As America's only Grand Slam tournament, the US Open is indisputably the nation's biggest tennis event. And, yes, it certainly can be quite expensive to attend. But even if you're on a tight budget, there are affordable ways to be a part of the excitement at Flushing Meadows. A couple of them cost nothing at all; good luck even finding a deal like that on a can of tennis balls. Read on for details.
For tickets, visit ticketmaster.com.
1. Qualifying Tournament
When: August 19–22, 11am
What it'll cost you: Nothing!
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, as the top finishers gain berths in the Open and take on the sport's stars a few days later.
2. Arthur Ashe Kids' Day
When: August 23, 1pm
What it'll cost you: $13.50–$54
This family-oriented event features live music, interactive games and appearances from tennis stars. Country singer-songwriter Hunter Hayes headlines the music lineup, while Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal are slated to show off their skills on the court. [Update, 8/19: Nadal has withdrawn from the tournament due to injury, and a replacement has yet to be announced.]
Jarmere Jenkins. Courtesy, USTA
3. US Open Practice Day
When: August 24, gates open at 10am
What it'll cost you: Nothing!
It's free to watch up close as the game's biggest names sharpen their skills one last time before the bright lights and TV cameras turn on. (Open practices occur daily from the start of the qualifiers, but the day before the tournament is a fan favorite.)
Novak Djokovic. Photo: Mike Lawrence/USTA
4. Opening Night
When: August 25, 7pm
What it'll cost you: Starting at $41
In addition to first-round men's and women's matches, Arthur Ashe Stadium usually hosts a musical performance the first night of the tournament (though we haven't yet seen details about this year). While $41 isn't a negligible price for tickets, it pales in comparison to what you'd pay in later rounds (or even for the day session on August 25 itself).
5. First- and Second-Round Evening Sessions
When: August 26–27, 7pm
What it'll cost you: Starting at $33
Night tennis under the Arthur Ashe Stadium lights feels like a real event (even without live music), and this is the lowest price you can pay to see matches on the tournament's biggest stage.
Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
6. Final Sunday Grounds Pass
When: September 7
What it'll cost you: $25
Tickets: At the box office only
This one's a little tricky: it's only $25 to get into the tennis center grounds for the women's final and the men's doubles final, but you'll have to watch those matches on big-screen TVs—the tickets won't buy you admission to the stadium itself. The matches you can see in person are the juniors and wheelchair finals. Having said that, the proceeds from the tickets go to USTA Serves, the USTA's charitable foundation.
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 $22—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 mta.info for schedules and fares.
• Don't bring a backpack—no bags larger than 12 inches wide by 12 inches high by 16 inches long are allowed.
• 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 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. Bargain seekers can hit the street vendors near the grounds. Know, though, that security won't let you enter with outside snacks.
For more information, visit usopen.org.