I’ve always enjoyed watching tennis on TV. I was more attached to the stars of the previous generation, especially Andre Agassi. Growing up in NY it always seemed a shame I never made it to the US Open in Flushing. But, collecting miles and points lead me to be able to cross this item off my bucket list.
This was my first time bidding on an auction via Starwood Preferred Guest’s SPG Moments.
A quick scan of the available auctions on the SPG Moments site right now shows tickets for Mamma Mia on Broadway and dance lessons with the cast, a private suite at Wrigley, and the ability to be a guest racer on an America’s Cup sailboat (I kinda think this one needs to go on the bucket list).
The day started out great with Mickie’s tennis lesson with Agassi. I especially likes when he starts to make fun of her for making him run around too much and then drills a ball down the line near her to get a little yelp!
After the tennis lesson and a shower for Michelle, we headed out of the locker rooms to another shower. Unfortunately, this one delayed play about 90 minutes. What’s a little tornado warning in an open air arena?
After the rain died down, they began the process of drying the courts and we did a quick tour of the grounds at Billie Jean King Tennis Center. One of the reasons Andre Agassi was there this year was because he had been inducted into the US Open Court of Champions.
Such a classy guy. During his brief speech prior to the women’s final on Sunday, he said of the crowd, “I wish I had the words to describe the sound you make during critical matches, the roar, the applause, the love,” the 42-year-old Agassi told the New York fans during the ceremony. “It’s like a jet engine and a giant heartbeat.”
“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.”
That’s how I’ll remember Andre. Giving everything he had and a little more. Heck, even during our lesson he worked hard to make sure everyone had a small moment to take away from them.
Anyway, back to the US Open. The facility is very well set up to stay in touch with the tennis. For starters, there are two humongousTV screens on Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadium to keep up with the action.
You can’t see it well in the picture, but this is definitely one of the best quality large screens I’ve ever seen. There’s audio of the match at the screens as well. Another way they keep you in touch is through a partnership with American Express. Basically, if you have an Amex card (I have a few of those in my wallet), they were handing out one-ear radios that were broadcasting the CBS feed with Mary Carillo and John McEnroe commentating the matches.
So, barring the occasional tornado and torrential downpour, there was really no reason to miss any of the action. We made our way up to the SPG suite during the rain and ate an enjoyable lunch while waiting for the rain to subside. No hot dogs or hamburgers like other luxury suites I’ve been in at sports stadiums. We had Manchego, herbed chicken, cous cous, shrimp and a crisp Prosecco. Not too shabby. I was too busy enjoying lunch to remember to take pictures of the food.
As the rain subsided, we explored Arthur Ashe. It really is a beautiful facility to watch tennis in. A monumental Andre hung near the suite, perpetually saluting his fans.
It took a while for the stadium to fill up. I’m assuming that since it was raining before the first match started people stayed home a bit longer. By the time the second set was in full swing most of the seats were full. Arthur Ashe holds more than 20,000 seats, or more than some NBA arenas. Not sure how much fun it would be to watch a match from the nosebleeds.
That wasn’t going to be our issue, as Starwood’s box was on the lower level at center court. I haven’t watched much in the way of live tennis in my lifetime, but strangely enough I suspect I won’t be quite as pleased if my seats aren’t quite this good next time.
Even though the rain subsided, the wind played a critical role in the match we were watching (Andy Murray vs. Tomas Berdych). Andy Murray had just won the gold medal at the London Olympics and was the favorite here, especially since Berdych upset the guy we wanted to see play most, Roger Federer.
As you can see in the video below, the wind was whipping the flag pretty well.
And, in this picture, it’s a bit hard to see (wish I could have captured one of these on video. But, you can see the ball that Berdych has thrown up for serve. Note it’s nowherenear his body at this point. Ultimately, it ended up about 6 feet behindhim. Earlier that morning, Andre had quietly told me that he thought the wind would be a problem today, and that it would affect Berdych much more than Andy. Well, if it wasn’t for Andy Murray being a perfect gentleman in the first set, he would have won the match in straight sets. Instead, it took him 4.
As an aside, I don’t know much about Berdych, but I don’t like him. During one critical point on Andy’s service game to try and hold the first set and take it to a tiebreak, Murray hit a wonderful drop shot into Berdych’s court. There was absolutely no chance Berdych was ever going to get to the ball, but replays showed him looking at the ball and ferociously pursuing it. Replays also showed Andy Murray losing his hat afterhe hit the drop shot, and the hat falling behindhim. After Berdych lost the point, he appealed to the chair that the hat falling off had distracted him. Setting aside the fact that it wasn’t possible, Murray and Berdych discussed the matter along with the chair. On the radio, Andy could be heard asking Berdych, “You’re 100% sure it was the hat that distracted you from hitting the shot?”. Berdych insisted it was, so Andy agreed to play the point over, ultimately losing the point and the set. I’ve always heard Andy Murray is a stand-up guy. And, while not specifically a fan, I have respect for him making this decision even though I think he knew it was crap. Oh, and Berdych really is a punk.
And, no post would be complete without a little travel talk. Emirates Airlines is a big sponsor of the US Open, and they had a couple of cool booths set up. One had a full suite from their A380, though without the shower (something else I’ve added to my bucket list, a shower at 35,000 feet).
We watched the last few points of Murray v Berdych on the big monitor outside Ashe and then headed for our rental car. We had made the decision to drive home instead of our United flight from LGA to IAD. We had also decided to pass on the second match of the men’s semifinals (Djokovich v Ferrer).
We ended up picking right on both accounts. We weren’t even out of Queens before they stopped play for the night due to a tornado warning. And, it turns out if we’d flown we would have landed just shy of midnight as opposed to our scheduled landing time of just before 9pm.
I’m thrilled to have crossed the US Open off my bucket list, but like any true sports junkie I’m addicted now. I want a pass to next year’s Open so I can wander around and watch a bunch of matches, taking in the whole Open. Work probably won’t let that happen, but it’s nice to dream. And, I’m certain I’ll be back on the grounds of Billie Jean King at some point in the near future, hopefully with Catherine in tow so she can cross this off her list as well. Charlie may be a bit young yet, he’ll just want to run down on the court and grab the tennis balls.
It only seems right to close this with a reminder of why it’s important to take advantage of the “low hanging fruit” when it comes to collecting points and miles. There are plenty of things we purchase on a daily basis that can earn points and miles. The Starwood Preferred Guest American Express Card helped us get a fair amount of the points we used for the auction.
Bottom line: There’s NOway my wife gets to play tennis with Andre Agassi without SPG Moments. And, we could have forked over a ton of cash to get suite tickets to the men’s semis at the US Open. Instead, it was all free.