A Labor Day First: Top 10 U.S. Open Observer-ations ... From a Guy Who Just Wants a Chance To Work
Carrollton's Kelly Dearmore emailed me with a simple request:
I wanna write for Sportatorium.
Being that he's a free-lance writer that has covered concerts for the Observer, he hates the New York Yankees and he loves him some tennis in general and one of my fave sporting events -- the U.S. Open -- in particular, makes him the perfect candidate for some air time.
And, after all, isn't that the spirit of Labor Day?
10. Seconds after taking my seat for Friday's first match on Louis Armstrong Stadium for the Nicalescu/Safarova match, I realized that I was sitting directly one seat in-front of a tennis expert. How did I know this? With literally every point, and sometimes at multiple spots within a rally, the dude sitting right behind me would offer his one or two word opinion out-loud. This extremely poor-man's John McEnroe really hates forehand slices, by the way. With each one struck by the ladies on-court, the expert would release an attitudinal "Yuck!" to express his hatred for the shot. Obviously, I had to turn around to see who was absorbing all of this idiocy from the hater of slice shots, and sure enough: dude was sitting by himself. Thankfully, he was soon removed from that seat by the people who actually held the ticket for that seat. They didn't really talk much.
9. In that first match, unseeded Monica Nicolescu of Romania absolutely dismantled the 27th seeded Lucie Safarova 6-0 6-1. In the second set, when it was clear that Safarova was being summarily wiped off the court, she would still dig down and blast the occasional winner. In those two or three instances, the crowd would erupt with raucous applause and cheers. Encouraging? Patronizing? Mocking? An odd combination of all three, perhaps? I choose that latter.
8. For the most part, seat-squatters aren't usually going to bother anyone that much. I'm all for kids getting a chance to split from mom and dad when some better seats a few rows down are seemingly going unused. We've likely all done it and it's typically a victimless crime. On this day at the Open, however, it was the geriatric set that hopped into seats that were absolutely not theirs - and early in the day when people were still arriving, no-less. I couldn't believe how many wrinkled corpses were being asked to leave a seat due to them not belonging there. Even better, I was given a Big Apple-sized dose of attitude when I returned after a beer-run only to see the seat I paid for being occupied by a couple of people that were seemingly fresh of the retirement home shuttle bus. They say that old-age is a person's second childhood, so maybe that's behind all of this suspicious activity at the Open.
7. One of the coolest moments of any match is when a player challenges a potentially game or set-altering call and loses the challenge after the proof has been electronically displayed on the jumbo-tron in the form of a shadow-like orb touching down onto the computer-animated court. Sadistic? O.K, we'll go with that.
6. The drink scene is an interesting, if not widely varied, one at the Open. Heineken, Bacardi Mojitos, and Grey Goose "Honey Dueces," which serves as the horribly named official cocktail of the US Open, are really the only adult beverages to be consumed on the grounds of the USTA National Tennis Center. When I inquired about the availability of a beer koozie at one of the merch booths, I was greeted with quizzical stares and grunts of "Huh?" What the heck do New Yorkers put their naked beer cans and bottles into, their hands? And Texans are considered rough and uncivilized?
5. It's hard not to be impressed by the sheer internationality of the event. There was a ton of tennis fan-frenzy on display throughout the grounds, giving the day an almost World Cup or Olympic game's vibe. I wished on more than one occasion I had remembered to have my wife apply my American flag face paint before leaving the hotel that morning.
4. It was a nice touch to have the scheduled practice times of the players using the practice courts displayed on flatscreens. For guys like me, who were only there for a single day-session, the posted alert provided a chance to catch a glimpse of a couple of marquee-names that I wouldn't be able to otherwise. Most notable practice session viewed? The Majorcan Miracle of Manhood - Rafael Nadal.
3. While post Agassi/Sampras professional Tennis has fallen off the major sports map in the states to a large degree, there's little doubt that the top of the American lot are still treated as rock-stars at the Open. During the Isner/Ginepri match on Friday, the exuberant, sold-out crowd couldn't get enough of either fellow-countryman. If Isner and his behemoth, 135 mph serve, the quietly high-ranked Mardy Fish and the resurgent Donald Young can get really deep in this tournament, and then make serious runs into the semis and finals of next year's grand slams, look for American tennis to start creeping back up the popularity chart again -- at least a little bit.
2. A nugget of advice: If you're planning a trip to the US Open, a reserved seat in either Arthur Ashe Stadium or Louis Armstrong Stadium is basically a must-have. This is the case simply for the peace-of-mind that having a home-base for the day affords you. If you waltz off of the 7 line subway train and enter the gates with a only general admission ticket; prepare to constantly fight long lines and overcrowded scenarios at Court 17 and the Grandstand stadium court (the two showcase stadiums that allow GA). It will be an all-day, tiring test of both your luck and your patience.
1. Perhaps no other moment of my day at the US Open personified its abrasive and quirky host city more than this one: Sitting three rows directly beneath the middle of the open-windowed press box in Armstrong Stadium, it was rather easy to hear the legendary and still beloved John McEnroe providing color commentary on what, oddly enough, was clearly a different match than the Isner/Ginepri match going on below us. When a thick Yankee accent shouted, "Hey, John, keep it down!" several other similarly flavored voices yelled at McEnroe's detractor, blurting out, "Shut up, you, that's friggin' Johnny Mac you're talking to, bro!"
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