Friday, September 02, 2022

US Open 2022 - Day 2 - Tennis Time!

Our day at the US Open felt like the collision of years of experience, preparation and dumb luck, all making for an amazing day of tennis spectating.

We started the day as we usually do, with a trip to Iris Tea & Bakery to stock up on amazing baked goods. And then we made our way over to the tennis grounds. For the first time we had reserved seats at Louis Armstrong stadium and that's where we planned to start the day. This meant that unlike past years where we wanted to be first on the grounds to get the seats of our choice, we knew our seats were already reserved.

Rather than arriving to the gates one hour before they opened, we opted to show up 9:31am, 1 minute after the gates opened. The result was impressive: the initial crowd had been let through the gates and the additional masses of people had yet to show. We strolled onto the grounds like we were VIPs, without missing a beat. It was luxurious!

Because we weren't rushing to grab seats, we even had a moment to step into the American Express Fan Experience and see what that was all about. One fun and sort of hidden feature: they have an area set up where you could send old school post-cards to friends and family, which these days was surprisingly retro and novel. So novel, in fact, that the young lady manning the station had never addressed a post card in her life and appreciated Shira showing her how it was done.

We took our seats in Armstrong and watched Casper Ruud warm up a few feet away. It didn't occur to me to grab his autograph at the end of the practice session like others did, but I'll probably give this a try next time.

The first match of the day was between American Shelby Rogers and Ons Jabeur. The match started with Rogers taking first the set. But Ons wasn't having it and managed to take the second set. Before we could see how the match played out, we headed over to Arthur Ashe stadium to take in a match between Experience and Youth.

Playing the part of Experience was legend and failed retiree Andy Murray. Youth was represented by Matteo Berrettini. Shira found herself stumped as to who she should be rooting for. For my part, I was team Murray all the way. As someone who would find himself filed into the experience column, I had nothing but respect for what Murray was trying to accomplish.

While we saw flashes of greatness from Murray, and he did manage to take a set off of Berrettini, ultimately Youth took the day.

While refilling my water bottle from a refill station (pro tip: bring an empty bottle and use refill stations; don't pay the crazy fees for water!) I noticed for the first time that a section of Ashe overlooked what appeared to be a player's lounge and warm up area.

While it was fascinating and more than a bit voyeuristic to watch the players just chilling, I really did find it fascinating to see how they used the relatively small space to warm up. Between a few elastic bands, some tennis balls and short sprints, players managed to stretch and work on their focus. I saw a number of variations of the tennis ball drop drill, which looked like an especially effective way to use the small space.

After Murray vs Berrettini we headed back to Armstrong to catch Casper Ruud take on American Tommy Paul. We cheered Paul on as he took the second set. Though, ultimately he was no match for Ruud.

We then bounced back to Arthur Ashe to watch Madison Keys take on Coco Guaff. Gauff was playing quite well, and beat Keys without much difficulty. Guaff looked so good, I'm thinking this may be the year where she goes all the way. C'mon Gauff!

After a day spent going back and forth between Armstrong an Ashe, we finally headed over to Grandstand to watch a few minutes of Pablo Carreno Busta take on Alex de Minaur. More than anything, we were hanging out and waiting for the night session in Ashe to begin.

Normally, seeing last year's winner and the number one player in the world would be the better attended of the two night matches on Ashe. But tonight, Medvedev was hardly on anyone's mind. Tonight, the spot light belonged to tennis legend Sarena Williams. Williams had defied the odds and made it to the third round. She was either going to continue the winning streak of her life or play her last match. Either way, we would be in attendance.

Arthur Ashe is the largest tennis venue on the planet. As a result, we've found that the quality of seats that Shira's able to purchase can often vary pretty dramatically. Tonight, through sheer luck, we happened to score not just good seats, but the best seats we've ever had. We got to watch in awe as the stadium filled up to capacity. The atmosphere in the stadium was absolutely electric.

While Ajla Tomljanović ultimately took the match, Serena more than entertained the crowd by keeping the first two sets competitive. Serena absolutely had moments where she demonstrated why she's an all time great. However, the fact that all long rallies went to Tomljanović just underscored that it was probably Serena's time to go.

The crowd willed Serena forward and resounding cheers happened after every point she scored. But alas, all great things need to come to an end, including Serena's career. It was definitely a unique privilege to not just watch the match, but to be there in person.

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