By P.J. Simmons
Updated February 10 2018 (I will continue to update as I learn)
The 2018 US Open tennis tournament (August 27- September 9 2018) will be my 11th consecutive year at Flushing Meadows, and I’ve learned a ton through trial and error about how to maximize the opportunity, find the best tickets and seats, and generally get the biggest bang for the buck. Likewise, I’ve learned so much thanks to fellow fans around the world who have shared their own insights since I wrote the first version of this about 5 years ago. As a serious tennis player and fan myself, I feel so lucky that the US Open is in my backyard. I absolutely love the tournament, and find nothing more educational and inspiring for my own game than seeing world-class live tennis.
Here are my top 10 recommendations for serious tennis fans like me Note: For advice on where and how to buy tickets (including strategy for seeing Roger Federer play and how to navigate options on on Ticketmaster, Ticket Exchange, and other ticket sites), skip to green BOX #2 and BOX #3 (FAQs) below.
Tip #1. Do whatever you can to see world-class players and great matches up really close— which if you’re on a budget may mean bypassing Arthur Ashe stadium in favor of the sixteen other courts where matches are played.
For my first US Open, I spent about $250 per ticket for a decent seat in the famous Arthur Ashe stadium (1/2 way up in the Loge section) so I’d be guaranteed to see at least one Top 10 player live. While it was certainly thrilling to experience the electricity of an evening at Ashe stadium, I still felt somewhat distant from the action (it’s a mammoth 23,700-seat venue) and spent much of the time watching the match on the huge video screen. Moreover, because the tournament prioritizes putting the biggest stars on Ashe over the best match-ups, the matches I saw weren’t terribly exciting.
Since then, I’ve become addicted to the unparalleled thrill of seeing many world-class competitors from a few feet away in epic duels on several of the smaller non-Ashe courts (Louis Armstrong Stadium, the new Grandstand Stadium (behind courts 4-6), the very cool Court #17, and other courts #4-#16). Once you have this experience you’ll be addicted too. While it’s rare that you’ll see the Top 10 players on those courts, you WILL see other awe-inspiring players in very competitive matches. And if you play it right, you may just see one of the biggest stars up close: In 2011 I saw David Ferrer from the first row at Grandstand and Novak Djokovic from the second row at Armstrong (yes, I took the photo above of Djokovic and wasn’t using a zoom lens!).
(Adapted from photo in “US Open Transformation Update”)
- In 2018, the NEW ARMSTRONG STADIUM (#2 stadium after Ashe) with 14,000 seats and a retractable roof will replace the old stadium pictured above. This guarantees no more rain outs on either Armstrong or Ashe and much more natural shade within the new Armstrong. About 50% of the seats will be unreserved and open to all US Open ticketholders on a first-come basis; the remainder (including all lower bowl courtside seats) will require a reserved ticket. January 2018 construction update here.
- For the first time ever, Armstrong will feature separate Night sessions on the first 6 days. Armstrong Day sessions will feature 3 matches, and night sessions will feature 2 matches.
- Arthur Ashe Day sessions will now only feature only two matches (used to be three). Ashe evening sessions will continue to feature 2 matches as before.
- See my FAQ #7 below for my take on implications of these changes for ticket prices and the fan experience.
Tip #2. If you’re on a tight budget, try to attend during the tournament’s first week (Monday August 27- Friday August 31) and purchase relatively inexpensive Ashe day session tickets. An Ashe day session ticket will get you access to all the courts on the grounds in addition to Ashe during the day, then enable you to stay on the grounds to watch matches on all courts except Ashe in the evening (Ashe day/night sessions are sold separately). You’ll get hours and hours of tennis watching for your money, as many matches on the outer courts will go well into the evening. And if you can take a day off from work and go during these first 5 days, you won’t have to battle hordes of fans for access to the non-Ashe venues– whereas things get very crowded Labor Day weekend. Buying an Ashe or Armstrong ticket also gives you rain insurance, because these stadiums have roofs so matches cannot be rained out. For Labor Day weekend especially (September 1-3), consider buying a reserved seat in Armstrong (see #4 below) or the new Grandstand: lines for Armstrong and Grandstand will be outrageous that holiday weekend, and even if you get in you risk not being able to leave for food/bathroom and re-enter.
