Peter Bodo's TennisWorld - Viv's Spectator Slam, Part 2
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Viv's Spectator Slam, Part 2 10/01/2007 - 6:00 PM


[Herewith, the second Installment of Viv's Spectator Slam story, along with a boots-on-the-ground report on how the majors stack up in some key, fan-related ways. Some of her choices will surprise you, but that just means you'll have to go find out for yourself. Thanks for writing this Viv, and say hi to mum and Jean! Pete]

Wimbledon was next up, and despite the fact that it’s not terribly far from where I live, the tournament posed problems [Ed. note: does anyone else think that sounds like a quote from Tim Henman's autobiography?] . I thought it was going to be impossible to get a ticket. I hadn’t entered the public ballot. I had queued on my last visit to SW19, eight years earlier, but that experience proved tough going. I didn’t relish the thought of queuing again. Due to staff changes at work, I couldn’t take time off anyway. However, I was able to make a day trip on the first Saturday of the tournament. After considering my options, I decided to book two debenture tickets with corporate hospitality.

I’d love to say that the day in question dawned bright and sunny. But it didn’t. It was pouring rain. I had a sinking feeling that there would be absolutely no play that day at Wimbledon. Nevertheless, I was glad and excited to be returning to my favourite tournament of all, especially when the taxi turned onto Church Road and I caught my first glimpse in years of the All England Club.

Once more, Mum accompanied me. Only one match was completed on Court No. 1 that day (Sharapova v. Sugiyama), and by the time it finished and we left the court, play had been suspended on the outside courts as well. So that turned out to be our lot for the day. I was soaked to the skin -  drenched, right through my raincoat. We met up with D-wiz and her cousin on the grounds and we all decided it was best to adjourn to the marquee for a chat and some Pimms with “the bits” (cucumber pieces). That was fun. We narrowly missed our flight home due to the traffic chaos near Heathrow following the terrorist attack that caused an international sensation.

That was not fun. All in all, our excursion to Wimbledon in ’07 was unforgettable - and not for the best of reasons.

The next eight weeks passed by very quickly. All of a sudden it was time to head to New York. Jean was travelling with me again for the first week of the US Open. Although it was what I least expected, this ended up being the Slam that I most enjoyed.

Being in possession of a ticket for Arthur Ashe stadium entitles one to go off to any of the courts in the entire complex (unlike at the other majors). In my opinion, that is the best ticket deal available in tennis. On our first day in Queens, we were able to catch some of the Davydenko v. Levine match,  before Baghdatis v. Mirnyi on Louis Armstrong stadium; we rounded out the day with the last match on Ashe stadium.  I also thought the US Open had the best selection of food available among all the Slams. Many of the fans enjoy walking around on the walkways of the showcourts while play is in progress, and it can really get on one’s nerves. But it led to some funny moments, too, as irritated fans started throwing pretzels at the offenders’ backs. Sometimes they just shouted at them, hoping to shame or bully them into moving on, or sitting down to allow others in their actual seats to see properly.

I loved the party atmosphere that prevailed at the night matches. There was a tremendous buzz on the first Thursday night during the thrilling Blake-Santoro match (what a match!). Leaving the complex to the strains of that anthem, New York, New York, I really did think that New York was the place to be watching live tennis. This was the end of the second thirteen-hour day that I had put in at a Slam this year - a day in which we had also enjoyed watching a doubles match featuring the Bryans against Isner and Oudsema on Ashe in the late afternoon sunshine.

We had been just as lucky the previous night, when we witnessed the superb display of Federer’s skill in his second round match versus Capdeville. That match also provided us with an opportunity to discuss the relative merits of the world number one’s all-black outfit - Jean liked it, I didn’t. As the days went by we seemed to get to watch more and more matches that went the distance: the final set of Gonzalez v. Gabashvili, as well as all of Murray v. Bjorkman on a packed and chaotic Grandstand - and did I mention the remarkable Djokovic v Stepanek contest? The Henman v Tsonga match marked the end of our five terrific days.

Every morning we joined the hordes of people making their way from Grand Central to Flushing Meadows on the No. 7 subway. I thought it was quite a trek. Yet, I know that I’d do it all again. I was impressed by the excellent facilities that are in place at the USTABJKNTC. The largest arena in tennis is very well equipped with escalators, elevators and grab rails on the steps between the tiers of seating. That mattered very much to me. I wish the other Slam venues were as well designed and equipped.

You might laugh at this, but going to a Slam is pretty hard work. I know, I know – it’s not exactly manual labour! But it’s not for the fainthearted either. You must put in a decent amount of effort to get the most out of the experience – battling crowds, queuing patiently for almost any requirement you have, tolerating various weather conditions – so imagine what it must be like to actually be playing! One might get to sample some of the local cuisine on a visit to New York, but realistically (and despite one’s best intentions) there usually isn’t much time to include touristy stuff in one’s plans.

