–“What do you think of Flushing, New York?”
— “Good Idea”.
When your hometown is a punchline, one can be a tad reticent to have civic pride. The Mets and The Nanny notwithstanding, Flushing has seen better days overall. Unless you’re seeking some really great Asian food, there’s not a lot else to brag about, and certainly not the safest of areas.
But for two weeks a year, Flushing becomes a worldwide destination, just as it was when it hosted two World’s Fairs. 45 years ago the site of those expositions became the home of the U.S. tennis Open, and today the annual fortnight that stretches over Labor Day weekend begins once again.
I always looked forward to the Open; as a college student it became a jumping off point just before I’d leave for the next semester. I’d go to a full day of matches, morning and evening, typically around the third or fourth round when the outer courts would be brimming with activity and the competition in the stadium would be higher quality. It was a fraction of the price that it was then, and there was only Louis Armstrong Stadium at the time. I first knew Armstrong Stadium as Singer Bowl, a modest concert venue whose roots go back to the 1939 World’s Fair, and aside from some amenities and updating it’s not all that great a facility.
But 25 years ago, a second stadium, named after the great Arthur Ashe, was added, and it is a true beauty, particularly with the recent addition of a retractable roof. When I visited last year, it was during a massive rainstorm where the rain actually soaked the court from the SIDES, aborting my evening. But, as you can see, it’s pretty damn impressive nonetheless.
And there’s some compelling storylines at are about to unfold as well. Obviously, the swan song for Serena Williams’ career is line item 1. That chase begins tonight, against a #80 opponent. While she is pursuing her 24th Slam title that would break the tie she shares with Margaret Court, given her age and injury history that isn’t likely.
But a 23rd title for Rafael Nadal is definitely a possibility, particularly with Novak Djokovic and his unvaccinated ass nowhere to be found.
Will male Americans (besides Williams, of course) make a deep run? Will night matches that last well past midnight captivate the sports world, given the New York stage?
And will anything taste better than the Momofoku fried chicken sandwich which I savored during my mad dash for the last train to escape the flooded LIRR station last year?
Maybe. Quite likely. And no friggin’ way.
This year, travel isn’t in my plans. But reconnecting with great tennis, as well as pride in being from Flushing, most definitely is on the agenda.