Aug. 29, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
Tennis fans from across New York and around the world are descending on Queens this week for the start of the U.S. Open, and QNS/Queens Post spoke with some of the jovial attendees outside the iconic Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows Corona Park on Tuesday, Aug. 29.
The two-week sporting extravaganza — which runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 10. — sees the best in the world battle it out for Grand Slam glory with Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz defending his men’s championship title and Polish star Iga Świątek also looking for back-to-back US Open wins.
The NYPD estimates that more than 900,000 fans will attend the country’s preeminent tennis spectacle with nearly half traveling from outside of the tri-state area while about 25% are expected to visit from abroad.
The majority of fans QNS/Queens Post spoke to were from the New York area with others from the UK, Germany, Ireland and Italy.
There was a mix of hardcore tennis fans, casual fans and those just attending to soak up the atmosphere. Thousands of fans could be seen streaming off the 7 train at the Mets-Willets Point station and making the short walk over to the complex.
Jurgen Schmieder, who is originally from Germany and lives in California, said he has been coming to the tournament for the last 10 years and will attend every day of the tournament this year. Schmieder said that the U.S. Open is unique compared to other sporting events.
“I think it’s the greatest sporting event to watch because if you get a grounds pass, you get to watch 15/20 matches whereas if you go to baseball or soccer you pay $100/200 and see only one game and it might be zero-zero,” said Schmieder. “But, if at Court 12 something is going on, you go there, if your favorite player is at Louis Armstrong [Stadium] you go there, so you have a great day and it’s the best bang for your buck.”
Schmieder said he is supporting Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who won the tournament in 2021 after defeating Novak Djokovic. The Serbian returns to the tournament having been unable to participate last year as he was not in compliance with the country’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for travelers.
“I’m rooting for Medvedev because I think he’s smart, he’s funny, he’s strategic, so I really dig him,” said Schmieder, who had just come from playing a game of pickelball.
Freddie Hurson, a student from Nyack in Rockland County, said this year’s U.S. Open is his first time at a professional tennis event.
“I started playing high school tennis last year and I’ve gotten really into it… so after starting it this is a really cool experience,” Hurson said.
Hurson said he has Italian heritage, so he is supporting Italy’s Jannik Sinner, who is his favorite player.
“In the women’s, I like Coco Gauf, I think it would be cool to see her win the U.S. Open,” Hurson said.
Gauff, a 19-year-old prodigy from Atlanta, Georgia, won her opening round game on Monday, Aug. 28, and she has a supporter in Londoner Hannah Simire.
Simire, a stylishly dressed woman from London, said she traveled from the UK to attend the U.S. Open as part of her vacation plans.
“It’s my first time and I’m very excited,” Simire said. “I’m rooting for Coco [Gauff]. I’m rooting for Andy Murray — I know he’s not doing so good right now, but still [he’s] British. Just [supporting] everyone in general. I’m a big tennis fan.”
Meanwhile, two tennis fans from Italy were turning heads outside the stadium as they were dressed as former players Björn Borg and John McEnroe — who had a famous rivalry during the late ’70s and early ’80s.
The Italian fans – friends Andrea Camarin and Fabrizio Genovese who go by– were in costume to generate awareness for a charity event in Italy next month to raise money for young people with intellectual disabilities.
They said they have been attending tennis tournaments for the last ten years dressed as the Borg and McEnroe – whose rivalry was known as “fire and ice” due to their contrasting tennis styles and personalities. Borg, from Sweden, was known for his cool and emotionless demeanor on court, while American McEnroe was famed for his courtside outbursts. Their head-to-head finished even was even at 7-7.
Camarin, who noted the duo were at the U.S. Open for the first time, said the tournament is special because it is so competitive and it is hard to pick a winner.
“I think it is freer and more exciting than any other tournament and more exciting,” Camarin said. “I think the entertainment will be more engaging than the others.”
Harold Toussaint, a tennis coach from Westchester, said he is a regular U.S. Open attendee and he was bringing his young daughter to the tournament.
“I live tennis, I breathe tennis, so that’s what I do for a living,” Toussaint said. “My daughter has just started to play so this is a good opportunity to bring her here to get her used to it.”
Not all attendees were big tennis fans.
Phil Barnao, from Middletown New York, said it was his first time at the event and he was attending with work colleagues.
“I came to the U.S. Open because I was never at the U.S. Open and wanted to experience it,” Barnao said. “I’m not a tennis fan, but hopefully it will make me a tennis fan.”
Meanwhile, Matin Kaplun, from Manhattan, was attending the U.S. Open for the second time and is rooting for Andy Murray.
He said the U.S. Open underlines why sports are so important in today’s society.
“It brings everyone together. Everyone in the city, they come. Everyone from around the world — it’s important that they come and watch this beautiful sport,” Kapul said.