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Play like a Sharapova: U.S. Open courts open to the public

Play like a Sharapova: U.S. Open courts open to the public

From their front-row seats in a private box, Sandy Sadler and her friends scanned Arthur Ashe Stadium and plotted a return visit.
Only next year, maybe they'll do more than merely watch Venus Williams, Roger Federer and the rest of the pros. Instead, they might pack their rackets and come play like a Sharapova.
Because here's a fun fact about the U.S. Open: All 45 courts at the National Tennis Center are public.
"I think that most people would be surprised to find that out," said Williams, a two-time U.S. Open champion. "You mean I could've had my graduation party here?"
Be it a corporate bash or just a couple of buddies who want to bang around some balls, the U.S. Open courts really are wide open.
"Why don't we do that for my birthday?" Sadler said. "I have chill bumps, just thinking about it."
For $16 (euro11.50) an hour by day _ $24 (euro17.50) at night, plus a flat $8 (euro5.84) fee for the lights _ the outer courts are available. As in Court No. 11, where former U.S. Open runner-up Elena Dementieva played this week.
It's $2,500 (euro1,825) for an outing at center court in Ashe. To four-time major champion Jim Courier, that's a bargain.
"You couldn't get Madison Square Garden for $2,500 (euro1,825)," he said. "But if you don't want to spend much, imagine what you can do.
"Pay $2 (euro1.50) for the subway..., play here for an hour, then go home. For $20 (euro14.60), you can say you played on a court where they held a Grand Slam. Not a bad day."
Not possible at Wimbledon or Roland Garros, either, where it's members only.
At Melbourne Park, home of the Australian Open, the show courts are public and run about $25 (euro18.25) per hour; for those a bit more ambitious and a lot richer, Rod Laver Arena goes for around $8,200 (euro5,985) a day.
The closest example in golf is out on Long Island, where the 2002 U.S. Open was held at Bethpage Black. Hackers often sleep overnight in their cars, hoping to get tee times.
Pebble Beach and Pinehurst are resort courses. That means they're open, too, though they cost more than a couple hundred dollars per round.
Hardly that pricey at Flushing Meadows.
"I think I'd do it, just to say I did," Allan Klein said from the bleachers as he watched Dementieva warm up. "Sure, why not?"
Telephone reservations are recommended because availability is tight, even with the courts open 11 months a year from 6 a.m. to midnight. There are clinics, including one each year for 1,000 schoolkids from New York City's borough Brooklyn, and colleges and prep schools practice there.
"We're about more than two guys walking up and saying, 'Hey, can I have a court?'" said Daniel Zausner, managing director of the facility. "We have room for them. But we're also about everyone from tiny tots to senior citizens getting a chance."
"We're trying to get as many people exposed to the sport as possible," he said.
Overall, it's the largest public tennis facility in the country, built on 18.6 hectares (46 acres) of land left over from the 1964 World's Fair. There's currently a $60 million (euro43.8 million) project to add 12 more indoor courts.
"It's beautiful here," fifth-seeded Ana Ivanovic said. "Back home in Serbia, we do not have many courts for the children to play. I cannot imagine what it would be like to play on something this nice as a child."
Neither could Courier. Long before he became a 10-time Open participant, he played at local parks in Dade City, Florida.
"I was a public courts kid. I remember putting the quarters in for the lights," he said.
In June, Misha Dzinovic went a little further. He's president of his own event planning company in Manhattan, and rented out the entire complex for 120 people to hold their own tournament.
"You can see all the people in their 30s and 40s, trying very, very hard and sweating," he said. "We played the final at Arthur Ashe. I'm not that good, but I hit some balls there.
"It was a beautiful feeling. You could imagine 20,000 people watching you," he said.
That's what Sadler and her three gal pals want. They play doubles in an adult league back in Louisiana, yet would gladly skip a session to swing away at Ashe.
"It would be the moment of a lifetime to play on that court," Melaine Booth said. "Quite remarkable."
Just one question from Sadler.
"Do the Jumbotrons come with it?" she asked.


Updated : 2021-06-13 20:18 GMT+08:00