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US Open 2012: Thursday

I can tell the story of my Thursday experience at the US Open in three pictures. (And maybe more if I ever update this with pics from my DSLR.)

Looking for my dad in the crowd.

1. Searching for my father in the crowd. (He drives, I take the subway.)

Come on Tsonga!

2. We watched two matches, Petzscher vs. Almagro and Tsonga vs. Klizan.

Leaving US Open for the final time this year equals a rainy day in my heart.

3. Then we left and my heart hurt.

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US Open 2012: Wednesday

Back again.

Back at the Open! Funny story about yesterday. For the past two years the higher ups at work have very graciously invited me to join them in a luxury box they get use of for one day. This year they weren’t able to use the luxury box so one of them suggested my company have its own US Open day since there are so many tennis fans. At the time I thought this meant there would be some incentive to go (free day off, subsidize ticket costs), but it turns out that there wasn’t. For a long time I didn’t want to go (my life is pretty crazy now, money is tight…), but I knew I had to since I became the de facto organizer. I waited until Tuesday to buy a cheap ticket from a resale site, but, in the end, like I suspected I might, I had a really lovely time.

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We started off at Ferrer vs. Anderson, it wasn’t terribly exciting.

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Then we went to watch Dimitrov (ridiculous headband) vs. Paire (sexy boxers).

Break for lunch (tostada, very good).

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Then it was Gulbis vs. Haas.

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We then tried to see the Williams sisters play doubles (at the request of one of my co-workers, it’s so not something I would ever try to do alone), but it was completely packed well before their match started. So we settled on Del Potro vs. someone I don’t remember.

Then back to Gulbis and Haas for the final set.

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Next we high-tailed it over to Ashe to watch Clijsters vs. Robson. Clijsters lost and now is retired. I always liked Kim, but I really, really like Laura Robson and I was happy to see her doing so well.

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Finally we ended the night with Harrison vs. Becker. Ryan Harrison is a promising young American who is known for being pretty volatile. Thankfully (sadly?) he held it together and played a very impressive match.

And by then it was about 9pm and time to head home. I am very happy I ended up going, not only because we saw a lot of really good tennis, but also because I got to know some of my colleagues better or in different ways.

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Monday Night at the US Open

I found a way to dry my shoes.

It rained at lunchtime yesterday. My shoes got wet. So I made a little dryer on the empty desk in my office. Also, when I went to Starbucks yesterday morning I put a full wrapped straw into my iced green tea. So that’s how the first part of my day went.

Back at @usopentennis! @leftylaura

The second part of my day was much better. My friends and I went out to the US Open for our traditional opening night attendance. We made it out there on the seven train in record time and started out watching Petra Kvitova play on the Grandstand.

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As part of the opening ceremony this year they had this really interesting light show. We missed a lot of it (waiting online for pasta and meatballs which they ended up being out of!), but what we saw looked really cool.

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(Those guys in the hats didn’t take their hats off for the singing of the Star Spangled Banner. Which is one of my pet peeves. I started to yell at them, but they didn’t hear me and my friend stopped me. It’s just so rude.)

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Then we (and our dinner) got attacked by a giant smoke cloud. I could have done without that part.

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We watched the first set of Kim Clijsters verus the young American (17 years-old!) Victoria Duval. Duval was playing her first professional match, at the US Open, on the main stadium, versus a 3-time winner, at night, right after a huge ceremony. No pressure, right? She held her own though. It was clear she wasn’t going to win, but she certainly didn’t panic and made a better impression than I had expected.

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After the first set of Clijsters we went back to the Grandstand to watch the American Michael Russell versus Giles Simon. It ended up being a really competitive and interesting match. We stayed until the beginning of the fourth set and decided it was time to head home. I was sad to leave early, but this is a really crazy week to me and I knew getting home at 3am probably wouldn’t be the best thing.

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US Open Tips

This is a recycle of a post I wrote more than two years ago. This the US Open starts tomorrow I thought I’d slightly update it and repost it…

Anyone who has read my blog for a while knows that I’m a very big tennis fan. Like abnormally so. But it’s fine because tennis is a great sport that everyone should enjoy. I’ve been attending the US Open here in NYC since I was a small child and during this time I’ve picked up some tips that I’m now going to share with all of you because the Open is coming up and I think everyone should attend the Open at least once.

