“Getting there is half the fun.” So they say.
Not so if you’re going to the US Open at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. Miss that left off Exit 13 D on Grand Central Parkway, and you’ll have to circle around after dallying in LaGuardia Airport renovation Hades.
Even if you make the left, a surly New York City Police officer will deflect you from the drop-off at Lot 3. Finally, a more sensible policeman will take pity on you and your driver and you’ll find yourself in the park before the center’s entrance.
Do not allow yourself to be waylaid by the refreshing spray of the Unisphere fountain, a holdover from the 1964-65 New York World’s Fair, or dreams of a soft-serve vanilla cone from Mr. Softee, whose jaunty jingle New Yorkers love to hate. You are on a mission to pick up your credentials before heading to the Media Center, which is near the Player Lounge (oops).
The Media Center is a thing to behold – banks upon banks of workstations, each of which have TV screens above them. Printed material is one of the perks of the Media Center, along with thick reporter’s notebooks with laminated covers containing an image of the men’s and women’s singles championship trophies set against the backdrop of the Manhattan skyline and emblazoned with “J.P. Morgan.” There’s also the $25 meal money. Enjoying salmon, mango chutney, snow peas, rice, a whole wheat roll and lemon water in the Media Dining Room while writing at a table overlooking practice courts, you think, It doesn’t get any better than this.
But it does. Outside you catch some doubles action before taking in all the shops filled with expensive stuff, including the book stall (a personal favorite), nestled beneath Court 16. Your media pass doesn’t get you access to everything, like the Chase Center, even though you’re a Chase cardholder. And the seating police, in their aqua shirts, will direct you to the top of the bleachers in the temporary Louis Armstrong Stadium, next to the new Louis Armstrong Stadium, under construction and slated to bow next year.
Tennis is all about rules and form, which is no doubt why it’s always had its share of bad boys. You can’t move around during a match except during changeovers when the players change sides, and you must do so quickly. Could you imagine that at a baseball game at, say, nearby Citi Field, home of the New York Mets?
But tennis also has a purity that is irresistible. Sitting in the bleachers of the temporary Louie (as the Louis Armstrong Stadium is nicknamed), watching Andrey Rublev upset world No. 7 Grigor Dimitrov, the ball ricocheting between them as a breeze ruffles the hem of your dress, you think, It doesn’t get much better than this.
And that being there makes getting there worth all the trouble.
For more, visit usopen.org. And for more on tennis and the US Open, check out my blog at thegamesmenplay.com.
– Georgette Gouveia