Experiencing the US Open thanks to the Starwood American Express!

Full disclosure: This experience is in conjunction with the Starwood AmEx Stars program I’m participating in, courtesy of the Starwood American Express. They covered the cost of my flights to New York, my two night stay at the Westin Times Square, and tickets to the US Open. That being said, all opinions expressed are my own.

Even though I write this blog as “Lucky” (I’m not actually sure why), perhaps sometimes I share a bit too much of my personal life here, for better or for worse. And this is no exception. Of all the “AmEx Stars” events I got to attend, this is the one I was most excited about, especially because I was able to take my mom with me. My family loves tennis. My brother was a nationally ranked tennis player when he was younger, and my first memories of travel are when I was just a few years old and traveling with my mom and older brother to tennis tournaments around the country (I played tennis when I was younger as well though was never any good, thanks largely to the fact that I have the hand-eye coordination of a dog). So growing up I remember the US Open being on TV at home every Labor Day weekend, depriving me of the “Rugrats” and “Hey Arnold.”

But that’s only part of the equation. While I talk about my older brother, what I don’t mention is that we both had an older brother that unfortunately passed away in an accident when I was very young. The reason I mention this is because both his birthday and the day he passed away fall over Labor Day weekend, so for my mom it’s by far the toughest week of the year, even after 20 years. Not only is it because of the timing, but also because both of my older brothers loved tennis.

So for a while now I’ve had the goal of taking my mom to the US Open one year instead of watching it on TV, since I figure it’ll not only get her mind off things, but she’s also a huge tennis fan. Obviously this proved the perfect opportunity, and I’m hoping to make this an annual trip with her from hereon out after what a great time we had.


Entering the facility

We were given amazing club level seats in Arthur Ashe Stadium for Tuesday, September 4, which we were very much looking forward to as there were some great matches lined up.

The first match was between Victoria Azarenka (who is ranked number one in the world) and Samantha Stosur (who won the US Open last year). Unfortunately we had the worst luck ever when it came to the weather, since about 15 minutes after starting play the first rain delay was called.


Arthur Ashe Stadium

What followed was at most two hours of tennis over the next eight hours, with constant delays.

During the first delay we had lunch at Aces, which is the club level restaurant.


Aces Restaurant


Crab cake sandwich

After hours of delays Azarenka won in three sets in which turned out to be a great match, and the next match began, between Maria Sharapova and Marion Bartoli. After just a few minutes of play a rain delay was called, and the match didn’t resume till the following day, which wrapped up our day of tennis.

Fortunately during the rain delay I got to check out some of the sponsor exhibits, including the American Express Fan Experience and Emirates first class suite.


Emirates first class suite


American Express Fan Experience

The following evening we attended the Starwood American Express card member event, which is available exclusively to card members of the Starwood American Express on a first come first serve basis. There are fewer than a 100 tickets available, and I believe they retail for $110 each, which includes night tickets to the US Open.

The event was being held in the hospitality pavilion.


Hospitality Pavilion


Card member event entrance

These events are awesome because it’s a great opportunity for card members to interact with executives from both Starwood and American Express. Beyond that drinks were free flowing and there was a buffet with some great food. Andy Roddick was actually playing during the event so my mom and I were both a bit distracted watching the TV, as this also happened to be his retirement match. It was pretty rough watching him lose that match.


Card member event


Buffet


Buffet

American Express also usually has a “celebrity guest” at these card member events, and in this case it was Lindsay Davenport, who used to be the number one tennis player in the world. She held a Q&A and was then available for autographs and pictures, so it’s a great way for tennis fans to be able to interact with her.

After that it was back to Arthur Ashe Stadium for some night time tennis. Admittedly this time we were a bit further up so it wasn’t quite as great as the day time tennis we saw, though being in a stadium is all about the “vibe,” which is present no matter where you’re seated. This time it was Serena Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic, which was a quick two-setter.


Night time tennis

Anyway, while I had a great time, my mom had an especially awesome time, and I hope I can take her back in the future. If I went next year I’d certainly pay the $110 for the Starwood American Express event and evening tickets, if they had a similar experience available. And my goal has actually become to take my mom to one of the other major tennis tournaments in the next year, given how much she loves tennis.

