espnW: W@U.S. Open

An Open to remember

September, 11, 2012
Arthur Ashe StadiumAl Bello/Getty ImagesArthur Ashe Stadium hosted historic men's and women's U.S. Open finals.

As the late Los Angeles Lakers play-by-play announcer Chick Hearn once said, "This game's in the refrigerator: The door is closed, the lights are out, the eggs are cooling, the butter's getting hard and the Jell-O's jigglin'!"

In other words, the 2012 U.S. Open has come to a close.

From the tennis layman to the savant, this year's Open served something for everyone. From break dancing in front of Arthur Ashe Stadium to free high-tech mobile presentations to flash mobs at center court, the U.S. Open proved once again why it's called the people's open. No one was left out of the action.

Mother Nature tried to rain on the parade a couple of days, but USTA officials were prepared. When high winds and a tornado warning canceled Saturday's women's singles final, matches were moved around which shifted the men's singles final to Monday for the fifth year in a row. Maybe the tennis gods are trying to tell us Monday might just be the day we should hold the men's finale.

The U.S. Open honored our servicemen and women on Labor Day by highlighting injured soldiers who became ball people to inspire other wounded warriors.

"It's very physically demanding," Ryan McIntosh, U.S. Army member-turned-U.S. Open ball boy told Kate Fagan in a recent espnW article. "But you wouldn't necessarily think so because of what you see on TV. You don't see the ball people, because it's all about the player."

This year introduced players like Sloane Stephens, who made a splash with her play and newfound friendship with Serena Williams.

For Kim Clijsters and Andy Roddick, it was a year of farewells as they walked away from the game after defeat.

"This week I felt like I was 12 years old, playing in a park. It was extremely innocent. That was fun. I enjoyed it," Roddick said.

The award for best Open run goes to Andy Murray, the Bryan brothers and Williams. Andy Murray grabbed his first Grand Slam title, while the Bryan brothers set the Open-era Grand Slam doubles title record at 12. Williams launched herself even further into tennis superstardom by winning her fourth U.S. Open crown and 15th Grand Slam singles title.

"Serena deserves the win. She showed how true of a champion she is," said Victoria Azarenka, who fell to Williams in three sets 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 Sunday. "I definitely gave it all today. Stepping out of this court today, I will have no regrets."

All this amazing tennis competed with New York City as the backdrop. For two weeks, New York threw all it had at the U.S. Open: loud jet engines from the nearby airports, star-studded crowds, brash fans and even the distraction of Fashion Week. But the U.S. Open kept swinging. For New York City it was just another two weeks filled with activity, but for fans, it was an Open to remember.

Andre Agassi joins Court of Champions

September, 9, 2012

For a while Sunday, it felt like the early 1990s again at Arthur Ashe Stadium as images of a young Andre Agassi filled the big screen. The flowing hair, neon clothing and signature denim shorts brought back fond memories for Agassi and the crowd present to see him be inducted into the Court of Champions prior to the women’s singles final.

[+] EnlargeAndre Agassi
Adena Andrews Andre Agassi's plaque joins those of other tennis legends at the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

“Bold, brash and bigger than life,” is what the plaque bearing his photo outside Arthur Ashe Stadium says. “The ultimate showman at the ultimate show.”

Agassi joins John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors, Billie Jean King and other greats in the Court of Champions that greets fans entering through the South Gate of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

In his 20-year career, Agassi won eight major titles, two at the U.S. Open, and an Olympic gold medal in Atlanta in 1996. The U.S. Open held a special place in his heart as the only Slam event he never missed.

During his acceptance speech, Agassi waltzed down memory lane, describing the roar of the applause and the love at the U.S. Open.

“It’s like a jet engine and a giant heartbeat,” Agassi said. He also described the moments of silence he received from New Yorkers at Arthur Ashe as a sign of deep respect filled with high expectations, because there is nothing more deafening than a stone-cold-silent New Yorker.

"When somebody asks me if I miss the U.S. Open,” he said, "I don't hesitate. I miss your sound. I miss your silence. I miss giving you everything I had and a little bit more."

Silence was the last thing to be found at Ashe Stadium as the crowd gave a standing ovation for the man who once lit up the court with his fashion and style of play.

Adena Andrews catches up with Monica Seles and Jennifer Capriati at the International Tennis Hall of Fame Legends Ball.