(1) GROUNDS ADMISSION: Allows entry when gates open (usually 9:30am, later on finals weekend – always at least one hour before day session begins) and gives access all day and night on a first-come/first-served basis to unreserved seating on all field courts and practice courts, plus access to general (unreserved) seating in Armstrong Stadium (the 2d largest) and Grandstand Stadium (the 3d largest) BUT NOT TO ASHE STADIUM (the biggest stadium and where thy put on the biggest “stars” to play). Sold only for first 8 days of tournament (through Monday Sep 3). I generally recommend (strongly) buying a cheap Ashe Promenade seat instead of a Grounds Admission ticket for around the same price if available – it gives you the same exact benefits but with the very important additional benefit of “rain insurance” since Ashe has a roof (see “Tip #3” below).
(2) DAY SESSION RESERVED SEATS (for Arthur Ashe, New Armstrong, or Grandstand Stadiums): Day Session reserved seat tickets give you the same benefits as Ground Admission (see #1 above) PLUS a reserved seat in either Ashe, Armstrong, or Grandstand Stadium. You can leave and reenter your reserved seat as many times as you’d like. Day session ticket holders must enter the grounds before 6:00 p.m.
A. Arthur Ashe Stadium DAY Session Reserved
— Same benefits as “Grounds Admission” PLUS a reserved seat in Ashe Stadium (the largest “main stage” with 23,771 seats) for DAY session only
— Sessions will begin at Noon and feature two matches.
— You must exit Ashe stadium after the second match ends (around 5pm), but can still stay on grounds as late as you want.
— For the last three days of the tournament (Friday Sep 7-Sunday Sep 9), there is no separate evening session on Ashe– so a Day session ticket gives you access to all matches scheduled for that day
B. New Armstrong Stadium DAY Session Reserved
— Same benefits as “Grounds Admission” PLUS a reserved seat in the new Armstrong Stadium (the 2d largest stadium after Ashe, with 14,000 seats).
— Sessions will begin at 11am and feature three matches.
— You must exit the stadium after the third match ends (around 6pm), but can still stay on grounds as late as you want.
— Reserved seats are the only way to access the best courtside seats
— Sold only for the first 9 days of the tournament (through Tuesday Sep 4).
C. Grandstand Stadium Reserved
— Same as Grounds Admission PLUS a reserved seat in the lower rung (reserved only) section of Grandstand Stadium. This stadium debuted in 2016 and is awesome – all seats are great. It seats about 8,000 (located behind courts 4-6).
— Sold only for first 8 days of tournament (through Monday Sep 3).
(3) EVENING SESSION RESERVED SEATS (for Arthur Ashe and Armstrong Stadiums): Entitles you to enter the grounds after 6pm plus get a reserved seat in either Ashe or Armstrong stadium for the evening session beginning at 7pm.
A. Arthur Ashe Stadium EVENING Session Reserved
— Sessions will begin at 7pm and feature two matches (entry to stadium allowed around 6pm, soon after day session has ended)
— Sold on first 11 days of tournament (through Thurs Sep 6) – after which only Day session tickets are sold
B. New Armstrong Stadium DAY Session Reserved
— Sessions will begin at 7pm and feature two matches.
— Sold only for the first 6 days of the tournament (through Saturday Sep 1).
Note: If you have a day and evening ticket the same day, you will NOT need to exit the US Open grounds and re-enter again: once you’re “in” the grounds you’re in for as late as you want to stay. However, if you have both an Ashe Day and Evening session on the same day, you will need to exit and reenter the Ashe Stadium with other Evening ticket holders.
** I took the photo above at the 2016 US Open from a corner courtside seat in Ashe watching the Nadal-Pouille round of 16 match on Labor Day.
2018 US OPEN SCHEDULE AT A GLANCE
The official 2018 tournament schedule hasn’t been posted yet, but below is what we can expect based on 2017 schedule. Before you buy tickets, I strongly recommend reviewing last year’s 2017 Daily Schedule of Play to get a sense of what kind of matches you’re likely to see on particular dates on which courts. FYI here is link to 2016 schedule of play too.
- Aug 21-24: Qualifying Tournament play (free; check schedule here Aug 20)
- Aug 24 (Friday): Look for Draw/Schedule to be announced
- Aug 25 (Saturday): US Open Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day
- August 26 (Sunday): Free access to grounds, unofficial “Practice Day”
- Aug 27-28 (Mon/Tues): Men’s and Women’s 1st Round
- Aug 29-Aug 30 (Wed/Thurs): M&W 2d Round, Doubles 1st Round
- Aug 31-Sep 1 (Fri/Sat): M&W 3d Round, Doubles 1st-2d Round (+ Juniors)
- Sep 2-3 (Sun/Mon): M&W “Round of 16”, Doubles 3d Round (+ Juniors).
