This is the last of the posts about my US Open experience. I wanted to write more about the actual experience of attending the US Open and to hopefully give some advice to anyone who might be thinking about visiting the US Open in the future. In case you missed it, you can read up on my day reports and all the tennis that I watched at the links below.
Day 1 Report and Photos: HERE
Day 2 Report and Photos: HERE
Day 3 Report and Photos: HERE
Read on for my advice and top tips to attending the US Open…
Tickets for the 2016 US Open were available to purchase at the start of June on the US version of Ticketmaster. There are package/plan deals available on the US Open website (see HERE) but we opted for the individual sessions, choosing different seats every time. While I wanted to experience Arthur Ashe stadium, I had read many negative things about the viewing experience.
One possibility was to just go for a ground pass – this is a very attractive prospect because it gets you into everything but Ashe. Louis Armstrong and Grandstand both have large swathes of unreserved seats, which is great compared to Wimbledon where you have an assigned ticket and seat for the top three courts. However, the price of a Ground Pass was roughly only $10 cheaper than an Ashe day ticket (in the upper tiers) for the first few days. The Ashe ticket guarantees you not only access to ALL the courts, but also gives you the guarantee of tennis if its raining under the roof. Even if you plan on spending most of the day on the outside courts which is what I ended up doing, i’d recommend buying the cheapest ticket on Ashe because it gives you the flexibility.
I wanted to experience tennis in the lower tiers of Ashe but was priced out. From my experience, you needed to pay in excess of $100 (just for the first couple of days!) to get a seat in the middle Loge section which I decided wasn’t worth it. The upper tier of Ashe has two bands of prices – the front rows were about $10 more expensive. There’s more about the view on Ashe below from the four sets of seats we had. I purposefully bought four seats dotted around the court just to try as many different positions as possible!
I did have a problem with buying tickets on the Ticketmaster site as it kept failing at the verification stage – after a check on Twitter, I noticed I wasn’t the only person to have a problem and it seemed to be an International thing. Eventually perseverance paid off and trying on a different computer worked. It’s a strangely relaxed process compared to Wimbledon and the French Open as there were plenty of seats available. If you’re going for Ashe and since it’s huge, you likely won’t have a big problem finding seats in the first week. It does tend to get much busier around Labour Day weekend so you may need to be more decisive if you’re planning to visit during the middle weekend.
Getting to Flushing Meadows
The US Open advises to take public transport to get to the US Open. You can use the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) (more information HERE) but as we were staying in Manhattan, we got the subway and the number 7 line (Flushing Local) every day to Mets-Willets Point Station. Our hotel was near Times Square so we were about a ten minute walk to the nearest Subway station on the line which was 5-Avenue Bryant Park. The 7 line goes through Grand Central Terminal.
There are regular services, both in the morning and at night, and it takes about 30 minutes. We never had a problem although it was often busy so we had to stand. This didn’t bother me as I like to stand up… i’m weird like that. It was advertised about an Express service as it does normally stop everywhere but we were always too late for the advertised times of the Express.
In terms of buying tickets for Subway, if you are staying in New York for a week and/or planning on using the subway for the tennis then i’d definitely recommend buying a 7-day Metrocard. This was very reasonable at $31 (plus tax) and was no fuss at all. We bought our Metrocards from a ticket booth in the first station we went to. More details can be found HERE.
Once you get to the venue, it’s pretty obvious (even for someone like me who has no sense of direction haha) which way to go. There’s a wooden boardwalk at the Mets-Willets Point Station that takes you down to the venue which is about a five minute walk.
Entering the grounds and what to take/not to take
The gates opened at 9.30am each morning with play beginning at 11am. We were unsure about how long it would take to get in as I had read about long queues but we never had more than a ten minute wait to get through security. We arrived most mornings just after 10am (a little later on the first day at about 10.30am) so perhaps it gets much busier later on. The first two days we went in the East gate, which is the first one you come to when walking from the Mets-Willets Point station. On the third day we walked round to the South gate to look at the Unisphere. This gate was much quieter so if it’s busy, this may be worth a shot.
In terms of what to take, the US Open has strict restrictions on bags – my number one tip is don’t bring a rucksack! This was really alien to me because i’ve never had a problem before with taking a rucksack to Wimbledon or even the French Open. I’d read about this online and specifically bought a gymsack (see below) which is allowed. We went to the grounds on Sunday to get a lie of the land and my brother and work pal both took their rucksacks (as a test) and they were told they couldn’t take them in and had to check them into the bag storage facility. I’m so glad we went on the Sunday and picked up on this. We did see some disgruntled fans having to trudge back to hand in their rucksacks.