What was supposed to be Super Saturday at the U.S. Open turned into Subpar Saturday due to 30 mph wind gusts and pending rain. The women’s final and second men's semifinal were postponed until Sunday, and Andy Murray and Tomas Berdych had to deal with "Wizard of Oz" wind conditions during their semifinal. Some fans missed their favorite players while others were told the value of their tickets would be put toward a 2013 match.

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AP Photo/Julio CortezWind inside Arthur Ashe Stadium wreaked havoc on players and fans alike.

The men's final will be played on Monday for the fifth consecutive year.

All these problems could have been avoided if Arthur Ashe Stadium had a roof. After all, a roof would seem practical for a tournament held in hurricane season. It seems lost money, unhappy fans and postponed matches aren’t enough to convince USTA officials to build a roof over the stadium. If that’s not enough, here are some other reasons to consider covering the house that Ashe built.

Ad dollars: Arthur Ashe Stadium already is littered with sponsor logos on the net and around the lower bowl. So what’s the problem with one more logo? The retractable roof could have a Weather Channel logo and solar panels by Duracell. Can you imagine the awesome aerial blimp shots?

Rising temperatures: This is the people’s open, right? So why must the regular Joes burn from sun exposure in the cheap seats atop Arthur Ashe Stadium? I sat up there for the men’s doubles final, and it was hotter than a Louis Vuitton purse being sold on a New York City street corner. If there were a roof, the sun wouldn’t be an issue.

Jet engine junk: Arthur Ashe Stadium is a drop shot from LaGuardia Airport, giving fans great views all day of ascending planes. In 1990, NYC Mayor David Dinkins made a rule that planes would use special takeoff procedures to avoid noise at the U.S. Open. However, it seems inclement weather and strong winds have blown those procedures out the window. Players have held their serves due to jet engine noise, and when watching matches at home, it sounds like you’re on a runway. All that’s missing are peanuts and rude flight attendants.

Then there’s the issue of blue ice, frozen sewage material that sometimes falls from planes. No one wants that type of precipitation at a tennis match.

Throwback tennis fanatics: Fans stuck in the ’90s who want to get jiggy with it and raise the roof are totally lost with nothing to raise. Also, the chant “the roof, the roof, the roof is on fire,” is totally useless at a roofless Open.

Tennis turmoil: Remember when a fan at the Palace at Auburn Hills threw a drink at Metta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest and of the Indiana Pacers, and the Malice at the Palace began? Well, imagine that happening in tennis. Due to whistling winds, objects have been flying from the stands and onto the court during matches. Who’s to say a drink or one of those large goofy tennis balls won’t fly from the stands and strike a player? We’ve seen players jump into the stands at other majors, with good intentions. If they get heated and start swinging more than rackets, it could be a problem.

Roger Federer’s hair: Only the forces of nature have the power to mess up his coif and make this man look unattractive, but who wants to see that?

Olympic gold medal swimmers Cullen Jones and Dara Torres put their sea legs aside for a day for some land-based activities at the U.S. Open with local kids. The two kicked off support activities for Childhood Obesity Awareness Month.

The USTA, in collaboration with Partnership for a Healthier America and First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative, held a youth tennis exhibition at the U.S. Open to highlight the importance of a healthy and active lifestyle.

Jones, Torres and celebrities and fitness enthusiasts played with the kids on modified courts with soft foam orange balls and smaller rackets designed for youth tennis players.

“We changed the rules of the game on Jan. 1,” said Kurt Kamperman, USTA Chief Executive of Community Tennis. “Until this year, a 9-year-old boy or girl had to play on the same size court as Andy Roddick and Serena Williams. Andy’s 6-foot-2 and an average boy is 4-foot-2. Doesn’t matter, you’re going to play on the same size court, same size racket and with the same fastballs. We changed things because we weren’t getting enough younger kids playing tennis. We figured if we didn’t get them at a younger age we wouldn’t get them at an older age.”

Physical activity is important for the younger generation because studies say one in three born after 2000 will develop diabetes unless their diet and exercise patterns change, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. On average, kids are spending up to seven and a half hours in front of a screen every day according to Sam Kass, White House Assistant Chef & Senior Policy Advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives. Time that in the past may have been spent outside playing has been replaced with electronics. Let’s Move encourages kids to start doing what comes natural to them -- play.

“It was always regular for me to be outside and the only rule that I had was be home before the street lights went on,” Jones said.

