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The annual US Open tennis tournament is one of our favorite sporting events in New York City. We love the nighttime lights. We love the rowdy crowds. We love the celebrity sightings. Heck, we even love taking the 7 train to Queens!
But most of all, we love watching it all from courtside seats that only cost $23.
No racket here, Cheapos. Without breaking the bank—or a Federer-like sweat— you can use our quick guide to getting the most out of attending the US Open and score big-time.
US Open history
Hosted at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center – the largest public tennis center in the world – in Flushing, Queens, the US Open is now in its 127th year. Over 700,000 tennis fans attend this two-week tournament at the end of August each year. Previously hosted in Newport, Rhode Island and Philadelphia prior to its New York City arrival (1968), the Open is one of four “Grand Slam” tennis tournaments, the others being Wimbledon, The French Open and The Australian Open.
The grounds and seating policy
There are 16 courts from which to watch tennis at the US Open; several hold over 1,000 spectators. The most popular matches take place at the 24,000-seat Arthur Ashe stadium, the 10,000-seat Louis Armstrong stadium, or the 6,000-seat Grandstand. While the Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadiums have reserved seating, all others operate on a “first come, first serve” policy for general admission ticketholders.
Large screen high-definition TVs are featured prominently throughout the Billie Jean King Tennis Center, allowing fans to stay on top of the action when not in their seats. There are concessions galore—hamburgers, seafood, and Italian, Indian, and Mexican fare. Then there are the fountains, and plenty of public space to take a break and relax between sets.
As an added benefit, the Billie Jean King Tennis Center sits on the site of the 1964 World’s Fair, providing a unique sense of adventure and a great sightseeing opportunity for attendees. The Fair’s Unisphere and observatory towers welcome visitors arriving to the nearby Mets-Willets Point subway station, also a reminder of the area’s rich history.
About those $23 courtside seats
Tickets to the US Open are available online at the US Open website or via Ticketmaster. There are a variety of daytime tickets for matches taking place at all tennis courts and stadiums, as well as for evening sessions at Arthur Ashe. Daytime seats allow fans to skip among a large number of matches, while the night sessions begin at 7 PM and feature two “main event” matches that can last well past midnight.
So, how did we get those crazy seats again???
When we attended last night’s opening session – featuring Rob Thomas singing the National Anthem, natch – we initially sat in the Upper Promenade, section 333, row S (read: “nosebleed.”) However, Arthur Ashe makes it easy to take in a matchpoint regardless of seat location. There are no obstructed views and the stadium-style seating allows for direct sight-lines of the court, as well as viewing replays and between set dance-offs on the jumbotron.
At around 11:45 p.m., we decided it was time to call it a night and headed for the exit. On the escalator, an usher approached us with a fistfull of tickets and asked if we wanted to sit courtside. Always on the hunt for a bargain, regardless of the hour, we said “you bet.” It was at this point that we were introduced to a Cheapo’s US Open dream: the “Courtside Pass Down” ticket.
Typically handed out during late-night matches to provide a sense of full capacity to nearby TV cameras, Courtside Pass Down tickets allow fans to grab any available seat they like. See a seat open next to Christie Brinkley? Grab it. Want a nice aisle spot right next to a sleepy executive wearing a slanket? It’s yours. True to form, we lined up Pamplona-style, and once there was a break in the action we bolted for courtside, winding up in Row A, seats 1 and 2, at midcourt directly behind Andy Roddick.
The match quickly took on an entirely different pace and we didn’t seem to notice when it was 1 AM. and we were still watching tennis in Queens. Today, admittedly, we’re feeling a little tired and bleary-eyed, but the fatigue quickly disappears when we remember the $23 courtside seats from last night. And, Andy Roddick’s mumblings to the umpire. We could be wrong, but we think he said something about needing a cheap hotel in New York.