The US Open website also advise against taking food although I was OK with my packet of biscuits! There was no problem with water – I took in a filled plastic bottle and this was fine. There’s plenty of places to fill up with water which was very handy with the weather. The best place to fill up is under the practice courts – there are two water dispensers next to the toilets. There are also water fountains dotted around the grounds, which are always fun to try and fill up with!
I was also fine with my camera – the French Open don’t allow any lenses longer than 200mm (they do actually check on occasion) and Wimbledon 300mm, but there was no mention of camera restrictions in the guidelines for the US Open. I took my 20-200mm lens with me as I wanted something multi-functional for the tennis and sightseeing and I had no problems taking it into the tennis. Before going, it’s handy to check the “What can you bring page” on the US Open website.
The US Open is often described as the Concrete Jungle of the Slams but I must say it was a thumbs up from me. While it didn’t quite have the beauty of Roland Garros or the tradition of Wimbledon, I loved how spacious the grounds were. It was rare to get into big queues or crowds, but at the same time it felt much easier to navigate from one side of the grounds to the other compared to Wimbledon and the French Open.
One huge plus about the US Open grounds is free Wi-Fi! This is a novel concept to me as there’s nothing at the British tournaments for the fans. For the US Open, you have to fill in an online form with a couple of details such as your name and e-mail address and do this each day. I found the service to be quite reliable. It dropped in and out at times and depending on where you were in the grounds, but I never had a problem sharing photos on Twitter. It was a real plus as data charges can be very expensive abroad and I managed to get through the entire trip without using my mobile data!
During my time at time at the US Open, I managed to tick off most of the courts. Here’s my thoughts of all the ones I watched tennis on…
Annotated Map of Grounds (Source: US Open website)
Arthur Ashe Stadium
I have mixed feelings about Ashe – the stadium is stunning and it’s breathtaking when you walk in for the first time. However, I didn’t particularly enjoy watching tennis in there. We were in the upper tier for every session and it’s often noisy (perhaps more so with the roof this year?) and you feel disengaged from the actual tennis going on. It wasn’t that full during the first three days so the atmosphere was quite flat. I would guess that the atmosphere ramps up during the tournament.
I was pleased to do a night session and I would recommend it for the experience, but I think it is the luck of the draw in terms of what matches you get. If you’re trying to save money, one of my tips would be to not bother forking out on an Ashe night session and just enjoy the night session around the grounds on a day ticket. You get your pick of matches on the outside courts and I found the atmosphere was much more lively. My two favourite matches were both on the outside courts and at night – an experience I will never forget!
In terms of the view, I was expecting the worst from the upper tier! Actually, it was better than I was expecting. The seats for the night session (Section 304 – Row F) were the worst we had because we had a glass barrier obstructing our view. The best of the lot were definitely on the final day (Section 327 – Row J). There were no obstructions and we weren’t too near a gate entrance which can be annoying as people are constantly coming in and out.
Louis Armstrong Stadium
This was the last year for Armstrong and to be honest, I didn’t enjoy watching matches here. The only real advantage is that it was always empty in the first week so you getting a seat wasn’t ever a problem. The atmosphere was always flat but again, this may have been because it was early into the tournament. The seats in the lower bowl on the Ashe side had very little legroom and it reminded me of court 1 at Queens from a few years back. The lower bowl seats on the opposite side and in the upper tier were fine for space. In the upper tier, there was no security so people kept wandering in and standing, blocking views for those sitting (see left picture below) – this gets annoying!
I loved the new Grandstand… it’s a smashing court! I like that there are seats with shade, but it’s almost all unreserved so you have your pick of where to sit. I also like that you can stand right at the back of the court in the shade and get a nice view looking down. The seats are a bit uncomfortable but you do get a back rest which is better than court 1 at the French Open.
I was pleased to get to watch a match on the Old Grandstand. Unfortunately it wasn’t very well attended so it was hard to really see this court in its full glory. Still, I liked how close the stands were to the court and there’s some shade – you’re probably noticing this was important to me 😉
Thumbs up for court 17! This reminds me of a slightly smaller version of court 1 at the French Open. It’s a really intimate court and I don’t think there is a bad seat in the house. The seats were like Grandstand and fine for a match, may-be two!
I ended up watching a lot of matches on court 13. There are two stands; one behind the baseline and the other on the side of the umpire. There’s also court side seats on the opposite side of the umpire (left picture below – you can see the heads of people sitting!). A lot of the time we wandered in and just stood by the side of the court and got a decent view. One thing I did notice with court 13 is it was hot! When the sun is out, it is really hard to bear it for longer than say 30 minutes – i’m a lightweight though with sun and heat haha! This is where Konta struggled in her second round match.