“The biggest thing that I want kids to understand is, be athletic, go out, have a good time. Do I like playing video games? Sure, but go outside, be social; this is one of the biggest problems.”

Jones’ mother watched from the audience at the Chase Center and spoke about what she did to keep her son healthy and not have him burn out at an early age.

“I used to put Italian dressing on his broccoli when he was a kid to encourage him to eat his greens,” Debra Jones said. “We also let him play other activities to keep him interested.”

Torres, who is a mother, emphasizes not taking sports so seriously at a young age.

“When sports are too serious it’s not fun for the child,” Torres said. “I stayed in swimming so long because I had coaches that liked to play water polo and liked to do Marco Polo in practice. To get kids initially engaged and to get them to stick to something, you have to make it fun.”

Jazz legend Louis Armstrong honored

September, 7, 2012
Louis Armstrong StadiumAP Photo/Henny Ray AbramsLouis Armstrong Stadium is the second largest -- after Arthur Ashe -- at the U.S. Open in New York City.

It’s fitting that at the U.S. Open the world’s greatest tennis players play in Arthur Ashe stadium, named for one of the best Americans to grace the court. But some are confused as to moniker attached to its neighbor, Louis Armstrong Stadium. It’s the second largest stadium at Flushing Meadows – which seats 10,200 -- is named after a jazz musician.

Although the naming of the stadium may seem off, knowing the history of the neighborhood around site of the U.S. Open provides an explanation.

For 37 years, jazz legend Louis Armstrong lived on 107th Street, one mile from the stadium bearing his name. His modest two-story, 3,000-square foot home in Corona, Queens stands as it was in 1943 when the Armstrongs purchased it. A national historic landmark, thousands of people travel from around the globe each year to see it.

At Armstrong’s home you can see paintings of him by Tony Bennett, his reel-to-reel audio player and even a trumpet gifted to him by King George V. Most important are the brick steps he would clown around on with neighborhood kids.

“Around the world he was revered as the great Louis Armstrong but here in Queens he was just Pops to everyone,” said Ben Flood, Louis Armstrong House Museum assistant.

Armstrong wasn’t a tennis player, sandlot baseball was his favorite pastime, but when the American legend died in 1971, the city was looking for a way to honor his life. His wife Lucille Armstrong oversaw the naming of two schools in the neighborhood after her husband. But she wanted to do more.

Louis Armstrong Stadium, which used to be named the Singer Bowl, was built in 1964 for the World’s Fair. When the U.S. Open moved to the site in 1978, Armstrong’s widow worked with the city of New York to honor a man whose smile and voice made millions around the world dance with a stadium minutes from his home.

Before Arthur Ashe Stadium, which opened in 1997, Armstrong was the largest venue on the grounds of the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

“When officials were expanding the complex there was one stipulation, that they could not change the name of Louis Armstrong stadium,” said Michael Cogswell, director of the Louis Armstrong House Museum. “They agreed and until this day, the name remains.”

Thanks to the efforts of Mrs. Armstrong and the city of New York, 140 mph hits fly in a stadium named after the man who had No. 1 hits for five decades.

Graffiti mecca a must-see in NYC

September, 6, 2012
Adena AndrewsAdena AndrewsAdena Andrews poses in front of one of the paintings that make up the 5Pointz art center.





There are many names for it, but at 5Pointz in Queens, N.Y., it's called art.

Founded in 2001, 5Pointz is an outdoor art exhibit reserved for legal graffiti art. Artists use a 200,000-square-foot dilapidated factory in the Long Island City neighborhood of Queens as a canvas for their sea of loud, maverick, neon designs.

During a rain delay, or if you don't have tickets for the day match, check out the landmark, named for its proximity to all five boroughs. It's 20 minutes from the U.S. Open and has appeared in dozens of feature films, music videos and has hosted numerous community events. Hip-hop heads, graffiti artists and fans of street art revere the hidden jewel as the "mecca of graffiti." The culture runs so deep that fans of the art have held weddings and funerals there.

"5pointz is not only graffiti, it's hip-hop in general," said Jonathan Cohen, graffiti legend and 5Pointz art gallery curator known by his signature tag, Meres One. "B-boying, break dancing, MC-ing and DJ-ing, you can find it all here on any day at 5Pointz. This is where you come to immerse yourself in the culture."