- Sep 4 (Tues): M&W Quarterfinals (Ashe), Doubles Quarterfinals (Armstrong and probably New Grandstand) + Women’s Doubles Semifinals (+Juniors) Important: Final day for reserved Armstrong seats, but note that Singles matches will almost certainly be scheduled on Ashe, with Doubles on Armstrong and New Grandstand.
- Sep 5 (Wed) M&W Quarterfinals (Ashe) + Doubles Quarterfinals, Women’s Doubles Semifinals and Juniors (outer courts– no reserved seats, accessible with General Admission or Ashe ticket.
- Sep 6 (Thurs): Women’s Semifinals (Ashe Evening only), Doubles Semifinal (Day, Grandstand, I believe admission will be free again this year) (+Juniors)
- Sep 7 (Friday): Mixed Doubles Final 12pm and Men’s Semifinals 3pm (Ashe Day session, 1 ticket gives access to all matches). Juniors on outer courts.
- Sep 8 (Saturday): Men’s Doubles Final 12pm / Women’s Final 4pm (Ashe Day session, 1 ticket gives access to all matches). Juniors on outer courts.
- Sep 9 (Sunday): Women’s Doubles Final 12pm / Men’s Final 4pm (Ashe Day session, 1 ticket gives access to all matches). Juniors Boys and Girls Finals) on outer courts.
Tip #3. Do NOT heed the conventional wisdom to buy a “Grounds Admission” pass to save money until you’ve explored whether reserved day session seats in Ashe (or Armstrong or Grandstand) are also available for around the same price! Grounds pass seats (cheaper tickets sold on the tourney’s first 8 days that give access to all the courts except Ashe) are a great deal, but sometimes prices for a reserved Ashe Promenade section Day Session or Armstrong or Grandstand ticket can be almost identical– making them far better deals. Ashe, Armstrong and Grandstand day session tickets come with the same privileges of a regular “Grounds” pass, but offer the added bonus of having your own seat to retreat to. And even if it means getting a cheap seat in Ashe up in the nosebleed section, you may be able to sneak up to a better empty seat during the first week when many seats are empty. Finally, now that Ashe has a roof, even a lousy Ashe seat provides a measure of insurance in case of rain.
Tip #4. If you can splurge, I strongly recommend getting a Louis Armstrong (“#2 court”) Sep 1-3 or in Grandstand on September 1 or 2. (If watching Doubles is a priority, consider getting a reserved courtside seat in Grandstand for Labor Day September 3). During this window, you’re guaranteed to see thrilling matches up close that you’ll never forget on these two courts. The first time I did this in 2010 I saw a marathon slugfest between David Ferrer and Fernando Verdasco from the FIRST ROW BASELINE! I had arrived that morning at 11am and left around 11:30pm at night, leaving my seat only twice for a total of about 9 minutes for rapid-fire bathroom breaks and to grab snacks so I wouldn’t want to miss a second of the action.
Videos (of various players’ forehands) I shot from Armstrong and Grandstand at the 2012 US Open
Individual tickets don’t go on sale until early June (exact date TBA). Before that, the only tickets available are through “ticket plans” (which I don’t recommend for most – see Box 3 FAQs below) or through reseller sites. I strongly recommend waiting to purchase tickets on the resale market until AFTER tickets go on sale to the public (June 12) for the following reasons:
- (1) You may be able to find the seats you want on Ticketmaster the day individual tickets go on sale in June at face value, with no service charge;
- (2) Even if it turns out that the seats you want are only available on reseller sites, the ticket inventory on the resale market goes up dramatically after tickets go on sale to the public– hence more selection and usually better deals (basic laws of supply and demand).
So if you’re reading before June, now is a good time to get familiar with how things work – but don’t worry about trying to get tickets before then!
Additional background: When tickets go on sale to the public, the frustrating reality is that it’s never easy to get the best seats at face value–even if you jump online the instant tickets go on sale: most of the best seats are pre-allocated to corporate sponsors or subscribers who have waited years to upgrade. So if you don’t see what you’re looking for early on, don’t worry! If you’re willing to do a little work, there are always good deals to be found throughout the summer. A ton of people will end up posting their tickets for resale on Ticketmaster Exchange or other reseller sites.
