profile match on court, much of the stadium can be empty. By comparison, the tight match on Armstrong was fantastic – the seats were filled to capacity, and the atmosphere was amazing.
The rest of the grounds were interesting to explore, but nothing special. Overall, the experience was underwhelming. Yes, you get the intensity you only experience at a Major. And don’t discount that if you’ve never been to a Slam before – there’s nothing like it. But in terms of overall fan experience, our time at the US Open doesn’t rank very highly on our list and probably at the bottom for “value for money”. If we were to go again, we’d buy tickets on Armstrong or even just grounds passes on the Thursday or Friday of the first week. Paying the astronomical prices for tickets on Ashe is only worthwhile if you have no choice but to attend in the 2nd week.
The grounds were fine. It was crowded, but the grounds are big enough not to feel claustrophobic. The facilities show their age. Arthur Ashe is such a huge stadium we found the atmosphere was severely lacking. It may be better in a night session or later in the tournament when the matches are tighter.
Concessions were average and expensive. Where you expecting something else?
Tips for Attending the US Open