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Looking through my family photos from when I was a baby, up until now, and there’s one constant you’ll always see: my dad in a U.S. Open tee. I didn’t really know what to make of the tournament until I was double digits in age, but I knew it was something my dad would go to at the end of every summer.
Growing up in an apartment complex that had tennis courts naturally led me to playing the sport, especially since both my parents were heavily into it. I mean, they even got married on a tennis court, for goodness’ sake. So as I got older, and had a coach by middle school, I started becoming more ingrained in the game and the world it encompassed. I wanted to start going to the U.S. Open too.
I think I was about 12 when I started going on this annual trip to New York from Alameda, CA with my parents, and it was just something larger than life to me at the time. America’s premiere tennis event, and I was there, full of excitement and curiosity. It was a year when Pete Sampras, my favorite player, won his 3rd Grand Slam title, somewhat at the beginning of the second most dominant career in Men’s tennis. He was my idol at the time, and my nickname at the time was “Lil’ Pete” since I looked like a mini-him as a kid. So just being in the same vicinity of a legend like that at the age I was, just blew my mind.
Every year after that would be another trip, each more amazing than the last. I’d love it when my parents’ friends from their tennis team would head to the Open too, because then it’d be LIT. With me being the only kid along for the ride, I could be a fly on the wall, and level up my sociability game too, as kicking it with all these adults helped sharpen my skills dealing with people my own age.
The U.S. Open is more than just a tennis tournament to me. It represents a time in my life that I was able to come into my own physically through tennis, as well as mentally as a pre-teen/teenager. Just like people have magical memories of Disneyland and Six Flags, the Open always felt like that for me. Nowadays, I live in Queens, about 15 minutes from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, so it’s much easier to hit this Grand Slam up every year, but it’s never lost its magic for me. The tickets may be more expensive, and the players may change, but the vibes are still as high for me and my family, each and every year.
Some U.S. Open Pro-Tips
- Get grounds passes! It’s fun and part of the spectacle to be in Arthur Ashe stadium to see Fed and Serena, but it’s really not necessary. Part of the excitement of going to the Open is because you can see all the tennis you’d never see on TV. Lower ranked players, doubles, mixed doubles, juniors – everything can be seen when you’re traversing the grounds.
- The earlier you go in the tournament, the more tennis you can see. More bang for your buck for real! So try and get out there for the first couples days. It’s the best deal when you have a grounds pass.
- When walking down the ramp from the 7 train, there will be officials telling you to go to the left to queue up for entry, but just go to the right as if you’re going to the box office and go in there. It’s usually a small fraction of the people, and your entry will be expedited.
- There are so many amazing food vendors at the Open like David Chang’s Fuku, Hill Country Chicken, Pat LeFreida, etc. that you’ll never go hungry, but if you’re on a budget, just head back out to the park and hit up the hot dog stand by the practice courts. You can get a hot dog for 2 bucks that’s more fulfilling than the $8 one inside the tournament. Plus, you’ll be able to go back into the tournament, no problem. Just don’t forget to get stamped.
- Speaking of the practice courts, it’s a really good place to check out some of the younger, less experienced players that may not be getting far in the tournament. You may see a future world #1 player getting ready for a match, and it’s invaluable seeing people practice before big matches. Hell, one time in the 90s, my dad and I sat out there eating hot dogs watching Boris Becker practice 10 feet away. Even watching a master like him practice can flick a switch in your head on how to be a better player.
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