Written on May 2, 2008
Since 2000, schedule permitting, I have been a faithful and fervent attendee at my hometown tournament in Key Biscayne, Florida. Yet, as a devout tennis fanatic, my wish has always been to make a pilgrimage to one of the shrines of the sport, a major.
In my mind, there has always been the perception that I was being deprived of an ecclesiastical experience by not going to New York, London, Paris or Melbourne. As luck would have it, in 2006 and 2007, I ascended from the category of lowly television viewer to that of obscured spectator when I was finally able to drink in the atmosphere at the U.S Open. After spending five days at the opening round matches in New York the last couple of years and a week at this year’s Sony Ericsson, I began to view the latter through a new lens. As I surveyed the familiar vista at Crandon Park, the prism through which I evaluated the tournament was suddenly lifted. Moreover, I arrived at the realization that the Sony Ericsson Open is truly a jewel in my own backyard.
Manhattan’s bright lights and vibrant streets are comparable to an impish, unruly child with the magnetic powers to draw one in with a cunning smile. A similar attraction lures one in at the U.S. Open. On the subway, I was overcome by a wave of exhilaration from the chatter of the passengers whose destination, just as mine, was the major’s site. As the train approached the tennis center and the Arthur Ashe stadium came into view, a touch of awe and anxiety intermingled as I became conscious of the magnitude of the place. These sentiments were further accentuated as the grounds crew greeted me with their megaphones shouting instructions such as, “no backpacks allowed into the stadium”. Or as I filed through the long security lines that stretch for miles and saw my precious can of juice seized since opaque containers were prohibited entry. The shear volume of people, over 700,000 attended the tournament in 2007, and the additional security measures implemented after the catastrophic incident at the Twin Towers signify that one has to be willing to tolerate these inconveniences in order to experience the U.S. Open.