So Monday night, when the schedule was released for Tuesday's sessions, we decided we had to be there. Between Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Caroline Wozniacki, David Ferrer, Jo-Willy Tsonga, Fernando Verdasco, and so many others, there was just no way we could miss that much amazing tennis. We quickly bought new tickets, figured out train schedules, and packed our bags. A mere nine hours later, at 6:30am, we were in the car headed for the Open. We drove to New Haven, Connecticut (about a 2.5 hour drive) where we got on the train for Grand Central (almost a 2 hour ride). At Grand Central, we switched from Metro North to the regular old subway and rode that about 17 stops (30 minutes) out to Flushing, home of the Open. Lots and lots (and lots) of travel, but we arrived just before 1pm, perfect timing.
We made our way to Louis Armstrong Stadium, where David Ferrer was in a tight battle with Igor Andreev. We watched about a set of that match and then wound our way along the concourse to the Grandstand court. I have to say, I love how the two courts are connected. It's probably the best place on the entire grounds to watch tennis. We stood on the upper deck and looked down on Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as he defeated Yen-Hsun Lu.
Next up, we made our way inside Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch current women's #1 Caroline Wozniacki. I'm going to come right out and say it: I'm not a huge fan of women's tennis. I'm not really sure what it is, maybe it's how they all grunt or scream, or maybe it's because they just don't hit the ball as hard. I would watch almost any men's match, but I just can't seem to get into the women's side. With that said, it was interesting to see Caroline, but I had no problem leaving after a few games in order to go to a meet and greet with John Isner.
That's right people, John Isner. The 6'9" American was signing autographs and posing for pictures while I was at the Open. I mean really, does it get much better? (It does, but I don't think you'd ever see Rafa doing a M&G because he'd get mobbed.) Anyway, I moseyed over to the booth and got in line early, which was smart since the line ended up reaching the gates to the park. Eventually John sauntered out and sat down. I was hoping he'd stand so you could see in our picture just how big our height differential is, but hey, not going to complain. When it was my turn, I stepped forward and had him sign my program and then stepped around the table for our picture. It was a short exchange, but John was really pleasant, and I was excited to get another celeb-photo notch in my belt. (We also just had an exchange on Twitter. We're best friends now, it's cool.)
After my brush with the tallest man alive, I went back inside Ashe to see current men's #1 (and most likely winner of this tournament) Novak Djokovic. I've never been his biggest fan, especially now that he's threatening the reign of my beloved Rafa, but even I have to admit, the man can play tennis. He absolutely annihilated my Irish countrymen Conor Niland, who ended up retiring with food poisoning anyway.
So back we went to the Grandstand to watch Fernando Verdasco take on Jarkko Nieminen. Verdasco is one of my silent favorites, much like Ferrer. They always put on a show and really take it to their opponents. Plus they're Spanish, and I think we all know how I feel about Spanish tennis players.
Fernando Verdasco Jarkko Nieminen
When that match was over, we found ourselves in a lull as the afternoon sessions started to wind down and the evening session got ready to start. We watched two points from Francesca Schiavone (2010 French Open Champion) because that's all I could take of her grunting, and we checked in on Li Na (2011 French Open Champion), who ended up being upset in straight sets. Then we went to the Nike booth for our official Rafa t-shirts, got some eats, and made our way back inside Ashe yet again for the evening session.
Francesca Schiavone Li Na
And who kicked off that session you ask? None other than Rafael Nadal! (His opponent, Andrey Golubev, was also there.) If you haven't figured it out by now, Rafa is my favorite player in tennis. In history. Ever. Like whoa. We got to see him practice last year, but this was the first time we got to see him in an actual match. I was dying. I don't do well when I watch him on TV, so being confined to a seat in the stadium where the match was taking place was bizarre. I handled it pretty well, but luckily he won in straight sets. If he'd dropped one, which he almost did, I would have lost it. I don't think I'll ever be able to watch him live in a final because I'd definitely come out of my skin and get kicked out of the stadium.
Because Rafa's match took so long and we had a long trip back to Connecticut, we didn't stick around for Serena Williams' match. I was a bit disappointed, but we all know women's tennis isn't my favorite. So we headed back to the subway, mercifully got an express train, and made it back to Grand Central just in time to get on Metro North back to New Haven. Seriously, we had mere minutes to spare. Phew! That train, unfortunately, was not an express. By the time we got to our hotel in Connecticut, it was 2am. That's about 20 hours of straight traveling and tennis for those keeping track. A long day, to say the least, but so worth it. We even learned that our methods of travel this year were less expensive than taking Amtrak and about the same convenience, so we'll be repeating that next year. I guess I should thank Hurricane Irene after all. If she hadn't messed everything up, I wouldn't have seen Rafa, met John Isner, or learned what I did. And since the US Open is exchanging our tickets for next year, we're set for 2012! I am one happy panda.