Sunday, 12 September 2010

A trip to the US Open; SW19 vs Flushing

Buying tickets for the US Open felt like something we had to do while here, given that we live just a 20 minute direct train ride from Flushing Meadows. I was also intrigued to see how an American tennis championship compared to a British one. I've been to Wimbledon a few times, mainly through work, and also Queens (which was always fun, as it's much smaller and you feel as if you are really close to the action).

So last week we set off to watch Nadal in the mens' quarter finals - the Littleboys were happily esconsed with our neighbours, where they were having their first ever sleepover. (The tennis here tends to go on until about midnight, and my neighbour had told us 'if you come back before 11, you've wasted your ticket'. )

The weather was distinctly windy, and probably the coolest day we've had here since the end of May; I therefore took a fleece. However, as we ascended to the top of Arthur Ashe stadium - we were right up in the gods, or whatever the equivalent sports-stadium term might be - I realised that a simple fleece would be no protection against the howling gale that was blowing up there. A few people had come with hats and blankets - however, most people were blatantly underdressed, and the stalls selling US Open sweatshirts must have made a fortune that night.

The atmopshere at the US Open - at least in the cheap seats - could not be more different from Wimbledon - where, if I remember rightly, no-one is allowed to come and go during the games itself (you can only leave or arrive at the change of ends). Instead, everyone is milling around, coming in with huge plates of fast food, hot dogs and beers during almost every game. After the first set, about half the people around us seemed to disappear, never to return. Either they thought the match was boring (and, to be fair, it wasn't a classic) or they were simply too cold - the outside area, with food and drink stalls, was packed. We had the impression that for many people it was a night out rather than a chance to watch tennis; the women behind us chatted about eBay for most of the first set. At Wimbledon, this was sometimes my experience when going on a corporate freebie - indeed, many people sat in the hopsitality tents boozing and never even went to watch the tennis - but when going as a normal fan, in the 90s, I remember everyone was concentrated on watching the match.

In between the games, loud music played and it felt more like an ad break than anything else - in fact, it reminded me of the MTV Europe Awards, which I once went to in Barcelona. There were promotional stunts - a couple of people were 'upgraded' to courtside seats courtesy of Continental Airlines -and ads did indeed play on the big screen at the top of the stadium. The whole thing was much bigger, brasher and certainly less formal than Wimbledon.

So which one wins? While I enjoyed our evening (especially once I had warmed up with a cup of coffee), I reckon Wimbledon offers more atmosphere, perhaps down to its formality and traditions, which, while stuffy in some ways, do engender a sense of occasion. (For instance, while I know that forcing the players to wear white might be old-fashioned, in a way I would rather that than Nadal's day-glo trainers, which were frankly distracting.) The US Open felt more like a huge, open-air gig, with the players as entertainment far below us if you could be bothered to watch. I'd love to go again, but maybe we'll spend more on our seats next time and try to get closer to the action. Unless, that is, anyone feels like giving me a VIP ticket......

8 comments:

Dumdad said...

I've been a tennis fan since I was young (and a player too for many years) and I still follow all the results and watch it on TV when I can.

I've never been to the U.S. Open but have been to Wimbledon and the French Open often. In my London years, I was also a member of Queen's Club and played on their wonderful grass courts. I have played on every surface but do prefer grass.

Wimbledon or Roland Garros? In terms of spectating they're much the same although perhaps the food was better at the French Open!

Tonight Nadal attempts to win the one major that has so far eluded him. I think he'll do it but one can never tell with tennis.

Nota Bene said...

Oh I like that shameless plea...let's hope you are rewarded!!

Knackered Mother said...

How extraordinary, never knew it was like that, assumed it would be similar to Wimbledon or Queens. I used to go with Lanson Champagne back when I was working full-time but always, always left the tent x

Home Office Mum said...

I've been to the US open, not Wimbledon and I enjoyed it, but imagine that Wimbledon would definitely be better.

This Mid 30s Life said...

Love this blog!! We're in the reverse situation, just moved to SW London from Sydney. Love reading about other people's experiences with the Big Move, so thanks.

nappy valley girl said...

Dumdad - well, he finally did it, Despite the weather funny to think that this year the US Open has been worse affected by rain than Wimbledon....

NB - I can only try....

Knackered Mother - I always left the tent too - I would never waste a tennis ticket...

HomeOfficeMum - it's definitely different. You should go!

Mid30slife - that's a move I envy - I love Sydney. Will be over to have a look at your blog.

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

I've never been to either but would put Wimbledon at the top of my wish list. It's just got that extra bit of class!

Mel said...

I have been to a Wimbledon for the championships and the Davis cup (a lot louder). On my to do list if the French and US opens, sounds like a very different experience.