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1. BUY YOUR TICKETS EARLY. You’ve already failed at this, but no worries, just make a note for next year. If you’re a USTA member you can buy tickets in April, but even as an obsessive tennis fan I find that to be too extreme. If you have an American Express card you can buy tickets a week before the general public. Tickets usually go on sale at the beginning of June. And they tend to go quickly. Hence my advice.

2. GET AN AMERICAN EXPRESS CARD. In addition to being able to buy tickets early, American Express also offers cardholders (do I sound like an advertisement?) 2-for-1 ticket deals during certain sessions. This includes the first four night sessions and days during second week (not Labor Day). (Update: Last year they didn’t do the buy-one-get-one for evening tickets, but this year they did. These tend to go quickly so if you’re looking to take advantage cross your fingers they’re doing it and get them early.)

3. SPEND AS LITTLE TIME IN ARTHUR ASHE STADIUM AS POSSIBLE. Unless you’re going towards the end of the tournament the matches you’re going to see in the Open’s main stadium, Arthur Ashe, are going to be (with a few exceptions) D-U-L-L!!

4. EMBRACE THE NOSEBLEED SEATS. I’m going to assume that no one reading this blog has the means to spend thousands of dollars on tickets (but if you do remember the little people). Which means we’re spending under one-hundred dollars to be fairly far away from the action. Ashe stadium is the largest tennis stadium in the world and it shows. Yes, the players look very small, but you can still see the action from anywhere in the upper deck (trust me, I’ve probably sat in all the seats).

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5. WATCH FOR THE USHERS WITH THE COLORED TICKETS. If you’re at a night session that goes late (and even some day sessions, we’ll get to that in a minute) and the aristocracy in the lower levels need to leave before their chauffeurs start making time-and-a-half (or something), the powers that be will let the proletariat descend from the upper deck to be closer to the action. To take advantage of this as soon as possible, watch for the ushers with the colored rectangles of paper and go to them immediately. Then sprint down the stairs and line up outside one of the entrances (there will be people to direct you) and wait to be allowed into the Promised Land. I recommend shoving your way towards a seat on the ends of the court (not the side) as you will have less head turning to do, plus you’ll be higher up so you’ll have a better view of the entire court.

This is what it looks like up-close

Note I did not follow my own advice here.

The powers that be also allow the proletariat down to the front if the day session goes late. In this case they just make an announcement, there aren’t tickets, so keep your ears open.

6. CHECK OUT THE TWO OTHER STADIUMS. Besides Ashe Stadium there are two other main stadiums: Louis Armstrong and the Grandstand. Louis Armstrong is nice, but still quite big. The Grandstand is, in my opinion, the perfect-sized stadium for tennis. There’s a covered area on one side but that’s almost impossible to get a seat in as people flock to any shaded area. I recommend sitting on the corner of one of the non-shaded parts. Keep in mind that it’s bleacher seating (no backs) so it can get uncomfortable. (Note: Lines to get into both will appear extremely long, but once there’s a change-over (aka a break in the action) they move everyone in (and out) quickly.) (Update: Court 17, which was built last year, is a really amazing venue to watch tennis. It’s probably about the same size as the Grandstand, but there are actual chair seats on both sides and the bleacher seating has backs. I think Court 17 has overtaken the Grandstand as my favorite court.)

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7. VISIT THE OUTER COURTS. There won’t be any big, big names out there, but during the first week of the Open this is where all the action happens. The top players will have (in most cases) fairly easy matches on the stadium courts so you should head to the outer courts to see more competitive matches. Look out for players like Nicholas Almagro (hits the ball as hard, and a personal favorite of mine), Ernests Gulbis (a real character and a great player when he’s “on”), Richard Gasquet (has an amazingly beautiful backhand). I’m not recommending any women because (as much as it pains me) I can’t stand women’s tennis.

