Susie Wetherington (left) and Lynn Anderson of the East Metro Tennis Association.
© Lynn Anderson
By Nicholas J. Walz & Lynn Anderson, special to USTA.com
When Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic in the men's final, it was the conclusion of what was a wildly exciting 2012 US Open -- not just for the players but also for the fans that flocked to Flushing Meadows from all across the United States over the course of 15 action-packed days.
Yet, for certain attendees, such as those who are actively involved with tennis year-round in their hometowns as part of a Community Tennis Association (CTA), the pilgrimage to the epicenter of American tennis took on a deeper meaning.
Classified as "any incorporated, geographically defined, not-for-profit, volunteer-based organization that supports or provides programs which promote and develop the growth of tennis," CTAs from all over the nation made it to New York City, just a sampling of over 1,000 CTAs accounted for under the umbrella of the USTA's 17 sections.The associations work primarily at the grassroots level to coordinate and maintain tennis programs and services, guaranteeing that they are open and accessible to all. Approximately 100 CTAs representing 14 of the 17 USTA Sections across the country attended the 2012 US Open. Upon their arrival onto the US Open grounds many of the CTAs were given behind the scenes tours of Arthur Ashe Stadium, where they were able to get an inside look at the inner workings of the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The tours were highlighted by visits to the media center, main interview room, player dining, and player lounge.
Being at the 2012 US Open was not only a chance to take in a world-class Grand Slam tournament but also to spread the word about what progress is being made at the local level to preserve the game. The following diary comes from the pen of Lynn Anderson of the East Metro Tennis Association, or "EMTA", based in Conyers, Ga. The EMTA has found success as a community tennis association offering USTA adult and junior leagues and tournaments in Rockdale, Newton and Walton counties in the state of Georgia and looks to grow even larger in 2013.
My friend and tennis colleague, Susie Wetherington ("Susie Q," as we call her) and I were lucky enough to attend the US Open this year and spend a day with the tennis greats both past and present. We won tickets to the President’s Suite inside Arthur Ashe Stadium by entering into the local contest and ended up being the winners! We were thrilled.
Our mantra became, "It just can’t get much better than this." Yet it did.
We were able to use points from past business travel to get free plane tickets and hotel accommodations near Newark - Penn Station. Thanks to the staff at the Hampton Riverwalk, we received first class service and shuttle service (special thanks to Jackie, Antonio, and Michael for making us feel welcome and having a great experience at the hotel.) We took the train from Newark - Penn Station to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center via the Long Island Rail Road without a hitch. Right to the door of the US Open, and early too! When we arrived, we were greeted by US Open ambassadors who took our picture in front of the US Open welcome sign.
While we were waiting for the gates to open, we wandered over to the park courts and saw one of our own junior up and coming stars, Mitchell Krueger, practicing with his coach. The sun was shining, a breeze was blowing, and it was the perfect day for tennis with no rain in sight. How did we get so lucky?
We walked up to the special gate with our Presidential Suite tickets and were given the red carpet treatment being let into the US Open grounds early. We met another ambassador, Rosaline, who graciously took our pictures near Arthur Ashe stadium and allowed us to take her picture as well. The ambassadors were so friendly and able to answer all our questions even pointing us over to the practice courts where we could see players not scheduled to play that day and a schedule of when they had the courts.
Our tickets allowed us access to the entire grounds, and what a treat we had visiting all the matches. It was the first week of play so there were over 60 matches in that one single day. We saw men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and even some mixed matches. Since we were part of a local CTA, we were given the chance to take a tour of Ashe Stadium. Jon Thompson, one of the USTA leaders for CTAs, took us on the tour. We were able to see the interview room where players come to give press conferences (the same one where Andy Roddick announced his retirement this year). Susie was sat behind the Serena Williams place card as if she was set to take questions from reporters and I played Serena’s first round opponent, CoCo Vandeweghe, during our mock interview session. We visited the player’s lounge where Susie walked by Lleyton Hewitt -- he’s much smaller than you think -- as well as the cafeteria and media center. What an experience to see all the photographs of past US Open Champions and the US Open logos for all the past years.
Again, we said: "It couldn’t get any better than this!" Oh boy, it did.
Next was the aforementioned visit to the President’s Suite, where we were treated to three wonderful matches: No. 1 Victoria Azarenka killed the ball and easily beat her opponent, Belgium’s Kirsten Flipkens. Our local favorite from University of Georgia, John Isner, played Xavier Malisse in a very close four-set match, with Isner winning two crucial tiebreaker sets with his amazing serve and wonderful volleying effort. Finally, were able to see the last singles match played by a true tennis champion and a player liked by all, Kim Clijsters. Certainly we didn’t expect this to be her last match but Laura Robson from Great Britian (supported by some enthusiastic young men from Cambridge and Oxford in our President’s box) played an amazingly composed match and history was made.
Were we really there? Yes! We saw Kim’s last singles match of her career. It couldn’t get any better than this.
Between the Azarenka and Isner match we went out on the grounds to the practice courts and watched Serena Williams and her sister, Venus, practice for their upcoming matches (they won doubles that day). But wait, it gets even better -- next to the sisters were the Bryan brothers, warming up for their doubles match. Meanwhile, a bunch of paparazzi were swarming behind the next practice court as Roger Federer completed his session for the day. Wow! We then went over to Court 11 and saw Brian Baker easily win his match against Czech Jan Hajek, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2, in his return to Open play after seven years away from the Open due to injury. His strokes were beautiful -- you could tell Baker was a past junior champion. We love his enthusiasm and love of the game.
After the Isner match, we also saw women’s doubles as Serbians Jelena Jankovic and Bojana Jovanovski lost to the Germans, Mona Barthel and Tatjana Malek, 6-2, 1-6, 4-6.The contest was a true display of teamwork by both sides. The Germans had outstanding net play. Susie and I commented that they covered "the gap" amazingly well, moving together with each other so no balls could get through. Watching the men’s doubles between India’s Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna and Australia’s Bernard Tomic and Matthew Ebden later on, along with Americans James Blake and Sam Querrey, only reinforced our belief that covering the gap and pressing the net were essentials in winning at doubles.
We were able to see the commentators, Pam Shriver, Chris Evert, Hannah Storm, Patrick McEnroe, and Brad Gilbert as they provided their insights and interviewed players during the day, as well as listening to the commentary on the American Express radio which we got free just by having our American Express card with us. This service provides some great insights into what matches to go watch, what was happening around the grounds -- there’s so much going on -- and the details inside the play. We highly recommend getting that radio to everyone and remembering to bring your AmEx card.
Finally we ended the day watching the big screen of former Open champion Maria Sharapova easily winning against Lourdes Dominguez Lino in her second round match. Before walking back to the train to end the day, we managed to see Ryan Harrison beat Benjamin Becker in the Grandstand.
Approaching the train station after 9:00 p.m. that evening, after spending 12 hours at the US Open, we noticed all the signs that said "watch the gap" and laughed knowingly. We thought that it would be a good theme to go by for our upcoming doubles seasons back home: watching the gap and winning matches just like the US Open champions.
We can’t wait to come back next year. We’ll want to spend a few more days not only enjoying all the wonderful matches at Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, but to visit the marvelous exhibits and museum as well. Getting a first week grounds pass is really the way to go. A local tennis enthusiast we met said she was able to get tickets this week at discount, so it is possible to enjoy the Open on a budget. Did we ever luck out with our tickets and our day at the Open! It was a day to remember and one that will be hard to beat.
US Open 2013, here we come! Could it get any better than this?