But more than anything else this event really convinced me about the fun of seeing things “live.” Before I went I said to myself that I might as well just watch the matches from home in my air conditioned living room on a comfortable couch instead of dealing with uncomfortable seats, lines, and rain delays. But there’s something fun about actually being there and experiencing it firsthand, so I’d really love to attend more “live” events, be it a music concert or tennis match.

Thanks again to the Starwood American Express for this awesome experience!

Comments

  1. Awesome coverage Ben..thanks for posting! I got a chance to go to the US Open in ’93…saw Michael Chang up close…it was a thrill (for that time, at least) hehhe..

  2. Good review lucky. I got the emial for this and really wanted to go being a huge tennis fan. However i had already booked a 10 day trip to hawaii for that week. Next yr i will keep the us open dates in mind and see if this offer comes around again.

  3. “So growing up I remember the US Open being on TV at home every Labor Day weekend, depriving me of the “Rugrats” and “Hey Arnold.”

    Laughed out loud at that one. Aww…childhood memories. I miss Rugrats too. 🙂

  4. I was lucky enough to win tickets from Starwood and had an amazing time seeing one of Roddick’s final matches. We sat in a Courtside box 6 rows from the court. Amazing!

  5. Like “Dave” above, we got box seats from Starwood “moments” for 35000 points and saw Roddick’s match against Australia’s bernard tomic.

  6. Ben – If you are truly interested in another tournament, let me suggest the one in Indian Wells (Palm Springs). It’s an awesome experience, with awesome weather, and the grounds there make the US Open grounds seem pretty underwhelming.

    It’s March 4-17 next year. And if you choose the correct city to move to, you should only be a couple hours drive away 😉

  7. I’m a big tennis fan as well, in fact I went to the US Open also over Labor Day weekend. Did the SPG Suite deal for 35k SPG pts. A lot of pts, but worth it IMHO. You get some nice perks being a blogger and getting this stuff for free!!!

    BTW, last year I did the “Spectator Grand Slam”. One thing I learned from that is that it is quite cool to aim to stay at an official PLAYER hotel (as you get to see lots of players, coaches, etc)……….which BTW is NOT the Westin Times Square. Rather for US Open there are several players hotels, mainly IC Barclay, Waldorf Astoria, Le Parker Meridien, and a few others (surprisingly even Radisson Lexington, which as of a few days ago is no longer a Radisson). Ate breakfast 2 feet away from Sharapova at the Park Hyatt Paris (although that is NOT an official player hotel, but several of the better players stay there every year, including Roddick).

    One of my neater experiences was at the Australian Open as the major player hotel was Grand Hyatt Melbourne. There were truckloads of players there, especially in the Club lounge each evening during hor’dourves and at breakfast. Paid rates were $500+ but it could still be had for 12k Hyatt pts. Great experience!! One other cool thing there happened when we moved to Park Hyatt Merlbourne for a night. There were almost no players there, nor anybody else for that matter. We were in the Club Lounge there one night and it was just me and my brother and Stanislav Wawrinka and his coach, Peter Lundgren. He was playing Federer the next day and they were sitting there talking about his strategy right there and we were eavesdropping. We were pumped up, we honestly thought he was gonna beat Federer the next day. But he got his butt kicked in straight sets, maybe due to the 2 beers we saw him drinking in the Club Lounge, which surprised me. But it was certainly cool to be able to mingle around near the players. So I highly suggest you try to stay at a hotel where the players will be staying as it REALLY adds to the experience. If you have any questions, feel free to shoot me an e-mail or FT PM.

  8. BTW, I agree with Murphy above, Indian Wells is also a great tennis experience for fans as you can get really close to the players on the outside practice courts, all the best players also play doubles, etc.

    Being from Florida, I’m sure the Miami tourny the week after Indian Wells should also be on your agenda every once in awhile.

  9. Ben – thanks for sharing the story about your brother. I lost a brother too and it has always been hardest on my mom. I can relate. Kudos to you for making the birthday/anniversary something special. You’re a good son!

