Most tennis fans are playing the game instead of watching it, since the French Open wrapped and Wimbledon awaits. But the smartest tennis fans know that right now is the best time to buy US Open tickets for the final major tournament of the year, which starts in New York City on Monday, August 28.
When most people think of the US Open, set to feature French Open champs Novak Djokovic and Iga Swiatek, they think of the finals. Celebrities abound, and tickets cost a small fortune. But even if tennis isn’t your favorite sport, you can have an absolutely amazing experience watching the world’s greatest players literally just a few feet in front of you – much closer than athletes in almost any sport, unless you’re courtside at the NBA.
Like the other three Grand Slam tennis tournaments – the Australian Open, Wimbledon, and the French Open – the US Open takes two weeks to unspool. It features more than 900 matches, counting singles, doubles, youth, wheelchair, and so on. Tickets are considerably more reasonable on earlier days of the tournament, and often the tennis is much more scintillating, too. So, if you’ve never thought about spending a day at a tennis tournament, grab this chance.
What you should know about buying tickets for the US Open
First, pick a day. The earlier in the tournament, the more matches you’ll have to choose from, as all of the courts at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will be filled, from late morning until late at night, with the best of the best. You won’t see two top seeds bashing it out. All too often, those heralded matches end up as straight-set snooze fests, which happened recently at the French Open when Djokovic beat Casper Ruud while barely breaking a sweat. Bor-ing! And crazy expensive, to boot.
On the side courts at Flushing Meadow, stars are born. You can see up-and-comers, young guns, and truly thrilling matches. Best of all, if you’ve seen enough of one match, you can proceed to another court a few yards away and watch something else. Sometimes the best way to identify the most exciting matches is simply to listen to the roar of the crowd. You never know which two players, evenly matched, will put on the show of a lifetime.
If you want to see the top stars, buy tickets for Arthur Ashe, the main stadium where people like Djokovic (okay, there really is no one like Djokovic) always play. But you can save money by getting a day pass, which allows you entry to most of the courts, and you can put in a full 8 hours of spectating if you so desire.
Tennis is witnessing a unique, historic changing of the guard. Serena and Venus Williams, Andy Murray, and Rafael Nadal have either retired or are in the final moments of their illustrious careers. Roger Federer has officially retired. Only Djokovic, the last of the tennis Mohicans, is still going strong.
UNLIKE GOLF, however, where a bunch of guys you’ve never heard of are competing to escape Tiger Woods’ long shadow, tennis has a ton of young guns who are thrilling to watch. Carlos Alcaraz. Coco Gauff. Daniil Medvedev. Victoria Azarenka. Frances Tiafoe. Stefanos Tsitsipas. Elena Rybakina. Holger Rune. Andrey Rublev. Taylor Fritz. Matteo Berrettini. And the aforementioned Swiatek and Ruud. If you can see any of them, inside Arthur Ashe, at the Grandstand, or on any other court, go for it.
Remember the floppy hat and the sunscreen, because New York is blazing hot during the US Open. Also bring your own water bottle and save a bundle, because you can buy a decent bottle of wine at a liquor store for what water costs at Flushing Meadow.
Take public transportation – either the Long Island Railroad from Penn Station or the 7 train from Grand Central or Times Square. New York City highway driving isn’t great even on a good day, and as New Yorkers will tell you, there are no good days. Tennis traffic ties Queens’ highways in knots, even when the Mets are not playing at Citi Field, which shares parking lots with the location of the US Open.
From the moment you can actually see Arthur Ashe Stadium from the highway, you can spend an hour or more crawling through traffic to reach the parking fields. And then a long walk awaits you to get to the gates of the venue. Even a taxi or Uber is a bad idea – you don’t have to park, but you will be stuck in that miserable New York traffic.
Also, watch the weather. A little rain is one thing, but if the storms are torrential, stay home. New York is great at a lot of things, but guiding 30,000 fans out of monsoon-like rains at the US Open, as happened two years ago? Don’t take the chance.
Those caveats to one side, a day at the US Open is one of the most wonderful treats a sports fan can enjoy. It’s all about the grit, the determination, the endurance... not to mention the incredibly high quality of play. If you want to see the best of the best, the US Open awaits.
New York Times bestselling author and ghostwriter Michael Levin runs www.MichaelLevinWrites.com.