50 things I learned from going to all of US Open Week 1

I’ve been to the US Open several times, but this was the first time I visited 5 straight days. You quickly learn a lot when you’re at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center so many days in a row.

Here are 50 things I learned, and you should consider, when you visit your next live tennis tournament:

  1. Practice sessions are where it’s at. You’ll see all your favorite players close up. I know you’ve heard this before: It’s even more true than you think. 
  2. Serena Williams made me cry multiple times. Nobody makes you feel like Serena when she’s playing. 
  3. Alcaraz is as fun to watch as you think – in practice or during matches. To see him up close, find his practice session. 
  4. Aryna Sabalenka live is the best ticket in live tennis. If she’s on an outside court, go and get a good seat. 
  5. Fabio Fognini is better looking in person. 
  6. Most male tennis players are smaller and shorter than they look on TV; the women are smaller too. 
  7. Petra Martic is much more impressive in person than on TV. 
  8. During practices, sometimes the players don’t even communicate. The coaches will talk and relay the information to the players. Whether it’s because they speak different languages or not, I’m not sure. 
  9. The general admission section of Armstrong can get worse than a crowded club. Beware. 
  10. Pavic looks like a villain on TV. And he looks like one in person too, but he’s one of the nicest guys. He was very nice to Madison Keys while practicing next to each other. It was nice to see. 
  11. Karen Khachenov is more attractive in person than on TV. 
  12. Many male players – Ruud, Paul, PCB for example – look just like professional soccer players. 
  13. FIND SHADE! It gets super hot and can be uncomfortable. 
  14. Study the complex map. Knowing where to go is half the battle, and it’s always crowded. 
  15. Find your favorite bathroom spot and area to eat. When I was there, I went in the area between court 17 and 16 to eat or get some space. There’s also a secret sitting area toward the back of Grandstand. 
  16. Have a short attention span? If you’re under 35, according to older people, you all do. Then get a grounds pass. You can literally watch one game and then move on. Be noncommittal! 
  17. You can bring in a bottle of water. Do it, and then visit the refill stations. You’ll want to stay hydrated. More importantly: Water is between $6 and $8. 
  18. On the side courts, the players walk out and through the crowd. Go stand near their exit for selfie moments. 
  19. Foki (Davidiviv Fokina) is a fun watch. I watched him play Galan, and it was like a Columbia vs. Spain Davis Cup match. Unbelievable atmosphere. 
  20. Petra Kvitova hits it as hard as you think. And she moves as little as you think too. 
  21. Find Jelena Ostapenko. She’s inherently entertaining. 
  22. We saw Coco Gauff’s dad at the bar after her doubles loss. Nobody else seemed to recognize him. 
  23. You’ll see tennis commentators and podcasters everywhere. They walk around the grounds just like you. 
  24. Don’t be scared to go alone. I went alone one day, and it was my favorite day. You can go where you want. Even better: Stadiums get crowded, but you’ll find random single seats a lot easier than 2 or 3 in a row. 
  25. Bring sunglasses and/or a hat.
  26. Players do the same drills we do! Lots of cross court drills, playing out points, etc. 
  27. You’re going to stay on the grounds later than you expect. 
  28. Go watch a Danielle Collins match. She delivers. 
  29. Stefanos Tsistispas is a giant and physically intimidating. Watching him play feels like a different species. Highly recommend it. 
  30. Find Sascha Bublik. He’s so good and SO fun to watch. 
  31. Alize Cornet vs. Emma Raducanu was way better than the scoreline showed. It was one of the highlights for me. 
  32. Court 17 is secretly the best place to watch tennis onsite. 
  33. Matteo Berretini’s serve up close is a sight to behold. But his touch and volleys will surprise you. 
  34. And yes, Matteo looks like a model. 
  35. Enjoy Nadal while you can. He’s a natural entertainer. 
  36. Madison Keys is a wonderful person to watch live. Her match with Giorgi was a bloodbath. 
  37. I left a Kyrgios match to watch a Ruud match. Eat your heart out, Nick. 
  38. Most doubles matches (on both men’s and women’s match) are just people playing singles on the same side of the court. 
  39. Seriously, find seats in the shade. 
  40. Go see Grigor. He’s as nice as you’d expect. He’s talented and fun to watch – and he’s handsome. 
  41. Don’t plan to get drunk. Have a few drinks before you head to the tournament if you want to have drinks. They will run you at least $15 per drink – likely more. 
  42. Dennis Shapovalov and Andrei Rublev are exactly what you’d think up close. If you want drama and heavy hitting, go watch them for a few games. 
  43. The general admission section of Armstrong is like a crowded club. Get your seat early if you can, because they don’t monitor people coming in as closely as they should – you end up with chaos. 
  44. I never heard one fan say they were excited to see Iga Swiatek. 
  45. Be ready to hear a bunch of older straight men telling their friends what the professional women players should be doing. They know best. 
  46. Certain matches get the crowd going, and there’s very little that explains what causes it. Davidovich Fokina vs. Galan turned into a Davis Cup match. It was a blast. 
  47. Hailey Baptiste is one of the best doubles players I saw. Her game is fun and entertaining. I’m surprised she’s not at the top of all the best male players’ list for mixed doubles. 
  48. JJ Wolf is primetime. Entertainment oozes out of his strong body. 
  49. Badosa’s game is clearly not adjusted for hard courts yet. 
  50. A lot of people love the US Open. The grounds are packed almost all day. 

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