Reporter's Notebook: Here's why the US Open entertains and inspires

Juliet Papa
September 05, 2019 - 5:49 pm

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FLUSHING MEADOWS-CORONA PARK, Queens (1010 WINS) -- You’re close enough to hear the squeak of players’ sneakers, you’ll savor international menus, watch the fashion show go by, and even purchase tennis fashion for yourself -- it's all part of the fun and flavor of the US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

Growing up in Queens, I’ve seen how the Center has grown. This year I returned after several years of catching it on TV, and I smiled as I got off the 7 train and stepped onto the familiar boardwalk that leads to the fountain-ensconced Unisphere ahead. But as I looked around from that elevated perch I found a new and different scene: gleaming domed stadiums, smaller up-close grandstands, tiered restaurants, and fun fan experiences.

It's a grand tournament, and at the same time, an intimate affair. I sat feet away on Court 5 and saw the concentration etched on the faces of first-round players battling it out on the court. Walking the grounds, I would see players doing the same as they headed to their next match -- no tunnels or private walkways here.

At Arthur Ashe Stadium, fans witnessed a touching moment of sportsmanship as reigning champ Naomi Osaka defeated teen phenom Cori "Coco" Gauff and graciously gave her a moment to address the crowd.

There's the new digital screen that dazzles with city scenes. There are retractable roofs on Ashe and Armstrong in case of rain. And there’s the Open’s signature drink, the “honey deuce,” consisting of Grey Goose vodka, raspberry liqueur and lemonade, with a garnish of honeydew melon balls.

And don’t forget the celebrity sightings – Billie Jean King herself waved to the crowd, "CBS This Morning" co-host Gayle King took in the action, and Yankee pitcher CC Sabathia arrived with several teammates to enjoy the competition on a different playing field. And that was all in one night.

And then the overhead screen flashed the face of a courtly gentleman -- who didn’t realize the camera was on him. It was former New York City mayor David Dinkins -- a long-time tennis player himself, who nurtured and developed the Center, now the biggest money-making sporting event in the city.

And this year, the Open has experienced record-breaking attendance, exciting matches, surprising upsets and fresh faces. Top seeds Novak Djokovic and Naomi Osaka are out, former champion Roger Federer was defeated. Serena Williams continues to win, as young players blaze new trails to the top. Rafael Nadal has been sporting purple ensembles for his day matches. Asked if it was an omen as a “royal” color, Nadal laughed and said, he just wanted to wear something bright.

The US Open ... a tournament that entertains and inspires, and produces champions who will ultimately reign on this Queens court.

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