Beginning this week, the U.S. Open will host some of tennis’ biggest stars — and more than 700,000 of you — at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens. There’s lots to check out on and off the court, and we’ve got your highlights.
No more rain delays for the biggest matches
The new retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is finally in place, with 13 million pounds of steel ready to shelter tennis fans and stars from the elements and keep the matches going. If you score a ticket to opening night, Aug. 29, “Hamilton” star and newly minted solo artist Leslie Odom Jr. and Phil Collins will perform a “special duet.” After 18 months of construction, the new Grandstand has opened with its sunken court, providing the audience with a unique vantage point.
A kid-friendly day you don’t want to miss
Kids are going to have some competition for tickets to Arthur Ashe Kids Day, the unofficial kickoff to the tournament on Aug. 27. The event has grown into a full-blown music festival, with acts including rapper Flo Rida, Aussie singer Troye Sivan and boy band trio Forever in Your Mind. “The Fault in Our Stars” actor Ansel Elgort will don his DJ hat. Oh, and some ball-slingers named Venus, Novak and Rafael will be knocking around, too.
Smell what the celebrity chefs are cooking
Sushi mogul Masaharu Morimoto and David “Bacon Curtain” Burke are staples of the U.S. Open food scene, which ranges from a massive outdoor food court to a sports bar, fine dining and not one but two oyster bars. Joining the already star-studded roster of chefs this year are David Chang with an outpost of Fuku as part of the Food Village, which also has a new Jacob’s Creek wine bar and Angry Taco and BLT Fish Shack. Ken Oringer and Jamie Bissonnette are bringing Toro’s regional Spanish flavors to a restaurant space just outside Arthur Ashe Stadium. Plus, you can also get Neapolitan Express pizzas at the regular Food Village and the new smaller food court at the Grandstand.
How to get in free
Tickets to the grounds are $60, which can still get you in to see some great tennis on the smaller courts (there are 24 in all), though the big match-ups are individually ticketed. But on select days, you can take in all the action for free. Stop by before the tournament starts, Aug. 23-26, to watch the qualifying matches, Aug. 28, for the more casual practice sessions. And Sept. 8 is Community Day, with free entry from noon to 6 p.m.
Step into the players’ shoes
American Express brings the tech to the Open with its virtual reality Fan Experience. Last year, you could try to return a 100mph serve my Maria Sharapova, but this year it’s something a little less challenging. Instead of being just an attendee, you can take the Pro Walk, following the path that players take from the locker room, through the Arthur Ashe tunnel and into the cheering crowd of the stadium, with motivational appearances by U.S. Open champs Pete Sampras and Monica Seles.
Play against the pros
Gilt City is giving tennis fans a chance to face off against ATP World Tour star John Isner and doubles champs the Bryan Brothers at Spin with the Pros on Aug. 25 at sporty social club SPiN. The $75 ticket includes a meet-and-greet with the pros, with three hours of passed hors d’oeuvres and drinks, and if you get there early, you could get the chance to play an 11-point ping-pong match with them.