Below are the sites that will give you access to the BEST INVENTORY of available tickets. Before buying, be sure to compare options and prices. When searching, try sorting by price, section, row… Get a sense of what the prevailing price for what you want, and when you spot a good deal, grab it!
- (1) ALWAYS first check both of the following:
- The official Ticketmaster US Open tennis tournament site. However, be wary of special “US Open Premium Seating Packages,” which often have prices MUCH higher than comparable seats posted on reseller sites.
- US Open Ticket Exchange (the official USTA reseller via Ticketmaster) This is the official reseller and where I’ve gotten most of the best deals over the years. Do not buy from any other reseller sites before checking this one first! This always has the biggest inventory and, at the very least, will give you a good “benchmark” for prices so you can recognize a good deal when you see it. Note: One of the biggest benefits of purchasing through Ticketmaster is the incredible ease of putting your tickets back up for sale if your plans change or you decide you want to switch days or tickets later. Note: you must have a US bank account to put your tickets up for resale on the Exchange; and you must purchase tickets online to resell them (tickets purchased by phone cannot be resold).
- (2) In addition to the above, it’s often worth checking 1-2 reseller sites listed below to see if you can find an even better deal for comparable seats and inventory. However, be sure to factor in any service fees, which may not appear until you get to the final order summary page. If you check the Ticket Exchange PLUS even one of the sites below to compare, you’ll get tremendous visibility into what’s available and the range of prices:
- Stubhub – Always worth checking in addition to Ticket Exchange given very large inventory of resale tickets (many sellers list here and not on Ticket Exchange)
- Ticket Liquidator – Large inventory of resale tickets, however service fees not shown until checkout
- TickPick – First-displayed price is actual price including fees, with option to “bid” or name-your-price.
- SeatGeek – Fees built into display price.
- (3) Avoid Craigslist or other non-certified resellers! I’ve heard tons of stories over the years of folks who got scammed or had to go through considerable hassle to obtain tickets. Not worth the risk. Also know that NYC law prohibits reselling “scalping” 1500 feet away from the venue (which is effectively everywhere off the subway at the US Open), and they have undercover police on site cracking down on both sellers and buyers.
- (4) If you end up with tickets you don’t need, you can very easily post your tickets for sale through the US Open Ticket Exchange.
- (5) If you’re going with a friend(s), consider buying a combination of cheap and amazing seats: this way, you can split the cost and trade off time in the great seat. E.g., you could trade time in seats in Promenade vs Courtside, or between stadiums (in Ashe vs a reserved seat in Armstrong or Grandstand). I do this every year with my best friends.
IMPORTANT: Most online resale tickets in 2018 (including through Ticketmaster) are being offered as MOBILE tickets (i.e., “Your Phone is Your Ticket”) – which requires having a smart phone with internet/wifi capability. If you do not have a smart phone (either iPhone or Android) and you purchase through Ticketmaster, they WILL help you – but you’ll have to contact their customer service directly and have them make an exception and transfer your tickets to “Will Call” pick up location on site. If you don’t own a smart phone and are purchasing resale tickets during the tournament, I’d recommend buying exclusively through Ticketmaster and not taking chances with other resellers.
KEY SEATING CHARTS
- Arthur Ashe Stadium
- Arthur Ashe Seating Chart (view from above)
- Official Ashe Stadium Seating Chart
- My annotated Ashe Stadium map
- My annotated Ashe Stadium shade map
- “Interactive Seat Viewer” to give you a sense of what view is like from specific seats – which from my experience tends to make seats look like they’re closer than they actually feel when you’re there, but helpful nonetheless.
- Louis Armstrong Stadium Seating Chart (2018 chart not yet available – I’ll post when it’s released (see artist’s rendering here)
- Grandstand Stadium Seating Chart and Grandstand Interactive Seat Map
See Box 3 below for answers to some FAQs, including how to predict when your favorite player will be scheduled
Tip #5. If you can splurge a lot, buy a courtside Ashe seat for a day session — preferably during the second week (go for one of the cheapest ones you can find in a higher row because in all likelihood you’ll be able to sneak up to an empty seat left by someone given a free ticket by a corporate sponsor who doesn’t care about tennis!). Note that Row E is first row in sections 1-6, 31-40, 65-67; and Row F is first row in sections 7,9,11, 26, 29, 30, 60 63, 64, 41, 42. If that’s out of the budget, you can still have an excellent experience in Ashe in the lower Loge rows A-C (or D in sections where D is first row, including 111, 122, 143, 154, 175, 186, 207, and 218).
