For two weeks every year, the glamour quotient spikes in Flushing Meadows, Queens as the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center becomes the Magic Kingdom for tennis people. The U.S. Open Championships is one of those "who do you know" sold-out events, where a ticket to the Open trumps an invite to hang with Aerin Lauder in East Hampton over Labor Day.
There's plenty of sweat, too. It's 10:30 a.m. and hot outside the East Gate, where thousands of yellow fuzzy ball fans, coming off the packed subway, are waiting for the Day Session to open at 11:00. They are happy people. Tennis fans, like Norwegians, are the happiest people in the world.
Across the immaculate grounds, past the World of Heineken and the Land of American Express, at the West Gate entrance for players and celebrities, Stone Phillips, Alec Baldwin and Hugh Jackman make their way to the President's Suite for lunch. Jackets required. At the Nike Suite, around the corner and one level up, Michael Jordan checks in. It's cushy there too, but no dress code. The jicama salad is lovely.
Back outside, the gates open -- and so do the wallets. Marcella Maloney, from New Jersey, by way of the West Gate, has a shopping list. She buys five RF "Betterer" must-have, totally collectable tee shirts for her son. Then it's time for one of those day-time vodka drinks before Marcella goes into Ashe for the Serena Williams match. Serena crushes! Novak beats Andy Murray. The Bryan Brothers advance, and sun-block is selling fast.
As the sun begins to set over the main stadium and surrounding full 17 courts, the wave of evening ticket holders rides in. It's that sea-of-people thing again, but with a cool breeze over the Bellagio fountains. The countdown begins for the Federer/ Monfils night match. Gwen Stefani is already inside. So is Will Farrell and those guys from Duck Dynasty. Is that Mini Driver with a security escort?
Monfils, from France, starts by winning the first two sets; playing the best tennis of his career. He's up in the third--match point against Federer. Anna Wintour pulls a little black cardigan over her shoulders. Then it's 2nd match point against Federer--but Federer wins. He wins that point and the next two sets; winning the match at 11:38pm! The Empire Strikes Back theme is blasting and everyone is up cheering for the king.
Just another day at the Open -- the very best place to be.