The Frugal Fan's Guide to the US Open

Jonathan Zeller


Rejoice—it's almost US Open time. Tennis fans the world over want to find out whether Serena Williams and Andy Murray can carry over their Olympic momentum into the grand slam event. And pop aficionados are itching to hear Carly Rae Jepsen (whose “Call Me Maybe” is your favorite song) perform at Arthur Ashe Kids' Day on August 25. In fact, no matter who you are, there's a good chance you're about to contract a serious case of US Open fever: more than 650,000 people attended last year, and more than 53 million watched the event on TV, both to see great tennis and to be part of a sport that has produced icons—like the Williams sisters, Andy Roddick and Maria Sharapova—who have ascended from mere sports stardom to full-blown celebrity.

Think this glitzy affair must be so expensive that it's out of reach for Joe and Jane Tennis Fan? Think again. You don't need a Bentley limo to get to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center—you can take the 7 train instead. For proof, check out our roundup of events that make the US Open a bona fide bargain. Just make sure you grab your tickets beforehand, since many sessions sell out quickly. Read on for details.

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Julia Boserup in the Qualifying Tournment. Courtesy, USTA

Qualifying Tournament
August 21–24
The qualifying tournament, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows–Corona Park, is a prime opportunity for hard-core fans to catch up-and-coming pros in action. You're sure to see some very determined play—the top finishers gain berths in the Open and take on the sport's stars a few days later. Best of all, you can't beat the price: zero, zilch or, in tennis parlance, love. No wonder so many folks make sure to catch the qualifiers year in and year out. Matches begin at 11am each day.

Carly Rae Jepsen. Photo: Vanessa Heins

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day
August 25
“Hey, I just met you / and this is crazy / but here's my number / so call me, maybe?”

Would you believe that you and your kids have the opportunity to hear those words emanating directly from the vocal cords of pop-sensation-of-the-moment Carly Rae Jepsen? And that such a treat will set you back as little as $10? It's true.

Shockingly, the US Open's Arthur Ashe Kids' Day, now in its 17th year, includes even more entertainment than Ms. Jepsen alone. It's a combination of music, interactive games and tennis stars and pop stars side by side. The tennis talents slated to appear include Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Kim Clijsters. Tickets start at just 10 bucks, which means they're cheap enough for budding fans to pay for out of their own allowance.

Andy Roddick. Courtesy, USTA/Getty

US Open Practice Day
August 26
You could see Andy Roddick or Venus Williams win the US Open, courtside, for free! Sound too good to be true? Maybe. But any champ will tell you that matches are won and lost beforehand, during practice, and on August 26, you can watch as the game's luminaries take the court to sharpen their skills one last time before the bright lights and TV cameras turn on. Gates open at 10am—be sure to arrive early for good seats. Then you can brag to your friends about how you witnessed the defining moment of a tennis legend's career. (Open practices occur daily from the start of the qualifiers, but the day before the tournament is a fan favorite.)

Courtesy, USTA/Getty

  Opening Night
  August 27
  Get ready for plenty of pomp at Arthur Ashe Stadium on the tourney's first evening. In years past, opening-night festivities have included performances from the likes of Gloria Estefan, Aretha Franklin and Tony Bennett—so, in addition to first-round men's and women's matches, you can count on some formidable entertainment. Tickets—if you can manage to snag them before they're all gone—start at $32.


Serena Williams. Courtesy, USTA/Getty

First- and Second-Round Evening Sessions
August 27–29
Night tennis under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights is what the US Open is all about. It feels like more than a match—it's an event. (Plus, you don't have to worry about seeking shade or wearing the right sun hat.) Tickets start at just $32 for opening night and $24 for the second and third nights of play. Act fast if you want to grab seats before other quick-moving, bargain-minded tennis fans snatch them up.

Citi Field (left) photo by Malcolm Brown; Arthur Ashe Stadium, Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

  Two-Sport Doubleheader
  September 7
  The Mets' home stadium, Citi Field, is just a lob away from the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center—so you can catch New York's favorite National League club and your favorite tennis heroes all in one day. See the US Open day sessions on September 7, grab a quick dinner, then cheer on the Mets starting at 7:10pm. These US Open tickets will set you back a bit more than our other suggestions, but the Mets are likely to have some pretty nifty deals, including $10 student rush tickets (to be picked up in person with a valid ID at the box office). And, late in the baseball season, you can often find cheap seats on StubHub.


Novak Djokovic. Courtesy, USTA/Getty

Final Session
September 9
Incredibly, $5 will get you onto the grounds for the last day of the US Open. Once inside the gates, you can see the junior finals in person and catch the men's singles and women's doubles finals on big-screen TVs with like-minded fans. Plus, you will have access to all the live entertainment and concessions on the premises. You'll feel the energy (and hear the cheers) of the big matches, and proceeds from your bargain ticket will go to USTA Serves, the United States Tennis Association's national charitable foundation. All in all, it's one of the best ways to wrap up the tournament. Game, set, match—everybody wins.

Photo: Alexander Thompson

The Basics 
No matter when you choose to attend the US Open, there are a few things you should know to make sure you can focus on the matches:
• Take public transit. Traffic en route to the US Open is substantial, and parking—which costs $20—is limited (it's even worse when the Mets are playing). The 7 train or the Long Island Rail Road to the Mets–Willets Point station are better bets. Visit for schedules and fares.
• Don't bring a backpack—no bags larger than 12"x12"x16” are allowed. If you skip bags altogether, you'll get through security much faster.
• If you bring a camera, make sure there's no flash. And, sorry, no camcorders are allowed.
• Wear a hat and sunscreen during day sessions, or risk seriously nasty sunburns.
• There's plenty of recognizable, delicious food all around the tennis center: Ben & Jerry's ice cream, the upscale Aces wine and sushi bar, a glatt kosher cart and even a Carnegie Deli outpost. For bargain seekers, there are street vendors near the grounds. Know, though, that security won't let you enter with outside snacks. (And don't even think of trying to sneak food past them—they're too good.)
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