The 2022 US Open will be one to keep an eye on. Even if you don’t follow tennis, all eyes will be on Queens as Serena makes one last attempt at her elusive 24th Grand Slam title and says goodbye to the sport she has dominated for so long.
But what if we told you that you can watch Serena Williams play for free even before the Open Championship starts? Because you can—and if you live in New York, it’s just a quick 7 train ride (at the Mets-Willets Point stop) or LIRR from Penn Station (take the Port Washington Branch).
The US Open Fan Week, which started in 2017 and last ran in 2019, is making a glorious return this year, allowing anyone to come to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for free to watch the qualifiers and the biggest names in sports practice before the official start of Open. All you have to do is show up – no tickets needed.
“It’s a lot of fun,” says James Blake, a former American tennis player who had a career-high “No” rating. 4, tells City and country fan weeks. “I was a fan of the US Open even before I became a player; I like being here. And now fans can come out for free to watch great players train and watch great matches.”
He continues: “You will see incredible tennis. It’s fun and special.”
Blake was at the Open on the first night of fan week to take part in the Legends Match alongside Kim Clijsters, Bethany Mattek-Sands and Andy Roddick. “It’s not the same pressure when we played here for real,” he jokes. Last night. The Louis Armstrong Stadium was full to watch the four-man game.
As Blake mentions, the qualifying tournament takes place during Fan Week. Last year, women’s singles winner Emma Raducanou qualified through the qualifiers, becoming the first qualifier ever to win a Grand Slam. This year’s qualifier, which runs from Tuesday 23 August to Friday 26 August, sees 16 men and 16 women place in the main draw. Perhaps one of these qualifiers will repeat Radukan’s magic.
However, this is not just a qualifying tournament; the courts are littered with practicing stars. In 2019, fans attending Fan Week saw a practice match between Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic. This year’s recommended training schedule includes Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal, who will train one after the other on the Arthur Ashe.
(Here’s all the players’ schedules so you can plan ahead. To get into Ashe practice, you just need to sign up for a “Fan Access Pass” that you can do online – and yes, it’s also free.)
In addition to the qualifiers and practice where you’ll see incredible tennis, Blake says, there’s a lot more to Fan Week to make a trip to Queens worthwhile.
Tonight, top tennis stars like Taylor Fritz, Koko Gauff, Iga Swiatek and Nadal will play an exhibition match for Ukraine, with proceeds going to Ukraine’s Global Giving Crisis Relief Fund (tickets are only $25), and tomorrow you can Taste food from top chefs around the world, with dishes from the likes of Michael White, Josh Capon, and Alex Guarnaschelli (a bit more expensive, $125 a ticket, benefiting the USTA Foundation, which helps instill sports in children in under-resourced communities ). In addition, gift shops and eateries are open, so you can even buy a T-shirt or drink a honey deuce before the tournament starts.
Being in the US Open fan week, it seems like tennis is really back in New York. Due to COVID restrictions, the event was not held in 2020 and 2021, although the tournament was still held. Nearly 11,000 fans attended on its first day, the largest number ever on a first day of a US Open week.
“It’s great to see the energy around tennis growing,” says three-time US Open champion Kim Clijsters. City and country mood on the site during the fan week. Clijsters also praises the USTA Foundation’s efforts to “get tennis out of people who are big tennis fans to try and get younger kids into tennis – to be as popular as the NBA or football!” Clijsters, a mom of three, brought her kids to Fan Week. The last day of Fan Week, Saturday, August 27, is Arthur Ashe Children’s Day, full of tennis activities and fun for families.
Fan Week also celebrates the US Open and the USTA’s goal of making tennis a more inclusive and welcoming sport for all. The fact that admission to the qualifying matches and training is completely free fits in with this mission.
So even if you can’t make it to the US Open this year, try to pop in for Fan Week. For the price of a simple subway ride, you could see Serena Williams practice before her last tournament, or maybe watch the match of the next tournament winner.
See you in Flushing?
A full schedule of Fan Week events and a map of the area can be found at USOpen.org.
Emily Burak (s/he) is a news writer for Town & Country where she covers entertainment, culture, royalty and a range of other topics. Prior to joining T&C, she was Associate Managing Editor of Hey Alma, a Jewish culture website. Follow her @emburack at Twitter and Instagram.