Wednesday, August 25, 2010
It's been many (many) years since I attended the U.S. Open Tennis tournament, and I've never actually purchased tickets to go. Not because I don't like tennis (I do) or didn't enjoy watching it live (I did.) But given the choice as to which sport I'd willingly spend hours sitting in the stands to watch, I'd go with baseball.
That said, I fancy myself as someone who is open to new experiences. I also love Jim. And Jim loves tennis. So yesterday I found myself walking through Flushing Meadows in a steady drizzle to the USTA National Tennis Center. No, the U.S. Open doesn't start until August 30th. But there is plenty of tennis being played there this week--and you don't need tickets to enjoy it.
Jim has been talking about doing this for several summers, ever since a guy who he met on his local tennis courts told him he's been taking his kids for years. The deal is that there are dozens of qualifying matches as well as practice courts full of pros working out. And the public is invited to watch for free! As luck would have it, the timing coincides with the last of our week-long summer "staycations." So we decided to take our chances with the incessantly miserable weather and cruise on out to Queens.
We were richly rewarded. Okay, so we missed seeing Rafa Nadal practice by about an hour. And we waited at least that long for the puddle-spotted courts to be dried and readied for play. But there was plenty of action on the dozen or so practice courts, where you could get within yards of the grunting and groaning players. Many of the concession stands were open, so we had our fill of high-end junk food. And I was amazed at how many spectators, staff and tennis groupies were milling about.
But what made it all worthwhile was seeing the look of pure joy on Jim's face as he pronounced himself happier than if he'd been watching the final match in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Being open to a new experience? Zero dollars. Experiencing it with someone you love? Priceless.