The gallery may look like an unorganized space, but there's a method to the artistic madness. Not any artist can paint at 5Pointz. They must get permission from Meres One, and the quality of their past work determines how big and prominent a space the artist will get and for how long. Big or small, your artwork will be rooted in worldwide street legend.

"I met a kid in Copenhagen who had wallpapered his room with images of 5Pointz," Meres One said. "Sometimes I can't believe how big this thing has become."

In just one hour on a dreary, muggy New York weekday evening, tourists from Germany, Switzerland, Saint Martin and England descended on the Institute of Higher Burnin' to observe a true street legend.

Meres One hopes to one day convert the building, which occupies an entire city block, into a graffiti art museum. But unlike the paintings on the building, the future of 5Pointz doesn't look too bright. Real estate moguls in the neighborhood want to tear down the factory and build pricey residences on the lot.

"If things go as planned, 2013 could be our last season," he said.

Meres One still presses on with big ideas for the gallery -- planning large scale, intricate pieces for walls of the factory.

Add this place to your checklist of things to see in New York City during the U.S. Open.

Karina LeBlanc, Lauren Sesselmann, Kaylyn KyleCourtesy of Jane McManusLauren Sesselmann, sitting, Karina LeBlanc, left, and Kaylyn Kyle had a fun time at the U.S. Open showing off the bronze medals they won in London with the Canadian soccer team.

FLUSHING MEADOWS, N.Y. -- Karina LeBlanc has been living out of the same suitcase she took to the London Olympics. A member of the bronze-medal-winning Canadian soccer team, she has just been too busy traveling, taking her medal to the masses, to unpack.

"I haven't spent more than five days in any city since London -- it's been go, go, go, and I love it," LeBlanc said. "Honestly, to see the reaction in people's faces and being the reason why they have those emotions, it's pretty powerful. And right now, if that's what it takes -- for us to live a bit longer out of our luggage and in our hotel room -- then that's fine because this isn't an experience that we're going to have again in our lifetime.”

"Plus," said her teammate Lauren Sesselmann, "we're young and we love to travel, love to meet new people, so getting that opportunity is awesome."

The two, along with teammate Kaylyn Kyle, were at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Tuesday night to catch part of Andy Roddick's match before it was suspended because of the weather. They had their bronze medals around their necks in a Tennis Channel suite.

"I say they're like our new boyfriends," Kyle laughed.

Soccer has taken them all over the world as part of the national team, but winning a bronze medal has changed their lives. Kyle, from Saskatoon, the largest city in Saskatchewan (population about 234,000), said people in her remote region are proud that a local player helped the Canadian effort.

"It's pretty cool when you get messages from girls that are 6, 7 years old saying you're their idol. As a 23-year-old, that's pretty inspiring, and it makes me get out of bed and train harder than the next girl so I keep my spot on the team. I'm from a small town; no one's come out of there for soccer."

The medal seems to be a way people can instantly connect to the experience the Canadian team had, which included victory and some controversy.

"I think it's part of our journey to see how people react to the medal," LeBlanc said. "You're always around other Olympic athletes so you think it's incredible, but to see the pure joy, the pure love people have just to touch it, some people start crying immediately -- and not just little kids, grown people. It's incredible to see what this means to so many other people and not just us. And that's the great thing about the Olympics."

While the U.S. Open is a pretty big event in Flushing Meadows, it doesn’t hold a candle to the history of events once held on these grounds. The 1,255-acre Flushing Meadows Corona Park, once a dumping ground for coal ash, played host to the 1939 and 1965 World’s Fair.

[+] EnlargeOpen Tour
Adena AndrewsFlushing Meadows Park's signature monument, the Unisphere, was erected for the 1965 World's Fair.

The World’s Fair, an exposition at which corporations amazed onlookers with technology, featured futuristic apparatuses like mainframe computers, modems and computer terminals displayed in awe-inspiring demonstrations. Machinery that people could only dream of were brought to the masses through the World’s Fair. More than 95 million people attended both fairs, each of which lasted a year.

There still are remnants of the fairs at Flushing Meadows Park. The park's signature monument, the Unisphere, a 140-foot tall stainless steel model of Earth erected for the 1965 World’s Fair, still sits at the center of the park. The sphere symbolizes the fair’s theme of “Peace Through Understanding” and is a celebration of the dawn of the space age. The three rings surrounding the globe represent the first three manmade satellites, launched in the late 1950s. It has become one of the most iconic and recognizable structures in Queens.

