New York, New York
Why's the Open so special? It's all about the Big Apple
Posted: Friday August 31, 2007 1:01PM; Updated: Friday August 31, 2007 1:01PM
NEW YORK -- For the past week, the eyes of the tennis world have been on New York City, for the final piece of the Grand Slam pie, the U.S. Open. What is it about the final major of the year that makes this tournament so unique and a huge fan favorite?
Maybe I'm a little biased, but the U.S. Open has always been my favorite Slam. Yes, I'm an American, I live a mere 90 minutes away, in Philadelphia, and I'm playing in my 17th Open. But these aren't the only reasons why it's so special to me. Simply put: There's nothing like the U.S. Open.
And for that we have to thank the host city. There is no place on the planet that can compare to New York City. Most players stay in midtown Manhattan and get shuttled out to Flushing Meadows each day in their courtesy cars. Predictably, the "normal" 25-minute commute more frequently turns into a 45-minute trek -- which can also turn into an hour, depending on Midtown traffic.
But it's all apart of this unique Slam. Sure, the traffic tests the nerves and patience of the players -- but it's all worth it once we arrive back at our hotels and head out to walk the streets in hopes of discovering another incredible restaurant in a city filled with limitless options.
And the energy of the city permeates everything about the tournament itself. Nothing can compare; whether you're playing in Ashe Stadium at night or the last match of the day on Court 14, the feeling is still there. The hustle and bustle of the Big Apple is evident everywhere.
New Yorkers (and thousands of visitors) pour in from the No. 7 subway, grab their programs and settle in for the day. And I mean the whole day! The fans are here until the very last point is played on the outside courts and stay until the wee hours of the morning when the night sessions run late.
The fans are louder, more obnoxious and boisterous than anywhere else in the world. They buy their $10 hot dogs, take a seat at the various matches and cheer for their player with reckless abandon. Playing in front of a packed house in Flushing Meadows is like nowhere else in the world.
The matches here start every day at 11 a.m. and go all night. Unlike Wimbledon and the French, matches are played deep into the evening hours, given that the courts are lit. I can recall many times throughout the years where it has been 8 or 9 p.m. and there are a still dozen or so matches being played on the outside courts.
And the night sessions are the most glamorous of all. Only in New York would you see Roger Federer dressed head to toe in all black, including his "tuxedo shorts" (very cool, I might add!) or Maria Sharapova using Ashe Stadium as a catwalk for her newest red dress.
Speaking of night sessions, another unique aspect of the U.S. Open is that the women's final is on a Saturday night. What could be better? It's not just the finals of the last Slam of the year -- it's a Saturday night in the Big Apple and it's an event. Celebrities come out for this every year. Under the lights, the players compete for the $1 million-plus check -- potentially as much as double that thanks to the U.S. Open Series -- as well as the illustrious trophy.
So far this year, the subplots are living up to the Open's reputation. First and foremost, American men seem to be catching some headlines, which is great to see. Watching the Georgia Bulldog, John Isner, have a breakthrough summer and reach the third round has the place buzzing a bit. Donald Young has also shown some real promise after such a standout junior career.
On the women's side, the Williams sisters are still on fire. But another young American, 22-year-old Ahsha Rolle, had a great run to the third round, upending Tatiana Golovin before falling to Dinara Safina on Friday. Hopefully I can stick around for the next week as well and drive back to Philly with my third U.S. Open trophy.
They say that winning the Open is the most difficult achievement for a pro because of all the elements and distractions. Personally, I wouldn't want it any other way.
Two-time U.S. Open women's doubles champion Lisa Raymond is a frequent contributor to SI.com.