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Surviving thrilling tennis at the US Open

Fans taking in some of the sights in Grandstand.
By Elena Scuro
Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nothing beats being here, and there are many reasons why this phrase is true. Seeing the world’s best tennis stars live tops the list as they compete for history, often battling in lengthy matches for gritty wins.  

This year’s US Open has seen its fair share of long, tough matches. As of Wednesday, the longest men’s singles match of the tournament was a tie between Ukrainian Illya Marchenko’s first-round defeat of Marco Chiudinelli of Switzerland and No. 10 seed Japanese Kei Nishikori's upset over No. 5 seed Milos Raonic of Canada in the fourth round. Both stretched over 4 hours, 19 minutes, two of the six men’s singles matches to reach over four hours thus far.

On the women’s side, the longest match was in Round 1, as Monica Niculescu of Romania came from a set down to defeat Yaroslava Shvedova of Kazakhstan just two minutes short of the three-hour mark. In men’s doubles, Guillermo Garcia-Lopez and Philipp Oswald closed out an upset over No. 5 seeds Julien Benneteau and Edouard Roger-Vasselin in over three hours, each set going more than one hour each.

While millions of fans watch from around the world in the comfort of their homes, tennis fans pack the stands at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center each day to take in the tennis live, coming out for great tennis and often having their expectations exceeded. Some thrilling matches could start just before lunchtime and end in time for dinner and are so captivating you don’t want to leave your seat. But just as the players train for these long matches, necessary preparations need to be taken as a fan to last as long as they do.

Since 2011, Dan Magan, 40, of Astoria, N.Y., and his wife Lily have been coming from close by to see top tennis live on the biggest stage. “I always thought it looked so cool on TV when I was a kid and always wanted to see night tennis in New York,” Magan said. “So when we come to see it every year, it's definitely for a night session.”

His tips for taking in a night match that could go into the wee hours of the morning: “Grab a hot dog and ice cream, walk around and take some pictures on the beautiful grounds, then go into the match. We really look forward to this each summer.”

Sometimes Mother Nature can cause an untimely interruption in a match, as was the case for Marnie Cox, 29, of Queens, N.Y., who was attending her seventh US Open this year on Sunday. “I was sitting in Armstrong watching the lightning get closer, so I took cover in the AMEX Pavilion.” Despite any delays, she said the wait is always worth it: “I’m not giving up on more tennis.”

Kelsey Anderson is the wife of No. 18 seed Kevin Anderson and a veteran when it comes to tennis spectating. Perhaps the fan with the best seat and most nerves, Anderson has had to tough out each of her husband’s hard-fought wins, including his first-round victory over Pablo Cuevas, which went five grueling sets on Wednesday.

“Usually I’m too nervous to eat before, but sometimes that backfires, like Wednesday, when we didn’t get off court for over four hours,” she said. “I usually have some sort of fruit or granola bar in my bag in case I become ravenous. But the real must is a huge bottle of water.”

Anderson, who said she always wears sunblock and sunglasses during day-session matches, said towels and umbrellas are essential. “Kevin’s coach is usually really good about bringing towels and water for our team. I like to sit on the towel because the seats can get hot,” she said. “I always have a little umbrella with me and use it probably more for sun than rain. We also use the towels when it’s cold.”

Another top tip from the ATP Tour wife, which she received from Kevin’s cousin: “I keep baby wipes in my bag. They come in handy to wipe off seats, clean your hands, etc. We even used one the other day because Kevin’s brother had a bird poop on him.”  

Just like the fans on the edges of their seats through the match, Anderson feels the stress of the big moment. “I think spectators even experience more anxiety than the players,” she said. “Sometimes we are in pure agony watching it.”

But she wouldn’t trade her seat for anything, adding: “It’s better to watch than not watch.”