Other familiar structures in the park include the three observation towers, 90, 185 and 250 feet tall. They are also referred to as the spaceships or flying saucers after being depicted as alien aircrafts in the 1997 movie “Men In Black.” Upon closer inspection, the rusted towers and adjacent New York State Pavilion have an eerie, ghostly feel and are supposedly haunted by spirits from the World’s Fair.

“Lots of times spirits return to the last place they had fun,” said Stewart Kandel of the Ghost Doctors. “For many people, this was a memorable time in their life. In 1939, it might have been the last time they had fun before World War II began.”

Other eerie milestones at Flushing Meadows include a plaque outside the South Gate commemorating the death of two New York Bomb and Forgery Squad members, Joe Lynch and Freddy Socha, at the 1939 World’s Fair. An electrician alerted Lynch and Socha of a suspicious ticking package discovered in the British Pavilion, according to Bloomberg News. Lynch and Socha cut open the bag and were killed instantly by the explosion. The mystery bomber was never found and a $26,000 reward for information about the bombing still exists. The Ghost Doctors say spirits of the bomb squad members occupy the park.

If tales of the supernatural don’t move you, you can also visit Citi Field, home of the New York Mets, the Queens Museum of Art, Queens Wildlife Center, Meadow Lake and the New York Hall of Science, all of which call Flushing Meadows home. Or just grab a blanket and enjoy a sanctuary in the concrete jungle of New York City.

Like the rest of New York, the park is bustling with other activities that can satisfy almost anyone’s taste.

NEW YORK -- When it comes to Grand Slams, the U.S. Open is like Lollapalooza compared to the others. There is loud, popular music, fan cams and activities to keep even the tennis novice interested. It's like a rock star country club with a bit of tennis sprinkled in.

[+] EnlargeHarp player at US Open
Adena Andrews/espnW

So, some fans may have been a bit confused if they spotted the harpist playing outside the President's Gate.

"I really wouldn't expect this at the U.S. Open," said fan Pablo Hinjos, 33, from Miami, Fla. "I'm used to hearing songs like 'Call Me Maybe' and Rihanna at The Open, not harp music. It's a little weird."

One U.S. Open security employee said, "The harp is kind of relaxing."

In true U.S. Open fashion, this harpist isn't just any other harpist, he is a barefoot, pop-music harpist. Meet Erik Heger, who, between classical music sets, plays tunes from Coldplay and Lady Gaga, among others. He also plays with his bare feet pressing the pedals of the harp (he does this because his large shoes sometimes cause him to hit the wrong pedal on the harp).

"Playing pop music keeps folks interested when they hear songs that they can sing along to," he said.

Like his music, the 37-year-old Heger has an eclectic background. He picked up the harp at age six when his grandfather gave him one. He later went on to play basketball at Colorado College and briefly played pro hoops in Denmark, Lebanon and the Philippines.

"I thought I could continue to play in a boy's game and delay growing up," Heger said.

Due to injuries sustained on the court, Heger now does yoga and plays tennis to stay in good enough shape to lug around his 45-pound wood harp. He was also an actor in the Broadway play "End of The Rainbow," which depicted Judy Garland's life.

Heger has a limited appearance schedule at the Open, but if you want to catch his tunes, hang out near the President's Gate from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. You can't miss him.

West Side's story has rich history

September, 3, 2012

In the shadow of the Long Island Railroad tracks, a drop shot from the U.S. Open and steps away from the hustle and bustle of Queens Boulevard, lies an oasis in the heart of Queens.

When you cross into the Forest Hills neighborhood on the other side of the boulevard, Tudor-style houses and well-manicured lawns make it feel as if you aren't in gritty Queens anymore. A few blocks tucked into the haven is a small wooden gate signaling you've arrived at a New York City gem, the West Side Tennis Club, once home to the U.S Open.

The WSTC resembles a country club, with members wearing all white while eating off fine China in the dining room or grabbing a drink at the bar. Others prefer to lounge on the patio after a rousing tennis match or game of bridge.

Founded in 1892, the West Side Tennis Club hosted the U.S. Open from 1915 to 1978. For six decades, the world's greatest tennis players descended upon this humble neighborhood in the heart of Queens to determine the winner of one of tennis' Grand Slams.