Hitting it low

8. EAT THE FOOD. The food court at the Open, located outside of Ashe Stadium, has some delicious (given the setting) food. I highly recommend the burritos from the Mexican place and the meatballs from the Italian place (the pasta is kind of gross but the meatballs are surprisingly delicious). Both are very reasonably priced (or I’ve lived in NYC for too long), the burrito, which comes with chips and salsa is $10 (cheaper than Chipotle!) and the pasta and meatballs is around $11. Also, Ben and Jerry’s also has ice cream stands all over the grounds and there is nothing better than a Half-Baked bar as you’re boiling in the heat. (Update: This year they added a farm-to-table stand which I am excited to try.)

9. CHECK OUT THE PRACTICE COURTS. The practice courts are a great place to see the big stars up close. Most of the time they’re pretty packed but if you can shove your way to the front or get a spot on one of the bleachers that overlook the practice courts you’re all set. Or you can hide under the trees that surround the courts (I’m not kidding, you will have a great view). Also, if autographs are your thing, the practice courts are the place to be.

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10. GO TO THE QUALIFYING ROUNDS. Like all tournaments the US Open has a qualifying round. Basically the top players get into the tournament automatically, the tournament has a few wild cards to give away as it sees fit (to up-and-coming players mostly), and then there’s a mini tournament before the main tournament where players outside of the top-100 can play three rounds to make it into the main draw of the tournament (how many times can I say tournament in once sentence?). The qualifying rounds, which are free to go to the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday before the actual tournament starts, are where you see players truly fighting it out. Why are they fighting it out? The prestige is pretty great, but if a player makes it out of qualifying they are guaranteed $18,000, even if they lose in the first round of the main draw. And who doesn’t want $18,000?

Anyone else a big tennis fan? Anyone else planning on going to the Open?

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US Open Qualifying

Yesterday I headed out to Flushing Meadows for my third year at US Open qualifying. This year was by far the most pleasant (minus the oppressive heat). It felt like there were a ton of people on the grounds, but I had no problem getting into the matches I wanted to see. Quite a few of the matches I attended had only a handful of people watching.

My strategy this year was to only attend third sets. This was the final round of qualifying so third sets would be The Hunger Games of US Open qualifying.

For those who might not know there is a three-round tournament prior to the US Open where players ranked out of the top 100 can “qualify” to be in the main draw. They need to win all three matches and they’re in. This is huge not only for the prestige, but also because players who make it into the main draw get points to help their rankings for future tournaments and they also get paid. Here’s the breakdown of prize money for the qualifying tournament:

Third Round Losers: $8,638
Second Round Losers: $5,775
First Round Losers: $3,000

Not huge, but players who make it into the main draw are also guaranteed $23,000 even if they lose in the first round.  And if a qualifier makes it through to the third round (not unheard of) they get $65,000. Not too shabby.

Anyway, the US Open holds this free(!) tournament the week before the open and it’s a great chance to watch some intense matches.

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First up was American Samantha Crawford vs. Greece’s Eleni Daniilidou. Crawford is 17 years old and Daniilidou is a former top-15 player. I started watching this one at the beginning of the third set and while it was interesting, Crawford won 6-3 1-6 6-4 fairly easily. I was really impressed with Crawford’s serve (the serve speed guns aren’t turned on for qualifying, but she seemed to be serving pretty hard) and she even tried to come into net a few times, taking a few balls in the air. Crawford will play Laura Robson in the first round (interesting!).

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Next was Ukraine’s Lesia Tsurenko vs. France’s Irena Pavlovic, which Tsurkeno won 6-2 6-7(7) 6-2. She’ll play Casey Dellacqua in the first round. The scoreline of the second set had me hoping this would be competitive, sadly it was not. Pavlovic had a lot of trouble holding her serve, they played an incredible number of deuces in one game, and after she lost that game she pretty much went away. Also, they both were straight baseliners and I probably would have fallen asleep if I wasn’t so worried I had heatstroke.

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While I was watching that match I looked over at the court just beyond where I was and thought to myself, wow that qualifier looks a lot like Francesca Schiavone. And indeed she did, because she was Francesca Schiavone.

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A little while later I looked up and thought, hmmm, that looks like Kim Clijsters. Then I remembered Francesca Schiavone was practicing, then I realized they were practicing together (remember, I thought I had heatstroke, my brain wasn’t firing on all cylinders).