I never imagined myself capable of completing a spectator Slam. It just didn’t seem feasible. I eventually realised that if I wanted to do it badly enough, I had to stop thinking about it and get up off my behind and go and do it. I have to thank Mum and Jean for their company in this undertaking (It wouldn’t have been even half as much fun without you). Strangely enough, I think that I succeeded in revealing two closet tennis fans within the family! If I may borrow and adjust the former Virginia Slims slogan a little for my own purposes: You’ve come a long way with me this year.

I enjoyed every minute of it. I hope both of you did too.

To conclude here is my version of a mini-Rough Guide to a Spectator Slam:

Best transport:
Australian Open trams
Best on-site food: Food Village: US Open
Worst on-site food: Australian Open      
Best coffee: Roland Garros
Best looking spectators: Roland Garros
Best place to be during a deluge: marquee at Wimbledon
Best Slam for nostalgia: Wimbledon
Best Slam for a winter holiday: Australian Open (no contest there!)
Best atmosphere: night matches at the US Open
Best facilities for the disabled: US Open
Least amount of time spent queuing to get into the grounds: Australian Open
Most amount of time spent queuing to get into the grounds: US Open
Least amount of time spent queuing for the restroom: Australian Open / US Open (tie)
Most amount of time spent queuing for the restroom: Roland Garros
Best value ticket: US Open Arthur Ashe stadium (notable mention: Vodafone Arena, AO)
Most disciplined spectators: Wimbledon
Least disciplined spectators: US Open!
Best chance of bumping into a top player: Roland Garros    
Most helpful staff: Australian Open / US Open (tie)
Most straightforward online ordering of tickets: Australian Open (would have been even better if their website link to disabled seating brochure had worked for me).

[Ed. note - Few people realize it, but the USTABJKNTC is hardy by Jackson Heights, the Queens neighborhood that is said to be the most ethnically diverse in all of the United States. The ethnic-cuisine choices are superb, but as Viv said - who's got the time?]

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Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 10/01/2007 at 06:50 PM

My goodness. I cannot believe it. I am FIRST!!!!!!!!

Posted by Yummy Prince Fed/Karen 10/01/2007 at 06:53 PM

And second. Where is everybody? Hello, Knock Knock. Great post Viv. My dream is actually to do what you have done? Only thing is I actually want to tour like a pro. I want to go to every single major stop on both the ATP and WTA tours. To do that I would need someone to sponsor me, say an airline or something and I would just backtrack all over the world, going to tournaments and doing on-site reporting etc. I would blog about the cuisine, the culture, the fans, the players and perhaps even talk about the tournament itself (cheeky, I know). To do that I either need a sponsor or I need to marry Sheik Shake-Shake Mohammed and be wife No. 366, that way hubby will not miss me for at least 3 years. Ah the wonders of being a dreamer. I envy you so much but glad you enjoyed your Spectator Slam.

Posted by Schwab 10/01/2007 at 08:06 PM

Great job in seeing all the Slams this year. Considering Wimby is not far from your home, I am surprised that you enjoyed the "crazy" atmosphere of the USO. Are you going to do a repeat journey in 2008?

Posted by zolarafa 10/01/2007 at 08:15 PM

I love this "spectator Slam" and your ratings. I see Wimbledon doesn't win in many categories.

let me rank the GS's according to your mentions:

Australian Open: 6Best-1 worst + 1 honorable mention =5.5
US Open: 6 best- 2 worst=4
Wimbledon: 3 best=3
French Open:3 best-1 worst= 2

way to go Aussies!

Posted by jb 10/01/2007 at 08:27 PM

Viv! I'm home from vermont and able to post again. Loved both Slam reports. Of course, I'm still completely envious that you managed to do the calendar year slam! Now I've got the US Open under my belt, I need to start plotting for the rest. Wimby may indeed be the hardest. I shall probably be old, gray, and unable to follow the ball by the time I score tickets!

Oh my, my, my you two saw some kickin' matches didn't you?? And glad the US Open proved to be both accessible and fun, hopefully that should lure you back to the states to play... :D

Anyhow - thanks for pulling this together for us!

Posted by temes 10/01/2007 at 08:53 PM

Hi Viv. Seems you had a wonderful year. Btw, I myself am doing much, much better. Seems all of it wasn't at all as bad as I thought. =D

Posted by beth 10/01/2007 at 09:03 PM

Viv - great report
seems you were at Wimbledon on the same day my son and his friends ventured over to London from Dublin - wonder if you were on the same planes
He only had a grounds pass, and saw the Bryan Brothers, and Petrova before the rain and the terrorist threatts ruined his weekend
I am so envious of your trip to New York- you saw some great ones.

