US Open Experience 2
FEEL THE GAME - Bobby Motus (The Freeman) - September 27, 2019 - 12:00am

Leaving the drool-worthy vehicles inside the Mercedes Benz tent, my wife Denise and mom-in-law went hunting for Maria Sharapova and Rafael Nadal who had scheduled practices that afternoon and I explored some more the other shops inside the tennis complex.  Practically all brands connected to this year’s US Open have either shops, tents or rolling carts distributed around the area.

The other open courts had on-going final qualifying main draw matches with mostly unfamiliar faces playing.  If not for the electronic scoreboards, you have to be a real tennis fanatic to identify them. Yes, the seats are near capacity in each of the courts and if you really want to sit and watch the matches, you have to wait for a set to finish to be seated.

I caught a glimpse of what looked like a very familiar name on an adjacent court and rushed there. Yes indeed, it sounded and looked familiar but the middle letter of the 5-letter name was different. It was Sumit Nagal, not the Nadal I had in mind, battling Joao Menezes.  I knew that top seeds don’t do qualifiers but sometimes, the way we perceive things could be misleading.

Since the court was packed, I assumed that it was a good match and my assumptions were correct.  Nagal, a 22-year old from India was trailing the taller Menezes, also 22, from Brazil and mounted a strong comeback to win the match.  The win qualified him for his first Grand Slam main draw debut and will become Roger Federer's first round sacrificial lamb.

Going out of the court with the crowd, I went to the adjacent courts where the top seeds were supposed to be practicing.  I found both of my escorts standing behind the inter-linked dividers, kind of undecided where to locate as there were several players on the courts hitting some shots.

We went up to the bleachers and settled behind the court where the lanky Karolina Pliskova, garbed in her Filas, was practicing.  We got to notice her probably Viking-inspired tattoos on her right thigh as she had on short shorts.  There was Kei Nishikori also doing his shots two courts away.  We couldn't make out the names of the other players on the practice courts but their faces were familiar.

A few meters away from the practice courts was the players' main entry and exit and we went there to see who's coming and going.   We stood along the barrier which was only about 10 meters from the entrance.   A middle aged lady from Thailand told us that we missed Sharapova by a few minutes, who already went back to her hotel, and Nadal who had left earlier, much to the dismay of Denise.  We saw emerging tennis bad boys Nick Kyrgios and Daniil Medvedev separately go out of the building for their practice sessions. 

Even the players go through security, their bags checked and IDs scanned.  One player could have some problems with the bar codes on his ID that security had to call somebody from inside the building to let him in.  So many familiar faces coming in and out, yet their names escape memory.

It's already 7 in the evening but the place is still crowded.  There was a band scheduled to perform and some DJs to spin their music later.  Heineken was having some kind of a happy hour but a can of beer at $6 still makes my hour kind of gloomy.

30 minutes later, we decided to call it a day, got out of the complex. retrieved my backback and said goodbye to the $5 locker fee.  Along the boardwalk, there were several vendors selling Mets paraphernalias because they had a home game that evening with the Atlanta Braves.  Sure enough, baseball fans were disgorged from the train and proceeded to Citi Field.

It is late August, the sun in this part of the world comes down about half past 8 in the evening and upon boarding the train, we can see the adjacent parking lot already half full with vehicles of Mets fans, some of them doing picnics behind their cars.

We got home a bit tired but satisfied, having experienced the US Open Fan Week.  Hopefully next year, we'll get the chance to see actual games of the world's top tennis stars at the Arthur Ashe Stadium.  And maybe get some of those Ralph Lauren US Open shirts.  Maybe.

MARIA SHARAPOVA RAFAEL NADAL US OPEN
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