The U.S. Open is more than just the matches, it's an experience. Each day, we'll highlight one part of what makes the Open the Open.
impress |im?pres| verb 1. make (someone) feel admiration and respect: they immediately impressed the judges…impression |im?preSH?n|noun. 1. an idea, feeling, or opinion about something or someone, esp. one formed without conscious thought or on the basis of little evidence…They gave the impression that all is sweetness and light…(impress something on) fix an idea in (someone's mind). […]
—New Oxford American Dictionary
Today, I have been thoroughly impressed—by the players, the sights, but, most of all, by parallels between corporate products and serious, high-level tennis. It happens even before arriving at the BJKUSTANTC. All around me in Grand Central Station are posters of Maria Sharapova, in a strikingly haughty pose, wearing a t-shirt printed with the body of a baby. In her hand is a bottle of evian water, beside which read the words “live young” and “the natural choice of tennis champions.” Sharapova’s skin is perfectly resplendent and pure, blooming radiantly in a way that makes my own feel insipidly pallid. Suddenly I’m thirsty. Without thinking I whip from my bag a 500ml bottle of evian—in ample supply to what seems like anyone with a U.S. Open ’12 credential—and take a swig. Without thinking I feel younger, more radiant, pure.
But it goes without saying that, on the grounds of the National Tennis Center, the tourney’s partners are infinitely more clever and fun—i.e., impressive. Right outside Arthur Ashe Stadium, in the Emirates Airline Ball Flight Simulator, flight attendants smile and set me up serving balls digitally on a big screen. A camera follows my form, which is represented as clusters of small circles. The last ball I hit lands in Bangkok.
From the simulator, I cross the plaza, past the ESPN broadcast booth and spouting fountains, and am drawn to a Mercedes-Benz C63 AMG Black Series. Above the vehicle is a banner of Roger Federer in action—A “Masterpiece of performance art,” it says. 530 horsepower. In glimmering white with racing seats and paddle shifters and very technical looking brakepads. Available for one year only, the salesman informs me. $120k as it sits, although I’m eligible for $500 off if I provide my e-mail. An adolescent ball boy, garbed in his Polo uniform—who “plays Need for Speed”—sits in the front seat, shrugging his shoulders. “Yeah, but a Lambo…” he says. “No, this has a knee airbag,” the salesman retorts. “If you have an accident, you can walk again. Forget about that in a Lambo.”
Away from the C36 AMG, and the Mercedes-Benz C- and CLK-Class, around the Chase ATMs, past Citizen’s touch-screen games and Panasonic’s free camera rentals, Esurance’s ticket giveaways and Xerox’s free photos and ESPN’s goodie lockers, past these impressive booths and by the BJKUSTANTC’s east gate is the American Express Fan Experience. Outside, twenty-somethings wear blue shirts and dribble jumbo balls, cajoling the crowds with cries of “free fun.” They never stop smiling. One tanned girl sees me scribbling and beams her perfect smile at me, and so I blush. Inside I have my forehand video analyzed —“more hip rotation,” the girl tells me—and hit a few balls with another twenty-something who played college ball at Michigan State. Giant posters with “AMERICAN EXPRESS” line the walls. I feel light of heart and head, and am really having fun. I am thoroughly impressed.
More Scenes from Queens:
Monday, August 27: Getting to the Open
Tuesday, August 28: Night Matches
Wednesday, August 29: Photography
Thursday, August 30: Autographs
Friday, August 31: Food at the Open
Saturday, September 1: Practice Courts
Sunday, September 2: Getting In
Monday, September 3: Staying Connected
Tuesday, September 4: Ball Kids
Wednesday, September 5: The Corporate Connection
Thursday, September 6: The Outer Courts
Friday, September 7: Flushing Meadows Corona Park
Saturday, September 8: Arthur Ashe
Sunday, September 9: Empty Corridors