Posted by pierre des joachims 10/01/2007 at 09:10 PM

I really like that photograph Viv, did you take it?

Posted by nyc 10/01/2007 at 09:37 PM

Best chance of bumping into a top player - please elaborate!

Also, there's another way into USTABJKNTC that is way, way less crowded. You'll find it next time!

What a great initiative, congrats on being so adventurous!

Posted by abbey 10/01/2007 at 10:27 PM

viv, you lucky, lucky girl. well, it's not just luck, as you said, it was a tough job. ;) so happy for you you got to do it.

Posted by Cheshire Cat 10/01/2007 at 10:30 PM

Viva la Viv!

Posted by Ruth 10/01/2007 at 10:32 PM

Viv: I definitely agree with you that the Ashe ticket for the USO, which includes access to all stadiums and courts, is the best bargain of the Slams. I have actually gonea step further and called it the best bargain in sports, based on what little knowledge I have of Phillies, Sixers and Eagles tickets in my hometown and what I've read about tickets for other sporting events.

Also, I remember that when I was in the midst of the most annoying stages of my back problem during USO 2006 last year, I found the office that handled arrangements for people with physical problems very helpful.

Posted by Codge 10/01/2007 at 11:19 PM

Jeez, I really envy you !!!

Wonderful year to remember.

Posted by Snoo Foo 10/01/2007 at 11:55 PM

"Although it was what I least expected, this ended up being the Slam that I most enjoyed." WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS! And as for having no discipline, don't you know, that's our motto, "Model citizen, zero discipline."

Thanks for the report Viv, awesome to get a side-by-side comparison from someone who's actually done all of them. And yeah, there is a secret entrance to u-stab, I forget the official name, the south gate or the west gate, where there was never any line to get in. I'll show it to you next year. ;-)

Posted by 10/02/2007 at 06:27 AM

i agree with viv, queueing for the ladies' room at RG can be quite bad... the only way to go there is when the central chatrier is packed !
one of the things i like most about the facilities of RG is i can park nearby with my car, most of the times it's easy and i don't get fined for not puting some money into the "parc-mètres"...
and it's true you can bump into many players or coaches, but most of the times i'm to overwhelmed to say anything...
i still need to experience "the vip village" once, and maybe this year i'll do the visit of RG outside the tournament and get to their famous locker rooms and some funny back stories.
i'll let you all know ;)

Posted by marieJ 10/02/2007 at 06:29 AM

oops that was me at 6.27am !

Posted by Rosangel 10/02/2007 at 08:32 AM

How on earth I managed to be at Wimbledon and Roland Garros and never met Viv is beyond me - but then, even though I was using debenture tickets, I never bothered to look inside the marquee during any rain breaks. And I suppose, even if I had, that I would not have recognised her. And I was, of course, there on that middle Saturday - yes, it was the day of the Very First Warmup, on Centre Court, of the Nadal-Soderling Match that didn't start that day, finally began on Court 1 on the following Monday, and very nearly never ended in time for the final....

Posted by Rosangel 10/02/2007 at 08:40 AM

I can also affirm that marieJ is very good at squeezing her car into the tiniest space imaginable, within easy walking distance of Roland Garros:-). In Wimbledon, the roads near the AELTC are all parking-controlled during the fortnight, so you either pay £25 to park just outside (huge queues of traffic getting in and out of the temporary car park) or park well away fromm the controlled zone, and catch a taxi, walk, or get the Underground to Wimbledon Park. Going there for Davis Cup last weekend was great - because there was no extra parking control, meaning I could avoid parking charges.

Posted by Kate 10/02/2007 at 09:45 AM

Wow what a trip my next quest is Roland Garros as I don't think I will ever get to Australia. Thanks for all the insights that was a great piece of writing!

Posted by tina 10/02/2007 at 11:25 AM

Kate - Roland Garros is a blast. I "discovered" Medvedev there when he was playing a junior's doubles match, though to be honest I was more interested in his partner, Karim Alami.

Oh, Viv - what a great adventure! Put me down for Spectator Slam 2009, folks. Australia will pose the most logistical problems, but with all my Croatian pals, and the number of them who spend winters in Australia, I'll figure it out!

A note on Jackson Heights and Queens in general - Viv, you can get proper Irish food in Queens, especially Woodside. Probably the best Guinness outside St. James's Gate!

Posted by vanfan 10/02/2007 at 11:27 AM

Excellent wrap-up Viv. It has long been my dream to attend all four slams in the same year but now you've got me thinking maybe its not such a good idea. But seriously, wow! great achievement.

