Highlights from the US Open

Over the weekend I flew to New York with my mom and aunt to see some of the world’s greats play in the U.S. Open. As expected, we had a blast. Here are some of the highlights:

Players Seen in Action: Roger Federer twice, Djokovic, Roddick (the day after he announced his retirement after this tournament), both Williams sisters, Sharapova, Murray, Azarenka, Vinci, Cilic, Nishikori, Stephens, Ivanovic, Tomic, Isner, Huber, Raymond, Blake, Kerber, Verdasco, and more.

Favorite Match: Sloane Stephens vs. Ana Ivanovic on Arthur Ashe Saturday night. Not only did this match feature two of my favorite players on the women’s side, but it also provided one of the most dramatic and entertaining matches we saw all week. Although I sided with nearly everyone there in pulling for the young American, Ivanovic was simply too tough and experienced that evening. We couldn’t be mad at Ana, though. She’s too nice and very gracious in victory, with sincerely kind words for Stephens. She also spent a surprising amount of time signing autographs after her win and finally had to be ushered off the court by a tournament handler.

Second Favorite Match: Andy Roddick vs. Bernard Tomic Friday night on Ashe. As you tennis fans know, the last few years have been hard on Andy. He hasn’t been able to play on the same level that carried him to a U.S. Open title and the #1 ranking, and his decline has frustrated him greatly. After he announced his plan to retire after this tournament, Friday’s match took on a whole new level of significance. We could have seen his final professional match. Fortunately for everyone except Bernard Tomic, Roddick played outstanding tennis that night and blew Tomic off the court with a fantastic serve, strong and gutsy groundstrokes, and great touch at the net. Normally, blowouts aren’t as exciting to watch as competitive matches, but in this case, we loved getting to see Roddick return to his old form and the clear joy that the match was giving him.

Non-Player Celebrity Sightings:

  • Ralph Macchio, sitting in a suite Saturday night in Ashe
  • Keith Urban and Nicole Kidman, sitting in the first row court side. Urban seemed happy to be spotted by the cameraman and played along, even planting a big kiss on Kidman. She seemed embarassed by all the attention. I wonder if celebrities prefer the high-end seats largely because the people in those areas know not to bother them. Macchio didn’t seem thrilled about being spotted by the camera, either.
  • John McEnroe, Mary Carillo, Justin Gimelstob, Martina Navratilova, Jim Courier, and Brad Gilbert, all in the broadcast booth except for McEnroe, who was heading there in a hurry and trying not to be noticed.

Pleasant Surprises:

  • Execucar, a prearranged car service that drove us from LaGuardia to the hotel and back. It was a bit more expensive than a regular cab or Super Shuttle, but it was much nicer and more convenient. Our driver met us at baggage claim (a bit late, but at least we weren’t waiting outside in the heat at the taxi stand) and led us to a sweet black Escalade. I felt like Ludacris only whiter and less talented. On the way back, our driver showed up early and drove us in a nice black Suburban. All payment including tip was done in advance, so we didn’t need to worry about fumbling with cash while lugging bags around. I’m definitely spoiled now.
  • Wingate Midtown Manhattan, a tall and skinny hotel just a few blocks from Times Square and Penn Station. Although expensive like all hotels in the area, it offered a fantastic location, a nice room, free hot breakfast, and good staff.
  • Long Island Rail Road, an alternative to the subway that provides the best way to get from Manhattan to the tennis center. It’s a bit more expensive than the subway, which meant most of the riders were tennis fans, and it felt very safe and ran on time.
  • Court 17, a new showcase court that the USTA added this year. With a capacity of 2800, it’s big enough for fairly popular matches but still keeps the fans close to the action. It features the Hawkeye call-review system, beautiful design, and a nice video board.

Flying American: Overall, flying American Airlines was a good experience despite its current financial troubles. Nearly everyone was pleasant and helpful, the planes were comfortable and clean, and our outbound flight left on time. The onboard wifi worked pretty well and offered a nice flight tracker, but I only used the free features since I didn’t want to play $15.95 for full access.

Our only problem came on the way home. Just after starting our takeoff roll, the crew noticed a problem with one of the engines and aborted the takeoff, which damaged the nosewheel tires. Maintenance decided to change the tires and then test the engines, which meant a 60-90 minute delay or so on the tarmac followed by deplaning for the engine test. In all, we left about 3:00-3:30 late. However, the crew took very good care of us during the tarmac delay (food and water around 60 minutes after we initially pushed) and gave us frequent, detailed updates so we would know what was happening.

Travel Buddies: As expected, my mom and aunt made great travel buddies. We got along well, respected each other’s goals for the trip, made plans but remained flexible, split up when necessary, shared some good talks and good laughs, and managed not to get into too much trouble.

Except for the flight delay coming home, it was a very smooth and enjoyable trip that we’ll all remember for years to come.

Want to see pictures? Sure, you do! Here you go.