Free and Cheap US Open Deals

Jonathan Zeller


More than 700,000 people attended the US Open last year, and nearly 70 million watched the tournament on TV and online. There's no draw like great tennis, sure, but the US Open is more than that; it's an event whose champions have become icons, ascending from mere sports stardom to full-blown celebrity: Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Roddick, Maria Sharapova and Queens native John McEnroe, a four-time winner in his own backyard. Think such a glitzy affair is 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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Tatjana Malek. Photo:©Maria R. Bastone  

EmblemHealth Bronx Open
August 7–14
If you can't wait for the US Open to satisfy your tennis cravings, there's a great appetizer at Crotona Park in the Bronx. This tournament serves as a tune-up for a number of female pros headed for the main event later in the month, and you can watch them play here for free (with one exception: general admission tickets to the finals on August 14 cost $10). The festivities also include free tennis lessons for children. For more information, visit

Maria Sharapova in the 2008 US Open. Courtesy, USTA/Getty

Qualifying Tournament
August 23–26
The qualifying tournament, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, represents another terrific opportunity for hard-core fans to catch the 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.

Will Ferrell at the 2008 Arthur Ashe Kids' Day. Photo: Noel Vasquez/Getty Images. Courtesy of USTA

Arthur Ashe Kids' Day
August 27
The US Open is always a youngster-friendly affair, but particularly so on Kids' Day, now in its 16th year. It's a combination of music, interactive games and tennis stars and pop stars side by side. Past participants have included Rihanna, Justin Bieber and Will Ferrell, as well as Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and Kim Clijsters. Tickets start at just $10, which means they're cheap enough for budding fans to pay for out of their own allowance.

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Please note: due to Hurricane Irene, this event has been canceled. Please visit the official event website for updates.

Andy Roddick in the 2008 US Open. Courtesy, USTA/Getty

US Open Practice Day
August 28
You could see Rafael Nadal 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 28, 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.)

Please note: due to Hurricane Irene, this event may be canceled. Please visit the official event website for updates.

2008 Opening Night. Photo: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images. Courtesy of USTA

Opening Night
August 29
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 this time around as well. The whole experience is a pretty big deal; Alec Baldwin's looking forward to it. Tickets—if you can manage to snag them before they're all gone—start at $30.

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Serena Williams in the 2008 US Open. Courtesy, USTA/Getty

First- and Second-Round Evening Sessions
August 29–30
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 $30 for opening night and $24 for the second night of play. Act fast if you want to grab seats before other quick-moving, bargain-minded tennis fans snatch them up.

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Courtesy, USTA/Getty

Family Day
August 31
At Family Day, a kid is your passport to great seats at bargain prices—that is, uh, you have the chance to selflessly give your boy or girl the gift of tennis. If you're accompanied by a child 14 years old or younger, you only need your grounds passes ($52 each) to sit in a reserved section of Louis Armstrong Stadium. Families with Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe Stadium tickets can also take advantage of the special seating. The day also includes giveaways, entertainment and autograph signings, and families can purchase a breakfast that comes complete with a gift bag. It promises to be a great day for kids—and a day when childless tennis fans seriously consider starting families of their own.

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Citi Field by Malcom Brown (left); and Billie Jean King National Tennis Center photo by Daniel Avila

Two-Sport Doubleheaders
August 29–September 1, September 9–10
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 August 29–September 1 or on September 9, grab a quick dinner, then cheer on the Mets at 7:10pm. Or see the Mets' 1:10pm game on September 10, then mosey across the street for the US Open evening session at 7pm. A full day of sports will set you back a few more bucks than our other suggestions, but this plan is so perfect, nothing could go wrong…unless, of course, there's a 20-inning Mets game or an 11-hour tennis match, like this one. The Mets also play a night game on August 26, the final day of the qualifying tournament.

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Arthur Ashe Stadium, 2008 US Open. Courtesy, USTA/Getty

Final Session
September 11
Incredibly, $5 will get you onto the grounds for the last day of the US Open. Once inside the gates, you can see the wheelchair and 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 premises. You'll feel the energy (and, if you stand close enough to the stadium, 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.

Arthur Ashe Stadium, 2008 US Open. Photo: Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Courtesy of USTA

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 $19—is limited (it's even worse when the Mets are playing). The 7 train or the Long Island Rail Road 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.)

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit