BOX 3: F.A.Q.s (Frequently Asked Questions)
Here are the questions I get most often, along with important stuff I wish I had known myself before buying tickets the first time…
FAQ #1: How can I predict which day/time Federer, Djokovic, Serena, Osaka (or any other favorite player) will play?
- There is no way to predict until the Day 1 schedule is published (usually released online the Saturday before the tournament begins at 5pm EDT). Note: knowing a player’s seeding will NOT help you predict which day they will be scheduled: Click here for my explanation of how seeding affects the draw, and how the draw affects schedule of play.
- After the Day 1 schedule is posted, here’s how to predict which date(s) your favorites will 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.
- A caveat to the above: excessive, prolonged rain could (very rarely) throw a wrench in the schedule – especially for players who are not scheduled on Ashe or Armstrong (which both now have roofs). If it rains only one day, they usually can catch up the next day (extra matches scheduled on all courts including Ashe).
- The sport’s icons and superstars (most notably Federer, Djokovic, Nadal, and Serena Williams) will almost certainly be scheduled on Ashe. Beyond them, there’s a chance other big names can be scheduled on the flashy new 14,000-seat Armstrong stadium now provides a bigger “stage.”
- 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 decision making 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 2018 Daily Schedule of Play.
To get a general sense of scheduling trends, look at the previous year’s schedule – here is the 2017 Daily Schedule of Play.
** One sure way to see your favorite player up close is to watch them when they’re scheduled for practice on the practice courts. See Tip #9
FYI: A fun way to get your head around the 2018 draw/brackets — and potential match-ups — is to play Tennis Channel’s Racquet Bracket challenge. It’s also a great way to become more familiar with some players you may not have heard of yet but probably will soon.
Roger Federer from Courtside (section 60 row F) 9/4/17
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 very close up in sections right behind or next to the chair (please note: the umpire chair is never a big obstruction, but it might be a minor annoyance to some). 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:
FAQ #3: When should I buy? Will sessions sell out if I wait too long? Will prices go down or up over the summer? What are average prices?
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. Standard (non-resale) Ashe tickets usually sell out fairly quickly (except for Ashe stadium’s “Promenade” section, where there are usually quite a few available throughout the summer). However, there are almost always resale tickets available until the very last moment because thousands of fans post their tickets for resale. You can almost always get tickets closer to the tournament – and you may end up finding a phenomenal deal if you are patient. However, waiting longer to purchase requires you to have a higher risk tolerance than those who’d prefer the certainty around making arrangements sooner.
Resale ticket prices can vary significantly, especially closer to the tournament. Prices can plummet when lineups are predicted to be lackluster… or they can skyrocket if fans speculate that certain marquee players (like Federer) will be scheduled. In 2017, after it became clear that both Federer and Nadal would be scheduled on the same days throughout the tournament, prices spiked sharply for the days they’d be scheduled if they advanced and dropped significantly for the opposite days. Then, after Federer got knocked out in quarters, prices for semis and finals declined quite a bit.
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 the trends.
Here is a chart showing the price ranges for regularly priced tickets in 2018. If you find resale tickets around these prices or less, that’s one sign of a great deal.
FAQ #4: Which seats get the most shade?
For Ashe: The roof 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. Click on the photo/map below for details.
For the new Armstrong: Situation is similar to Ashe, now that there’s a roof. In short, Sections 1-8 are best for shade. West-side sections (Chair Umpire side) get the most shade; and when not in shade, at least the sun is at your back. Rows K and above (approximately) are shaded soonest (by about 12:30pm), then the sun gradually moves down to cover all rows by about 2:00 pm. East-side sections get the least shade and are in direct sun most of the afternoon. However, Rows T and above (approximately) get shading all day. South sections (behind-the-server) get more shade than North sections: South sections start out almost entirely shaded until about 1pm, then the sun starts wrapping around clockwise, such that sections 17-18 end up losing shade mid-afternoon. See photo/map below.
For Grandstand: There’s much less shade overall, however South and West sections are similarly better because sun is more at your back. General admission seats that are higher under the overhang, especially Southwest corner, get the most shade.
Click to enlarge my Ashe shade map
Click to Enlarge my Armstrong Shade Map (photo from 2:30pm)
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 excellent 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: Which are the best sections/seats with the best views?
From Section 11 front row in Grandstand
The vast majority of people would consider “behind the server” seats (i.e., those on North or South ends of the courts) to be preferable — and prices generally reflect this. For first-timers, this area would be my top recommendation.
- This is the vantage point they use for filming for broadcast, because it enables you to follow point construction and see the court from the perspective of the player on your side of the net.
- From these seats, you’ll never have to move your head side-to-side to follow the ball.
- FYI: seats in these sections start several feet higher in these seats than sections on the side (this is why these rows begin with higher letters E instead of AA or A).
- Here’s a photo of the perspective from higher up seats in the new Armstrong. Here’s another photo from Ashe courtside front row.
Corner sections are also widely considered to be highly desirable — and for good reason. They carry many of the same advantages of the above, with the added benefit you can see the player on your side of the net from the front as their hitting the ball not just the back. Here’s a photo from the new Armstrong from that perspective.
Photo from lower row of section 6 in new Armstrong
As a serious player myself, I personally love sitting courtside as close as possible in lower rows of sections where seats are practically on the court, perpendicular and near to the actual baseline (e.g., section 58 in Ashe) because it gets me physically even closer to the players and more on the same level. Sitting in the lower rows, I feel even more like I’m on the court with them. I feel the speed of the game. In these seats, I personally enjoy watching one player at a time sometimes to see their footwork, how they prepare for the next ball, etc. I took the video of Federer I included in my post from this perspective (from section 58). Here’s a photo from Ashe courtside from that perspective.
If considering Loge or Promenade seats in Ashe, I generally recommend prioritizing seats that are in lower rows regardless of location— simply because Loge (and especially Promenade) are already quite high up to begin with.
For Day sessions, I urge folks to factor in potential shade benefits (seats on West side, SouthWest, and Northwest tend to get the most shade relief). See FAQ #4 above.
With regard to the umpire chair, it really is never an obstruction but may feel a bit of an annoyance to some if you’re sitting in very low rows on that side — simply because you may not always have a complete view of the player on the other side of the net. See this photo for example. I personally don’t mind this for reasons I mention above, and this is ONLY an issue when courtside in very low rows.