The club was born on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, hence its name, and started out with 13 members but quickly grew and endured much relocation. From Central Park West it moved to 117th street near Columbia University to 238th Street and Broadway to its current location. Next year, it will celebrate its centennial at the Forest Hills location.

Due to growing crowds, the Open moved to the current more modern location at Flushing Meadows. Before the move, Billie Jean King, Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors and other tennis royalty walked the halls of the posh club. All that remains of their legacies are black and white photos in gold frames lining the halls of the clubhouse.

Behind its 38 courts and four different surfaces is the 15,000 concrete-seat stadium where the U.S. Open was held. The club's signature blue and yellow flags fly high above the deteriorating stadium, where weeds peek through cracks on the lower level. Even with age, the palatial grandeur of the stadium has not been lost. The excitement of tight matches and the energy of performances from The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan still fill the seats.

"One of my most memorable moment in the 1975 Open. It was a semifinal match between [Manuel] Orantes and [Guillermo] Vilas," said Jean Frangos, social chair and almost 40-year member of the WSTC. "It ended at 2 in the morning.

"A lot people went back to the clubhouse to have drinks and a nice dinner. When they heard it was still going on they all trooped back here. There may have been about 1,500 people still here but it was a very exciting evening."

The liveliness of the final U.S. Open held at the WSTC still lives in tennis folklore. In 1977, the last Open to be held on clay, as McEnroe took on Eddie Dibbs in a third-round match, a spectator was shot in the leg. The bullet came from a nearby apartment building, according to The New York Times. That also was the year Vilas was carried off the court after defeating Connors, and when transgendered player Renee Richards made an Open appearance.

"There's a lot of history here and anyone should be proud to be a member," said Bob Ingersole, tennis director.

The WSTC stadium is still in use and hosted the first Evian Wood Racket Cup and a Little Mo Championship this year. The pristine grounds are also host to numerous corporate events and youth camps and even serve as a practice site for the Australian Davis Cup team.

The club went through some financial difficulties but has since rebounded. It now boasts 850 members, 100 new ones this year. In addition to a brief screening process, membership is $1,700 annually for players under 35 and $6,000 annually plus initiation for members older than 35 to join.

That's a small price to play a big piece of history.


US Open serving up technology

September, 3, 2012
IBM at US Open Courtesy of Ketchum PRThe IBM Game Changer Interactive Wall serves as a technological tour guide of all the U.S. Open has to offer.

Even for the most avid tennis fan, the U.S. Open can be a pretty intimidating place. With two weeks of tennis on 17 courts and access to more than 250 players, it can be hard to be in the right place at the right time. Don't worry: Like everything else in life, there's an app for that. Smartphone users can download the official USTA U.S. Open app to make sure they don't miss one serve or volley from their favorite players.

You can receive alerts for up to five different players throughout the day. If Andy Murray is about to finish off his opponent on Arthur Ashe, the app will alert you so you can catch the winning set. It will also alert you if the Williams sisters' doubles match has been moved to Louis Armstrong, allowing you to beat the crowds for the perfect seat.

The app also helps you be in two places at one time. No, it doesn't have special teleporting technology, although I'm sure they are working on that for 2013. It provides a live radio broadcast with play-by-play of matches at Arthur Ashe, so feel free to watch Serena Williams cruise to another win while listening to Andy Roddick close out his career.

Tennis scheduling isn't the only thing the app is good for. You can purchase tickets, join the U.S. Open social media conversation and even shop for official U.S. Open swag. Don't know where the nearest bathroom is? The app has you covered with a map that pinpoints all the restrooms in the Billie Jean King Tennis Complex. Need to take a break at one of the many high-class restaurants on the grounds? The hardest part will be choosing just one eatery. The app will take care of getting you there.

If you don't have a smartphone, proceed to the U.S. Open American Express Fan Experience, where you can get the same info from the IBM Game Changer Interactive Wall. The touchscreen wall serves as an extension of all of the features found within the U.S. Open mobile app and website. It also tells you when the next No. 7 train is coming and uses graphics to display which athlete has the momentum in the match. If you check in at the wall using Foursquare, your photo will become part of the display.

With so much technology helping you keep up with the action, the U.S. Open is not only the people's open, it's also the web's open.

Access to the greatest players in tennis is one of the best qualities about the U.S. Open. By just being in the right place at the right time, you can score an autograph or photo with the biggest stars of the U.S. Open.