Courts 4,5 and 6
Situated near the practice courts, these three courts are relatively new additions to the grounds – and they were definitely my favourites! There’s a connected series of stands across the three courts so if you get a seat behind court 5 you can essentially watch across all three courts. I loved the view behind the court. I particularly enjoyed watching Strycova v Niculescu at night on court 5 and as mentioned above, night matches were great.
The walkways in between the courts are also wide and it’s not like Wimbledon where it takes a lot of jostling through crowds to get by. Occasionally they got busy during a long match, but often you could still get a good view just standing. If you go to the US Open, my advice would be to definitely watch on a match on one of these courts!
It amazed me how much seating there was on the outside courts – this was a pretty big court which I didn’t realise existed! The match I watched (Bacsinszky-Diatchenko) was very empty and it never looked busy when I walked past, despite being quite central in the grounds and near Ashe.
Courts 8-9 and 14-16
These are your classic outside courts where there were no stands but a couple of rows of courtside seats. Again, it was such a pleasant surprise to be able to wander in and get decent views just standing because of the space between the courts. I think Wimbledon are hopefully going to do this with the new 2020 Master Plan by increasing space between the outside courts.
The practice courts
I really enjoy watching practices as it’s one of the few unique experiences of attending tournaments that isn’t now streamed (although some tournaments are starting to do this now!). Of the three Slams i’ve attended, the US Open is by far and away the best for practices. They have five designated practice courts with a viewing stand behind. I struggled to get a seat behind the first practice court as you often had a Serena, Rafa, Andy or Novak practising there, but I never had a problem getting a seat further along and you could see across all five courts which was super. The crowd dies down towards the end of the day so try going a bit later in the day and keep an eye on the US Open App for the practice schedule to spot your favourite player.
Early in the day, players are also practising on the outside courts and this was always very easy to get to the front and watch/take photos. In terms of practices, the US Open was FANTASTIC!
Food and drink
From my Slam experiences, the US Open offered the best choice of food. Normally I take a massive lunchbox of food and plentiful sandwiches to Wimbledon but since we were abroad we bought all our food in the grounds. I’m a fussy eater but I never had a problem finding something to eat. If you’re into healthy eating (from the take-out point of view) then you might have more of an issue! I wasn’t too bothered as it was only for a few days and I just wanted something quick so I could get back to watching tennis.
The main issue I found was that the main eating area near Ashe/Court 17 got SO busy during lunchtime. We bought our lunch here on the first day and we were in a queue for about 15 minutes. On the last two days, we bought our food in Arthur Ashe Stadium. There are numerous food and drink stalls in Ashe and while the choice wasn’t quite as good, the queues were much shorter. If you have a ticket for Ashe, i’d recommend this. Same goes with the gift shops – there are plenty dotted around in Ashe and queues always seemed reasonable. I bought a t-shirt and a cap, which had to be done!
I thought the quality of the take-out food was reasonable and prices were high although it’s what I expected. My favourite meal from the three days was definitely the fish and chips from the BLT fish shack… it was on the expensive side at about $15/16 but it was really, really tasty! I also tried the chicken tenders from Franks & Fries and the grilled chicken sandwiches from the stalls in Ashe which were all perfectly adequate. My brother gave the thumbs up to the pizza although my work pal didn’t recommend the curry!
Drinks-wise, we all bought one of the Grey Goose Honey Deuce cocktails. These are really expensive at $15 (I thought Wimbledon’s Pimms were pricey at £8.50/$11.30) but it was nice and you do get to keep the cup which has the list of former champions. It was a really nice memento (see below).
I also tried the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream which has to be done! There are plenty of stands selling ice creams but if you want a tub of ice cream with a good choice of flavours, then check out the stall by court 17. They also sold milkshakes too.
I’ll never forget this trip… I had such an amazing time. It’s always been my dream to visit all four Slams and i’m 75% of the way now to completing the Peeling Slam! I enjoyed the US Open much more than I thought I would and the night sessions on the outside courts were the winners for me. Wimbledon is special and i’m not sure anything can top that, but the access to the courts at the US Open was so good. I was going with the intention of this being a once in a lifetime experience but i’d really love to go again once the new Armstrong court is ready.
US Open, you rock!
This concludes my reports from the US Open. Sorry if they got boring but I did this partly for myself so that in years to come I have a recollection of what I did! I hope this post has been helpful for anyone deliberating whether to go in the future. If you have any questions about attending the US Open then please don’t hesitate to get in contact. I’d be really happy to answer ANY questions! You can comment in this post or send me a message on Twitter, Facebook, or on my e-mail account at MooTennisBlog@gmail.com