  10. Thanks for the comments, guys!

    @ Murphy — Great idea, will pencil it into my calendar and see if mom can make it.

    @ gregorygrady — That’s too cool! Funny you should mention it, because I was asking myself what hotels the players stay at, whether they’re near the stadium or city, whether there are “official” hotels, etc. Would totally aim to stay at the “official” hotels in the future, as I have to imagine that’s quite fun. Any clue if they publish what the “official” hotels are, or do you figure it out through trial and error?

  11. @Lucky

    Was in NYC for the Open this year, but missed out. Got to go to Flushing Meadows a few years ago – courtside, and I have to say, nothing beats live Tennis! Also, glad to see the hospitality tents provide better food. The one bad thing at the Open, I have to say, was the food (at least on the grounds). They served frozen pizzas and nachos in NYC!

    I also got to the Aussie Open in Melbourne, which was fantastic – plus it’s a nice summery experience in the middle of January.

    Keep up the good work!

  12. @Lucky: Originally it was trial and error, mainly by seeing many Mercedes Benz official player cars outside certain hotels. Then I started Googling it to figure out where the players are staying.

    NYC: Tough since there are SOOOOO many hotels to choose from. Last year I stayed at Waldorf Astoria and saw some players and lots of announcers (Gimelstob, Brad Gilbert, etc). Year before I stayed at IC Barclay, Le Parker Meridien, and several Ws. Year before that stayed at Grand Hyatt and Barclay. This year I stayed at The Plaza, IC Barclay, and Radisson Lexington. Saw no players at all at Plaza even though it was a players hotel. Guess it’s too pricey for them? Here is a very good link to see where the players will be staying at the US Open:
    usopen.org/playersonly

    There is a list of 13 hotels on the official list that give player discount rates. About 3 of those are actual OFFICIAL player hotels. You can also search the ATP & WTA Tour websites as they each have an official hotel (ATP = Waldorf Astoria and WTA = Le Parker Meridien).

    London: I have stayed at truckloads of different hotels in London during Wimbledon over the years. Last year for example I stayed at LM Picadilly, The Savoy, IC Park Lane, Waldorf Hilton, and Trafalgar (Hilton). Didn’t see a single player, nor did I previous years. Most of the players at Wimbledon stay in Wimbledon Village and often rent flats there for the fortnight.

    Paris: Didn’t see a single player at IC LeGrande when I was there for 4 nights last year. Did see several of the better players at Park Hyatt Paris. Didn’t really do much hotel hopping while there though.

    Melbourne: Since there are only a handful of nice hotels in Melbourne (especially near Rod Laver Arena), this is easier to target. Saw TONS of players at Grand Hyatt. Saw none at Westin Melbourne, and saw a couple at Park Hyatt Melbourne. There is a very nice downtown casino hotel there that supposedly many players also stay at.

    I HIGHLY recommend staying at the GH Melbourne though during the OZ Open as it’s so close (walking distance) to the venue. We even saw announcers, coaches, etc walking between the venue and the hotel often. And if you are on the proper side of the hotel you get a nice view of the venue right from your room and can see how full each court is with spectators.

    Can’t go wrong with any of the Slams. The French is the most intimate (I LOVE Court 1 there, the 3rd largest showcourt, looks like a bullring arena). NYC is the largest, and has a great nighttime vibe. Wimbledon is Wimbledon, great to go to of course. And OZ actually may have been my favorite due to how close we got to the players. It also helped that I went with my brother who is glued to The Tennis Channel 24/7, so he knows every single player, coach, trainer, umpire, broadcaster, etc that has anything remotely to do with tennis. He pointed everybody and their mother out to me. I only would have recognized the top ~30 players in the world, but he recognized all 128 players in the draw and well as their coaches, parents, etc. So what I’m saying is bring your tennis playing bro along with you as that will be a cool experience too!!

  13. Thank you for sharing this.
    Going through your blog makes me feel like I was there as well. I’ve travelled through your pictures and get the feel of the place. You’re one lucky Pal! Hope I’ll have the same experience next year! Keep posting more, I enjoy going through it. 

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