I love these kinds of posts and yours is truly tops. Thanks again for sharing your experiences.

So what are your plans for '08? ;)

Posted by TF 10/02/2007 at 11:43 AM

Great post Viv. Congrats on your calendar slam. I was at Wimbledon this year on that fateful first Saturday too. Saw the only completed match on Center Court (Amelie's) and the Rafa warmup as Rosangel mentioned. Was a little disappointed, but the trip was great overall though, since I also got the grounds pass for the first 2 days and really enjoyed it.

I was at the the US Open final in 2002 (the dream final of Pete and Andre). My only visit to the US Open though I think about doing it every year.

I hope and dream to do the calendar slam, but I'm first going to try and get the complete slam by doing the Aus Open and French Open pretty soon!!!

Posted by Heidi 10/02/2007 at 11:43 AM

Thanks, Viv! I can't wait to get over to Wimbledon or the French. Btw, for all you folks who have kids, my friend tells me that grounds passes with the kids are fantastic at RG. Apparently, the kids got a substantial (maybe half hour?) free tennis lesson on a court set up for the purpose and loved watching the girls', boys', and wheelchair competitions.

Posted by CM 10/02/2007 at 02:40 PM

Boy, I would love to attend all four GS, especially if I could do it before Roger retires. I do plan on attending the US Open next year. I lived in London for six months in 1999 but didn't get there until August, so I missed it. I've been to Australia once but again, not during the AO.

I really have no illusions of ever getting to Wimbledon, the AO, or the FO...but that is okay. I feel fortunate to have been to the other US TMS (Cincy, IW, and Miami).

Thanks for the tales, Viv. They were great!

Posted by tina 10/02/2007 at 04:34 PM

Debenture, schmebenture. I've been in the players' lounge at Wimbledon and used the toilets in the ladies' locker room. But my first visit to AELTC was in 1986, and I couldn't have been happier crammed into the "stalls" to watch Boris Becker. And Bobo Zivojinovic - yum!

Posted by emi 10/02/2007 at 09:33 PM

I'm pretty sure that a Rod Laver Arena tickets gets you access to all courts at the Australian Open.

Posted by tina 10/03/2007 at 04:34 AM

Defo gotta start with my 2009 plans now. I think I can fly Split-Frankfurt-Melbourne. Or if I'm in the US then, that gives me a chance to hit California en route. The only downside is I can't take my George, as Australia has doggie quarantines. But I suppose I could leave him with his pals in L.A. or S.F. Or Maui.

I don't know if it's healthy for me to be fanatsizing so far ahead, but like most things that aren't healthy, it sure is fun........ yes, watch out Viv!

Posted by ptenisnet 10/03/2007 at 11:21 AM

hey tina,
you might appreciate this.

Posted by Viv 10/03/2007 at 02:45 PM

Thank you to everyone who left a comment here. Unfortunately, life got in the way of me posting replies before now.

Schwab and vanfan: The only thing I know for definite about my 2008 tennis travels is that I shall NOT be repeating a Spectator Slam!

temes: I'm so pleased to know that you're doing well.

beth: Yes, I was at Wimbledon the same day that Jake was. Whatever about the outward flight, we were certainly not on the same flight back to Dublin. We ran for all we were worth down to gate 82 but just missed the last flight back that night. We were then re-routed to Cork where we ended up staying the night at my elder sister's place.

Pierre: I took many good photos during the year but I don't recall taking that particular one. Jean often wandered off quietly with my camera at intervals though....

nyc: You asked me to elaborate on my reference to the great opportunity of bumping into top players at RG. I used the term players rather loosely to signify anybody that I recognised from the tennis world. Admittedly, this is indulging in namedropping on a grand scale, but during the 3 days in Paris we walked alongside: Mirnyi, Bjorkman, Santoro, Conchita Martinez, Navratilova, Bahrami, Stolle, Bollettieri, Kuznetsova, Richard Williams, and Djokovic. I found that pretty mindblowing! But I got excited too one evening at the US Open when Tim Gullickson and then Pascal Maria walked past our table.

Ruth: Angela and Monica at the NTC's ticket office could not have been more helpful to me! It was a pleasure to call them and have them deal with my ticket order.

emi: A ticket for Laver arena does not give one access to Vodafone arena and vice versa.

Posted by Viv 10/03/2007 at 02:47 PM

Oh dear, sorry about the typo. That should have been Tom Gullickson. Apologies.

Posted by tina 10/03/2007 at 04:53 PM

ptenisnet: you rock! That totally made my day, thanks a million.

Posted by harini 10/04/2007 at 04:50 PM

That was a good read. I need to make it to the US Open this year. I almost did this year but other plans came up during Labor Day weekend. Ahhh well.

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