More Spectacular Than Ever!
The US Open—America’s Grand Slam—will be played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., from Aug. 31–Sept. 13. Though widely recognized as one of the sporting world’s true blockbuster events, there are no plans to rest on past laurels. Indeed, this year’s US Open promises to be bigger and better than ever—once again setting the bar in defining “spectacular.”
The USTA’s ongoing efforts to continually make the season’s final Slam ever grander and more fan-friendly have made a big impact with fans, as evidenced by the fact that the first day of ticket sales this summer was the second-best opening day in the tournament’s 41-year history.
“We are gratified that tennis and sports fans view the US Open as a ‘must-see’ event,” says USTA President Lucy Garvin. “Considering today’s economic climate, the US Open proves it has staying power.”
So what’s new at America’s favorite fortnight this year? Plenty.
For starters, Opening Night on Aug. 31 will celebrate athletes who “give back” through their foundations and other charitable efforts. Featuring two-time US Open champion Andre Agassi, soccer’s Mia Hamm and other U.S. sports stars, the special ceremony on Arthur Ashe Stadium court will be televised live on ESPN2. Agassi founded the Andre Agassi Foundation in 1994 when he was 24, the same year he won his first US Open. Since then the foundation has raised nearly $75 million to provide educational opportunities to underserved kids.
“We are honored to bring Andre Agassi back to the US Open to recognize all that he has done as an athlete and as a humanitarian,” says Garvin. “He has touched the lives of countless children through the Andre Agassi Foundation and there is no better place to honor his off-court achievements than at Opening Night.”
Rob Thomas will perform the national anthem at the Opening Night ceremonies, the O’Jays will take fans for a nostalgic ride on their “Love Train,” and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will be on hand to welcome the world to the capital of American tennis.
During this year’s event, the late Arthur Ashe, for whom the US Open’s showcase stadium is named, will be inducted into the US Open Court of Champions, which celebrates the greatest singles champions in the tournament’s history.
The USTA’s 245,000-square-foot Indoor Tennis Facility near the East Gate on the grounds of the NTC was opened last November, and is now fully functional. The building features 12 courts on two floors, viewing areas, a fitness center, classrooms, locker rooms and a tennis pro shop. During the US Open, it will house USTA Membership, as well as SmashZone, the premier interactive fan attraction in tennis, which features QuickStart Tennis courts, a rally wall, serving cage, video games and other interactive elements. Also housed in the indoor facility will be the new Heineken Light Lounge, where adults can relax and unwind in their new interactive space.
The building also will be used as the main reception area for USTA Member Appreciation Day on Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. – 8 p.m. Current USTA members will be admitted into the new facility for snacks and refreshments and can have their photos taken with a US Open trophy. Members will receive a lunch tote made from mainly recycled products, in support of the USTA’s US Open Green Initiative. Each member can bring along one ticket-holding guest. In addition, members can visit USTA Membership to upgrade their memberships and receive a free gift.
A new “Family Day” takes place on Tuesday, Sept. 1, when accompanied-by-a-minor adults can sit courtside at Louis Armstrong Stadium. There also will be contests, giveaways, special entertainment attractions and autograph sessions.
And there will be some new talent headlining another great US Open family tradition—the annual star-studded Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Presented By Hess on Saturday, Aug. 29, from 9:30 a.m. – 4 p.m. at Ashe Stadium. Comedian/actor Will Ferrell, pop star Jordin Sparks and the up-and-coming band Honor Society are scheduled to appear, along with a host of tennis stars including Andy Roddick. Tickets are $10-$20. If you can’t make it to the event, CBS will telecast the highlights on Sunday, Aug. 30 beginning at noon.
One sure-fire new fan favorite this year will be the much anticipated announcement of the winner of America’s Best Tennis Town on Sept. 6 on Arthur Ashe Stadium. It is the culmination of a search the USTA began last June when it offered communities across the country the chance to nominate their town, borough or city by completing a submission form and putting together a five-minute video highlighting the passion of their communities for tennis. A national panel reviewed the submissions to narrow the process to the Top 10 semifinalists. Beginning in July the general public voted online for the town they felt merited the top spot. The three finalists will attend the Open and the winner will receive the title and $100,000 for tennis programs in their local area.
Speaking of big payouts, the US Open—the first Grand Slam event to offer equal prize money to men and women—will this year be offering a record $21.6 million in total prize money. That includes $1.6 million each for the two singles champions who have a chance to win an extra $1 million bonus payout if they finish first in the summer-long Olympus US Open Series Bonus Challenge as well.
There also will be a new gender-equality policy under the lights. Breaking the tradition of always putting the men’s match in the second half of the nightly double-headers, this year some evenings will lead off with a men’s match.
Players and fans alike will appreciate the Grandstand’s newest addition, as it becomes the third show court (joining Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong Stadiums) to utilize the Chase Review, the instant replay system that allows players to challenge line calls. Three years ago, the US Open was the first Grand Slam event to introduce instant replay.
What’s more, fans on all three of the show courts will once again get to keep tennis balls that are hit into the stands during play. And after all show court matches, the winner will again hit autographed tennis balls into the stands.
The US Open Champions Invitational returns for its fourth year with a new format—players will compete in the popular Advanta World TeamTennis format. As in past years, each of the players invited for 2009 is either a past Grand Slam singles champion or finalist. This year’s invitees include Hana Mandlikova, Ilie Nastase, Stan Smith, Mary Joe Fernandez, Tracy Austin and Guillermo Vilas, among others.
If you love WTT, you’ll love this: The Advanta World TeamTennis Pro League mixed doubles team that finished at the top of the WTT Pro League rankings earlier this summer will receive a wild card into the 2009 US Open Mixed Doubles tournament.
The theme of the annual International Tennis Hall of Fame’s US Open Gallery exhibit that will run throughout the tournament will be “The Grand Slams: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement.” It will display trophies, photos and artifacts from historic calendar-year Grand Slams, including Rod Laver’s in 1969, Steffi Graf ’s in 1988, the doubles Slam of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in 1984, and Martina Hingis’ Slam in 1998, as well as Stefan Edberg’s junior Grand Slam in 1983.
And for the best overview of this year’s US Open and for up-to-the-minute action, be sure to visit the tournament’s official website, USOpen.org. It will be the only site that features real-time point-by-point scoring for every match, and also will offer video highlights, a live Labor Day webcast, news and photos.