Tip #6. If you’ve never done it, consider splurging once on a courtside Ashe seat for a night session — if possible after the 3d round of play, once matches start getting very competitive. In 2011 I paid around $450 for a resale ticket to sit in the front row on the baseline courtside at Ashe on Labor Day during the Round of 16 and saw Roger Federer from a few feet away. Below is a video of 45 seconds of Federer perfection I shot from that seat. Best money I’ve ever spent.
BOX 3: FAQs/ Important Stuff I Wish I Had Known Before Buying Tickets the First Time
FAQ #1: How can I predict which day/time Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal (or any other favorite player) will play?
- Start with the 2018 Schedule of Play when it is published (see 2017 Schedule here as an example, which was released on Saturday Aug 26 at 5pm) to predict which DATE Federer or other favorite players will play. Note: knowing a player’s seeding will NOT help you predict this: Here’s why (my explanation on how “seeding” affects the “draw” and how the draw affects the schedule of play).
- Look to see who is scheduled to play on Day 1 (which “half of the draw” – check both women and men’s draw, which are treated separately):
- Players scheduled for Day 1 (Mon) will next be scheduled on Day 3 (Wed) if they win, then again on Day 5 (Fri) and Day 7 (Sun) if they keep winning.
- Players NOT scheduled for Day 1 will first play on Day 2 (Tuesday), then again on Thurs, Sat, and Mon if they advance.
- E.g., in 2017 Federer and Nadal were both in the top half of the draw, which was scheduled to play first on Day 2… That meant you could predict they would play on same day through the Round of 16 (i.e. Tuesday, then again on Thurs (8/31), Sat (9/2), Mon (9/4), and Wed (9/6).
- FYI: see full 2017 Men’s Draw (bracket) here [or I prefer ESPN version of Men’s Bracket] and Women’s Draw (bracket) here [or ESPN version here].
- A caveat to the above: excessive, prolonged rain can occasionally throw a wrench in the schedule – especially for players who are not scheduled on Ashe or Armstrong (which will have roofs). If it rains only one day, they usually can catch up the next day (extra matches scheduled on all courts including Ashe).
- Superstars (e.g. Federer and Nadal) are always scheduled on Ashe. Next-level stars may be on Ashe, Louis Armstrong, or Grandstand through 3d Round. Round of 16 singles scheduled exclusively on Ashe and Louis Armstrong.
- There is no way to predict with absolute certainty whether a player will be on a Day or Night session. However, officials tend to alternate scheduling superstars between Day and Night sessions on Ashe; for instance, if your favorite player is playing a night session on Ashe Day 1, good chance they will be scheduled for the day session on Ashe on Day 3, and if they win probably night session Day 5, and so on. Please note: there is never 100% certainty- it’s all up to the subjective decisionmaking of the tournament director and every year there are surprises.
- If you want to be absolutely sure you see your favorite player, you might consider waiting until the schedule is published the day prior (start checking at 2:30pm, usually out by 5:00pm), then immediately go to Ticketmaster or Ticketmaster Exchange (or other resale sites like Stubhub) to grab a resale ticket. This strategy requires, however, that you monitor the ticket situation closely in the days prior and are prepared to act immediately when the schedule is announced. Also, if you see tickets becoming scarce and prices going up in the days prior, you may conclude it’s worth taking a chance and purchasing based on an educated guess.
- To get a general sense of scheduling trends, look at the previous year’s schedule – here is the 2016 schedule of play.
FAQ #2: How do a see the exact location of seats that I might buy (in Ashe, Armstrong, or Grandstand)?
Go to Ticketmaster and click on any session for the stadium in question. Choose Map View, then mouse over any of the dots to get the section, row and seat #. Blue dots = regularly priced seats (but careful as blue sometimes also is used for very expensive” premium seating packages”), red dots = fan-to-fan resale seats. Note that for Courtside seats, each lettered “row” in Ashe (e.g. “A” or “H”) actually stands for two rows: e.g., “Row A Seat 5” might actually be in the second row, Row C Seat 6 is probably 6th row). Courtside Sections 48-49, 52-63 and 66-67 go actually have two rows of “AA” seats followed by rows A-H. Also note where the umpire sits (you’ll see a little chair icon on each map — and avoid courtside tickets close up in sections right behind or next to the chair. To make matters more complicated… first row for Behind-the-Server seats Courtside begin with E or F: Row E is first row in sections 1-6, 31-40, 65-67; and Row F is first row in sections 7,9,11, 26, 29, 30, 60 63, 64, 41, 42. Here also are links to “big-picture” charts:
- Arthur Ashe Stadium Seating Chart (view from above) and my Ashe Stadium annotated map
- Louis Armstrong Stadium Seating Chart (not yet available)
- Grandstand Stadium Seating Chart.
