When it comes to tennis, it’s hard to beat the showcase that the U.S. Open has to offer. Bright lights, star-studded matchups, and the largest (tennis) stadium in the world: Arthur Ashe.
However, amongst the glitz & glam, the everyday tennis fan can find themselves alienated from being able to enjoy the full experience.
The U.S. Open is able to offer one-of-a-kind memories. For example, during my first visit to Flushing Meadows, I was able to catch a glimpse of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, John Isner, Martina Hingis, and Madison Keys warming up alongside each other on the practice courts. A buffet of tennis greats!
Although, the U.S. Open also conjures memories of endless hours waiting in line for a Melon Ball, squinting at the action from Section 320 Row V, and the miserable ride back to Manhattan on the cramped 7 train.
Until recently, the U.S. Open was one the only way a New Yorker could whet his or her tennis palate. However, in the past two seasons, both the ATP & WTA have launched tour-level events in the Big Apple. The ATP hosts the New York Open in Long Island while the WTA organizes the NYJTL Open in the Bronx.
This past summer, I was able to check out the action at the NYJTL Open and I have to say I was quite impressed.
Staged at the Carry Leeds Tennis Center, the NYJTL Open created a tennis experience that is accessible to the everyday tennis fan.
In terms of economic accessibility, the event is budget-friendly. In fact, admission is free (apart from the suggested $10 donation). In terms of geographic accessibility, the event is only a short walk from the 6 train (which runs alongside Manhattan’s east side).
Most importantly, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. With no ticketed seating, fans are able to access the venue’s variety of seating options freely. If you’d like to check out the action from up close, feel free to sit courtside. If you’d prefer to lounge in the shade, feel free to rotate amongst the venue’s bleachers throughout the day.
With a compact site, gone are the days of having to pick which match to see. At the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, it is not uncommon to have to trek from one end of the grounds to the other in order to catch a glimpse of two matches. Conversely, at the Carry Leeds Tennis Center, both courts lit side-by-side each other. For example, I was able to simultaneously enjoy Camila Giorgi take on Alizé Cornet and Wang Qiang survive a challenge from Anna Blinkova during my visit to the tournament.
Feeling hungry? No need to miss a single point. Sitting on a hill overlooking the courts are food trucks. Furthermore, with picnic tables dotting the hill, feel free to take a minute to enjoy that hamburger that didn’t cost $20.
Numerous immigrant communities from all over the world call New York City home. At the NYJTL, tennis fans from these communities are able to cheer for their homegrown heroes. Compared to the U.S. Open in which the casual tennis fan’s experience can be agnostic of the matches outcome, it was refreshing to be surrounded by fans who are actually invested in the match.
For example, during my visit, there was one particularly fanatic Polish attendee who would cheer “Who’s the best? Magda’s the best!” after each and every point. No exaggeration. Each. And. Every. Point.
Don’t get me wrong, the U.S. Open offers a one-of-a-kind experience for New York tennis fans. However, the NYJTL is able to deliver what the diehard New York tennis fan cares about most: the tennis.