One of the main tricks to getting an autograph is to carry around an oversized tennis ball and a felt marker (the tennis ball will run you $48.99). When players see that, they automatically know what time it is. Here’s an insider's guide on where to snag autographs and moments with the players.

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Adena AndrewsAn oversized tennis ball and felt marker come in handy when trying to get a player's autograph.
Practice courts: Everyone needs to warm up and get a couple of swings in to get the day started. Head to the practice courts to catch an intimate look at the mechanics of a player’s swing and the power of their game.

President’s gate: This is where players and their families enter each day. If you see a silver Mercedes Benz with the words “Official USTA Vehicle” pull up to the entrance, chances are there is someone important in there. If you play the waiting game, you can catch a glimpse of some of the big names.

Media center entrance: Players are required to speak to the media, so before or after a match you can find them trotting out of the media center. If you can stand watching weary media members walk by for hours, you’ll be rewarded with a player sighting.

Players' lounge: Imagine a bus depot waiting room. Now put plush couches, gourmet food and dozens of world class tennis players in there. That is what the players’ lounge is like. It’s a place where players come between matches to focus and relax. If you’re lucky enough to gain entrance with a corporate sponsor or required pass, you’ll have the best access to every player at the Open and tons of stories to tell.

Fan Experience: Player meet-and-greets are set up throughout the day for fans to enjoy at the free fan experience. If the tennis gods are smiling on you, you may even get a photo or a free lesson from a pro.

There's not a bad seat in the house

September, 1, 2012
Tickets to the U.S. Open can range from $995 to just $54. No matter how much cash you’re willing to drop, you’re guaranteed to have a unique experience.

If you score just a $54 grounds pass for a day at the U.S. Open, you can see matches on all 17 courts, the Grandstand and Louis Armstrong Stadium, and participate in the interactive fan events. You also can grab an adult beverage at one of the quality restaurants on the grounds.

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Adena AndrewsEven if from the "nosebleed" section of Arthur Ashe Stadium, the sightlines aren't bad.

As the sun sets, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center starts to feel like a nightclub, with places such as the Heineken Red Star Café creating a local pub atmosphere right outside the main court. The only thing off limits to grounds-pass holders is Arthur Ashe Stadium.

If you’ve got a little more dough, you can grab a seat in the 22,547-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium. If tickets are still available, they can cost anywhere from $995 for courtside seats to a final to $75 for seats at the very top of the stadium.

Unlike some sporting events, the U.S. Open boasts great sight lines from anywhere in the stadium. Fans in the nosebleed seats of Arthur Ashe have a bird’s-eye view of the court and can really appreciate the ground covered by athletes as they volley.

The plus side to nosebleed seats is that if you stand at the very top of the stadium, you can watch multiple matches on other courts. Therefore, you’re getting two matches for the price of one.

Also, it has been said the truest fans are at the top of the stadium, where you can find a man ripping off his shirt for the fan cam or a woman with an “I Love You Roddick” glitter-dusted sign.

Whether you’re sitting courtside, at the bar or in the cheap seats, there really isn’t a bad seat in the house.

Think you have what it takes to hang on the court with the pros at the U.S. Open? Then test your skills at the American Express U.S. Open Fan Experience, where you can have your game critiqued by a tennis pro, play virtual tennis against the best in the game, play a match on a regulation court or just charge your phone while you watch matches on TV. All you need is a grounds pass to the event and a sense of adventure.

Your first stop at the experience has to be the swing analysis bays. There are five rooms equipped with video cameras to record your movement as you practice a forehand, backhand or serve under the tutelage of a tennis professional. Your performance will be displayed side-by-side with an expert player and then emailed to you so you can post on social media outlets and brag to all your friends -- or if you were that bad, just throw it in the trash.

After getting pointers from your recording, take your new knowledge over to the full-size court, where you can fine-tune what you learned with a one-on-one tennis lesson. If you're lucky, one of the American Express players may pass through for a meet-and-greet session.

If you're still having trouble with your game on the real court, you can go virtual with Xbox Kinect. Here you can play as your favorite tennis player or go up against them. The game is a lot more forgiving than reality. If you just swing in the vicinity of the ball, you're bound to hit it. The graphics are true to life and will have you thinking you're in Arthur Ashe Stadium midday with Venus Williams on the other side of the net.

The fan experience is a great way to get you into the game without stepping foot into a stadium.