When living in New York, one needs to contend with a lot of obstacles. Public transportation leaves commuters at the mercy of the city. And, when traveling, the sheer number of people can be overwhelming.
Despite the flaws, New York is a treasure trove of sporting events. On Monday, I was fortunate enough to join my girlfriend, Natasha Gaston, and her parents to Arthur Ashe Stadium to take in the U.S. Open.
Getting to the game is where public transportation came in handy. A convenient trip on the 7 train brought us right to the stadium. When attending sporting events in Los Angeles, parking is a major concern, so not having the stress of finding a spot was a huge relief.
Security, as to be expected, was strict, but kind overall. We arrived early enough to avoid the long line of tennis fans forming behind us. This made getting into the gates much quicker. Had we shown up 10 minutes later, the story would not be the same.
Once inside, we enjoyed the New York pastime of fighting through crowds to get where we wanted to go. In this case, we were in search for the overpriced and less-than-perfect quality sporting event food that has come to be the norm in stadiums across the country. Once full, we headed to our seats.
Calling them nosebleeds would be generous for how high we were seated, but the distance from the court didn’t matter; the energy inside the stadium was what we came for. And as soon as (3) Roger Federer stepped on to the court, that energy became incredibly palpable.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion from Switzerland was paired against (33) Philipp Kohlschreiber. The match started evenly, with Federer and Kohlschreiber holding serve en route to a 3-3 game tie in the first set. That’s when Federer began to run away with it. Kohlschreiber would win just one more game as Federer won the first set 6-4.
Federer had an easier time in Set 2, scoring on three aces, as well as returning 45 percent of Kohlschreiber’s serves for points. The set eventually ended 6-2 in Federer’s favor. The last set, however, offered a bit more in the way of excitement that, at times, seemed lacking in this match.
Holding serve again became important, and allowed both players to trade game after game. Federer and Kohlschreiber matched each other in aces four to four, but Federer still had the advantage in return points won with 39 percent to Kohlschreiber’s 11 percent. In the end, however, Kohlschreiber’s 13 unforced errors, and Federer’s 86 percent win percentage on first serves, gave him the expected win.
This match appeared to be the main event, as many spectators began to head for the exits. While some returned with snacks, a vast majority of the seats remained empty as the match between American (16) Madison Keys and Ukrainian (4) Elina Svitolina got underway. Those that left early missed the more interesting match of the night.
It was apparent throughout the first few games that Keys was more warmed up than Svitolina, an advantage that Keys used to take a 3-0 game lead. Svitolina soon got into the swing of things, winning six of the next nine games to force a 6-6 tiebreaker. Keys came out on top of the tiebreaker in dominating fashion, winning seven points to two, taking the first set.
Svitolina was not done, however. She thoroughly won the second set, going to deuce in just the first game, before jumping out to a 5-0 game lead. Keys took game six, but couldn’t muster a comeback in the second set, losing 6-1.
In the final set, both players held serve on way to a 2-2 tie, before Svitolina took the momentum in the next two games. Down 4-2, the crowd came alive, cheering on Keys to make a final push. The American credited the energy in the stadium as a factor that helped her come back.
Keys easily won games seven and eight to tie the third set up 4-4. From there, the momentum was in her favor as she won the last two games just as easily, forcing the 3-2 upset over Svitolina in front of a raucous crowd.
Attending a Grand Slam tournament is unlike anything I’ve experienced. While there were times of rowdiness in the seats, the fans were mainly respectful and stayed silent during match play. During breaks, the giant TVs featured dancing audience members, and one man dubbed “the shirt guy,” whose big energy and many layers of shirts, which he threw into the seats, kept everyone entertained.
All in all, attending the U.S. Open was an amazing experience, one that I would recommend to anyone visiting New York, and one I would do again in a heartbeat. I’m excited to see how the rest of the tournament unfolds, and will definitely break down the outcome in depth after the tournament concludes.