The US OPEN.
An item checked in my sports bucket list.
An incredible experience.
Not going to lie, ever since I watched the Federer- Roddick classic on television, I wanted to witness a Grand Slam. This year, the dream became a reality. But before that, I will take a moment to thank my cousin without whom, US Open would have still been a dream looming on the horizon. After careful planning, the US Open was clubbed with our New York trip. Isn’t that something? We left for Flushing Meadows at 11 AM and the excitement was infectious. I couldn’t contain myself and irritated my cousin and my friend in the car through incessant ranting about the little I knew about the game and the slams. As such, whenever I spoke about tennis, it became a monologue.
We reached Flushing Meadows at noon and the first thing I did was touch the ground and feel it. I could see the blue US Open flags in the background while spotting American flags at regular intervals. It was quite the feeling of walking on the bridge leading up to the entrance of the event.
As we did not purchase our tickets before the event, we decided to buy it on the go. After the ticket purchase, my excitement put me on mute, bringing tears of joy. I tried to speak but… *cue tears.
The moment one enters through the main entrance, the first thing in sight is the Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is the main court followed by Louis Armstrong Stadium which is beside it. The rest of the courts flank the main attractions. Multiple matches are played concurrently on multiple courts. Federer. Yes, Roger Federer was playing on Arthur Ashe at the time of our entry. By the time we arrived, the tickets to watch him was sold out. Bummer.
However, the thought of watching other matches and soaking in the electric atmosphere quickly quashed any disappointment of not watching the legend. I wanted to watch the training, doubles, singles, and kids, all at the same time. I wanted to be everywhere. Like everywhere.
But before we headed to any of the games, we had to address the problem of our stomach’s serving up deadly hunger aces. We grabbed our food and raced to the Grandstand (the third biggest court) to watch Grigor Dimitrov play. The sound of aces. The silence in the stands while the play went on.
Hell, even the grunting sounded beautiful. It is incredible to watch these players put every ounce of effort on every shot to provide that moment of magic. For the players, it is their prestige. For fans like me? Paradise.
Sometime in the middle of the Dimitrov game, I saw a large group speeding towards the practice courts. Curious, I ran in the direction of the crowd. As I approached closer and closer, the noise turned to adulation. The chattering turned to chant. Suddenly, someone shouted “Vamos Rafa!” and I knew who was walking out post-practice. Well, so did everybody. My father’s love for Rafael Nadal knows no limits. However crowded, I managed to get a glimpse of the King of Clay on my phone and sent it to him.
To think that I barely know of any instance when happiness is shared halfway across the world through a phone because of one man is beyond me. I called my cousin to rush to the practice courts but he stopped midway to admire a Mercedes. Sigh.
Post that game, we overheard people talking about an enthralling women’s game at the Louis Armstrong Stadium and my word was that crowded. We managed to get there just in time, to watch the ending. It was phenomenal. Sitting somewhere near the end that we could almost touch the ceiling (just kidding about the ceiling, by the way), we could sense the anxiety of the people sitting on the front row. One set apiece and it was anybody’s game.
The crowd cheered for all the points with the same enthusiasm. It was a thriller. The players seemed to have enjoyed it. I certainly loved it. This was one of the matches where there was no place to sit as the match was nearing its end.
I wanted to purchase some merchandise from the store and duly spent time shopping. It was early evening when my cousin was starting to run out of patience. I had to oblige this time around as he was the reason I was there, enjoying myself in the first place. Interestingly, I even met a friend from my undergrad days who also was watching the US Open for the very first time. Sport connects all. Eh?
With a heavy heart, I left, much to the delight of the people I accompanied. It is safe to assume now that they enjoyed too. Maybe. Just maybe, they are secret tennis fans now? We would never know…..