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Then I thought I saw Dolgopolov watching Tsurenko. But I walked right next to that guy and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Dolgopolov. And I also saw him watching a match later, which seems like it would be odd.

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After Schiavone and Clijsters left the practice court David Ferrer came on.

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With Miles Raonic. (Don’t worry, I grabbed a picture of his legs for Ashley.)

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Next I caught the end of Anastasija Sevastova vs. Magdalena Rybarikova. I don’t know how this one got to three sets, Rybarikova won easily 6-7(8) 7-5 6-2. She’ll play Su-Wei Hsieh in the first round (who the hell is that?).

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Next came Marius Copil vs. Jimmy Wang. I was rooting for Jimmy Wang because one he has a great name, two he was wearing calf sleeves, and three Copil’s people were sitting around me and they were kind of douchebags. This was a really competitive match that was very fun to watch. And I was happy when my man Jimmy Wang won 4-6 6-1 7-6(3). He’ll play Ivo Karlovic in the first round.

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Next was Hiroki Moriya vs. Daniel Kosakowski. This was so boring. Kosakowski couldn’t serve and made a lot of mistakes on return games. It wasn’t shocking when Moriya won 4-6 7-6(5) 6-3. He will play Ivan Dodig in the first round.

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I ended the day with Tim Smyczek vs. Ricardas Berankis. This was a great match to end on despite the loser sitting in back of me who kept clapping and yelling in my ears and giving everyone his opinions and play-by-play analysis. Your enthusiasm is great, but you don’t need to say every thought that comes into your mind. Plus you were wrong about most of the things you said.

Anyway, I won’t dwell on him, Berankis was clearly the better player and there’s no doubt in my mind he would have won if it hadn’t been for Smyczek being American. This was the final match on court so everyone came over and started going crazy for Smyczek and really carried him through. Smyczek will play another American qualifier, Bobby Reynolds, in the first round. I didn’t get to see Bobby Reynolds’s match yesterday, but certainly a good draw for one of them.

I know tennis fans don’t make up my main readership so thanks if you made it to the end! I’ll be back out at the US Open Monday evening and Wednesday and Thursday during the day. Sadly we couldn’t get semifinal tickets this year, but I’m hoping we can have a semifinals brunch instead.

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Cincy 2012: Day 3

Another year watching tennis in Cincinnati is over. Luckily today was a pretty good day. When we woke up it was raining, we got ready and ate breakfast at the hotel and waited for the rain to stop. Luckily it ended right around 10am and there were no delays in the tennis. Before we went to the tennis we stopped at Kroger to get Cincinnati chili packets and chips. And then we went to CVS for lip balm.

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We started off watching Venus on the practice court. She is really enormous in person.

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Our first match of the day was Del Porto vs Chardy. It was a little boring, Chardy didn’t play anywhere near as well as he did yesterday and DelPo won pretty easily.

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Next came Venus vs Stosur. I was excited for this match and it didn’t disappoint. It was really competitive and Venus looked good, although not as good as she did yesterday. But she still won in three sets.

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It makes me sad that the people who pay for the expensive seats don’t show up. Most of those seats in the lower level were empty because the people or businesses that buy the boxes don’t show up. But the upper level is packed. It sucks.

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After Venus came her sister Serena vs Kerber. Serena looked really flat and irritable and she lost in three sets. Sad but not shocking, hopefully she rests up for the US Open.

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The sun was really beating down on my back, as seen in this picture, so I wrapped my towel around my head. It worked really well!

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After Serena lost we watches Wawrinka vs Raonic. We actually saw Wawrinka all three days. He ended up winning in three sets.

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Then it was time to head to the bar. Out first night there I really wanted to get their Sweet Magnolia specialty cocktail, but I didn’t want to spend $10.

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And it was good! Although I wish it had been a little sweeter. I think it was lemon vodka, sprite, sweet tea, and some other type of alcohol. And it came in a really nice and sturdy commemorative glass.

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Then we headed into the packed stadium to watch Federer vs Fish. Fish played well, but you never really felt like Fish had a chance.

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