FAQ #3: Should I buy now or wait? Will prices go down or up?
The frustrating reality is: “it depends.” Buying tickets for the US Open can be like investing in the stock market: knowledge and judgment dramatically raises the odds of a good decision, but there are always surprises due to the number of variables involved. Prices can plummet when lineups are predicted to be lackluster, or skyrocket if fans speculate that certain marquee players (like Federer) will be scheduled. The best advice I can give is to familiarize yourself with average prices on Ticketmaster for the days/sessions you are considering over the course of several days so you can recognize a good deal when you see one and spot trends.
FAQ #4: Which seats get the most shade?
The new roof in Ashe creates a massive amount of natural shading all day for a large number of seats. The sections that get the most shade are in the South and West sections of the stadium; Next-best for shade are in the North. Sections with the most sun (to avoid for Day sessions) are on the East side (see photo/map at right for details). For Armstrong, you’ll similarly get the most relief on the South side and West side. Ditto for the new Grandstand: South sections behind server around section 22 then sections 1-6 wrapping around to the West (especially general admission seats that are higher and near the overhang).
FAQ #5: What happens if it rains?
The good news: Now that both Arthur Ashe and the new Louis Armstrong stadiums have roofs, now up to 37, 771 more fans each day will be able to see matches even if it rains. The bad news: if you invest in great seats for Grandstand or simply buy a Grounds Admission pass, there isn’t much consolation. Keep in mind that weather forecasts are notoriously unreliable and can change on the hour (I have literally been at Flushing Meadows when my iPhone said it was raining and it wasn’t). There’s always hope that showers will pass quickly. In the highly unlikely event of all-day rain out or under 60 minutes of play (which happened to me unforgettably in 2012 on the day I treated 6 friends to pricy Armstrong front row seats), the session may be rescheduled until the next day and your ticket may be honored then — or, you MAY be able to trade in tickets through the US Open for another session this year or next year if (and only if) you purchased directly from Ticketmaster (see the somewhat complicated 2016 US Open Inclement Weather Policy). In the worst case scenario, I recommend looking for the silver lining: you’ll be surrounded by a ton of other fans with whom you can grab a US Open specialty cocktail, huddle under a shelter, and watch an Ashe match together on a big screen.
FAQ #6: Should I buy a subscription ticket plan?
For most serious fans, I don’t recommend it. First-time subscribers can only buy “Promenade” seats in Ashe — so high up in that huge stadium you’ll end up watching a lot of the match on the Jumbotron or through binoculars. It could take years to get the chance to upgrade your seats to Loge. For the full series ticket plan price ($2,228 per ticket in 2016) you could buy several amazing seats for multiple sessions over the tournament (or 2 good Loge seats for the Men’s final). Finally, there is always a glut of Promenade seats on the resale market, so if you buy an entire series of Promenade seats you may have a challenge reselling any you don’t need.
FAQ #7: How will the addition of Armstrong Night sessions and shorter Ashe Day sessions affect ticket prices and the fan experience?
While there’s no sure way to predict, I’m guessing that Ashe Day session ticket prices will not drop much (or at all) since the big driver of demand for those tickets has historically been simply the allure of seeing superstars play. However, I’m hoping the prices of Armstrong reserved/courtside tickets will go down a bit from historical averages as the supply of tickets goes up overall (due to increased number of seats and sessions). The biggest benefit of the change in my mind is night sessions will now actually start on time at 7pm (unless rain causes more matches to move to Ashe and Armstrong)– so evening tickets holders will actually be able to leave at a reasonable hour and not have to stay past 1:00am to see the end of a great match (which has happened to me on many many occasions)!
Tip #7. The night before you go, check the app or click this link for the detailed daily Schedule of Play for the following day’s schedule and make your game plan so you can beeline directly to the court where the match you care about will happen. You should also download the official US Open Everywhere App (search on app stores for “2018 US Open Tennis” closer to the event) to track the latest schedule, scores and live updates. Also see the official 2016 US Open Event Guide. If someone you really want to see will play on Grandstand or Armstrong, get to the grounds as early as you can so you can be among the first in line when the gates open at 9:30am then speed-walk to those stadiums and grab the best seat you can.
Tip #8. Check out the newly revamped practice courts (that now have bleachers seating over 1,000 people) for close sightings of the superstars including Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Rafa, Serena Williams. View the practice schedule to see when/where players are practicing (you can also see it on the official US Open Everywhere App).
Tip #9. Do not drive unless you really have to (unless a group like Grand Slam Tennis Tours is organizing your travel and don’t have to worry about parking or you can pay for a car service). Instead, take the #7 train (see 7 train schedule here, runs 24 hours, PM times in bold)– or, better yet, the Long Island Railroad (LIRR) to Mets-Willets station for the fastest trip (about 15 min from Penn Station!). Here are 2017 schedules – I will post 2018 in August when they’re available:
- If you must drive: check out these driving directions. There are parking lots (for a price) near the entrance – you’ll see signs and be directed to available parking at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park lots. Consider buying a parking pass on a resale site to lots A, B, C, F or H (they have shuttles). Here’s the detailed transportation map showing parking lots. Normally there’s public parking at Citi Field, but not when Mets are playing at home (see Mets home schedule)-– which this year is Mon Aug 28, Tues Aug 29, and the entire second week of the tournament (Mon Sep 4-Sun Sep 10). As reader Harry pointed out this year, “If you are willing to walk a bit, street parking underneath or south of Highway 495 is a viable option.” GPS address to the general area is “122-02 Roosevelt Ave, Flushing, NY 11368.” GPS to Citi Field is 123-01 Roosevelt Ave, Queens, NY 11368.
- If you’re thinking of using a cab or Uber or Lyft to take you home after a night match, be prepared for a long wait, hassles, and a very (very) expensive ride with surge pricing. Getting an Uber after an evening session when hundreds or thousands of others are trying to do the same is a nightmare. I tried it in 2016 as an experiment and here’s what happened: (1) Had to go where Uber drivers are now being directed– “zone 3” pickup area for cabs and users, which is a long walk from the South Gate near the globe (trying to meet them by the 7 train street level is really tough given heavy traffic); (2) three Uber drivers cancelled on me after accepting before I finally get one; (3) Surge pricing was in effect, with a ride that should have cost $45 being quoted over $120. If you need to hire a car back home, consider (1) arranging a car service in advance; (2) trying to hail a cab on the street under the 7 train; (3) or taking the 7 train to another local stop THEN calling Uber or a cab.
- If you fly into Laguardia (LGA) you can take the NYC “Q48” public bus from Laguardia to the US Open – only about 5 minutes away (the stop is listed on the MTA website as “ROOSEVELT AV/WILLETS PT BL STATION.”
- Download your mobile tickets from to your mobile wallet (e.g. Apple Wallet or something like WalletPasses on Android)
- Don’t forget sunglasses and sunscreen (lotion not spray)!
- Bring a backup phone charger (e.g. a Mophie) if you have one.
- If taking subway (7 train), fill up your subway Metrocard in advance for your return trip in advance if taking 7 train so you don’t have to wait in long lines; If taking LIRR (my favorite) you need to get your ticket before boarding
- Bring a small umbrella if rain may be in the forecast.
- Dress in layers as it can get hot during the day and quite chilly at night.
- If lines are long at the first entrance (East Gate), keep walking around clockwise over to the South Gate near the globe (see map above) where lines are generally shorter.
- AUG 21-24 “Fan Week“: If you’re a real die-hard fan, consider going to the FREE qualifying tournament August 21-24, the week before the main tournament begins. Gates open at/around 9:30am, matches start at 9:30am – this year there are a lot more people showing up than in any previous year, and there’s usually quite a line formed already by 9am. However you can arrive anytime during the day and still get in, no problem. Matches are held on outer courts only (not Ashe). Many matches stretch into evenings. During this tournament, you will see several top players practicing on Armstrong and on the practice bank courts. See the practice schedule here (also available on the app).
- SAT AUG 25: Bring your kids (or treat someone else’s!) to the free Arthur Ashe Kid’s Day. There’s a stadium show at 1pm and premium seats are available on Ticketmaster.
- SUN AUG 26: Go see top players practicing up close by taking advantage of free access to the US Open grounds the day before the main tournament begins to watch practice sessions – it’s one of the best-kept secrets that the grounds are open to the public all day.
Box 4: FREE ADMISSION ON THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 6th! (Gates open at 11am)
Doubles Semifinals Plus the World’s Top Wheelchair, Junior, and Collegiate Players
One of the best-kept secrets is that you can enter the US Open grounds for free on the second Thursday (gates open at noon, must arrive before 5pm) and see the Doubles Semifinals plus all-star wheelchair players, the world’s top juniors, and incredible collegiate players. If you are a serious tennis fan, particularly if you’re a doubles player, this is a day not to be missed.
I went and it was a thrill to sit courtside at Ashe and to cheer on the incredible wheelchair athletes.
Among the world-class wheelchair players to watch for:
- 2017 Wimbledon Wheelchair Doubles Champions Alfie Hewett and Gordon Reid, pictured above after their Wimbledon win.
- Men’s s player Shingo Kunieda, who had a three-year, 106-match consecutive win streak (2007-2010), then another big winning streak of 77 matches in 2014-2015.
- Women’s singles player Yui Kamiji, who has only lost 2 matches since Jan 18, 2017 and American women’s wildcard player Dana Mathewson.
- The world’s #1 in the “Quad” (quadriplegic) division (ranked #1 in singles and doubles), American David Wagner. Born in 1974, David became paralyzed from the mid-chest down at age 21 when he was playing frisbee on the beach and a wave tossed him head-first into the sand. With only thirty percent function in his hands, David plays by taping the tennis racket to his hand. And by all accounts he’s a super cool guy besides being an extraordinary athlete (picture right).
- For Foodies: Check out this awesome Grub Street post, “17 Outstanding Things to Eat and Drink When You Go to This Year’s US Open.” Soft-Shell Crab Bocadillos? Yes please.
- Bring a backup phone charger if you have one. There are some re-charging stations, but after all the photos and video you take with your phone and use of Wi-Fi your phone will run out of juice quickly.
- Need an affordable hotel room? Fellow tennis fanatic Melissa maintains a great list of hotels appealing to all budgets, starting at $25 per night. These accommodations are open to public, but are not always listed on generic hotel travel websites or they may be listed as ‘specialty lodging.’ While you may have to compromise to stay in one of these hotels, like a shared bathroom, or no television, you cannot beat the prices for these locations.
- Got an Amex card? Bring it. As reader Jason wrote last year in Q&As: “Cool experiences and a large chill area/tent. Along with an earpiece radio to follow other matches.” And as reader Linda noted this year: “if you spend more than $100 on merchandise they will credit you back $20.”
- Chase customer? Sign up in advance for the Chase Lounge. This year they’re offering what look to be very cool video+mobile chargers (see “Chase Charge and Watch here).
- Sign up for the “Fan Pass” on the app to be entered into a sweepstakes and track your activity on site. Scan your personal barcode at various stations around the event to collect “badges,” which can redeem for prizes. 15 badges gets a $100 US Open Gift Card; 20 badges gets 2 tickets to 2018 Men’s Semis.
- Do your shopping for US Open gear early in the tournament – stores run out of the popular sizes fast.
- $25 General Admission tickets are now available for Friday-Sunday of finals weekend on Ticketmaster so fans could walk the grounds, see juniors and wheelchair finals, and watch Ashe matches on the big screens.
If you have an opportunity, consider performing a random act of kindness for fellow fans during the tournament. Our tennis community is big, but relatively speaking, it’s small… Our passion for our sport is infectious; do something kind for someone today, they’re likely to pay it forward. Last year, a reader emailed me saying he had an emergency and couldn’t go to the tournament but had amazing New Grandstand seats – he asked if I knew anyone that would really value them for free so they didn’t go to waste. I was able to share with a fanatic who’s in town on a budget, who as you can imagine was elated. In past years, I’ve gifted a lot of tickets myself – and it always feels wonderful. It takes seconds to “transfer” tickets from Ticketmaster/Ticketmaster Exchange to others simply by putting in an email address. On site, you can also make someone’s day (or year!) by surprising a stranger with your amazing reserved seats in Ashe, Armstrong, or Grandstand if you have to leave early. Especially if you have Ashe Courtside seats and need to leave early — there will always be die-hard fans waiting just outside the exit from the Courtside level hoping someone might pass along their ticket when done!
Would love to hear any reactions and additional thoughts and advice from fellow tennis fanatics in the comments section below!
Please note: There will be a lag between when you submit a comment and when you see it appear – this is so I can stay on top of which comments I owe replies to. I am a little overextended these days with two demanding full-time jobs, but try to approve and reply to any comments as quickly as possible – just may be a little slow to respond given the volume… 🙂
* (Top photo credit: I took these photos at US Open 2011 and 2012)