First Timer’s Experience at the 2013 US Open

Moving to New York City has opened up a lot of new opportunities to experience new things, the first being the NBA Draft this summer. The latest “New York” thing that we did was attend the 2013 US Open in Flushing Meadows on August 29th, which encompassed parts of Round 1 and Round 2 due to a bunch of matches being rained out the day before.

What To Do

After spending some time researching how to get the most out of the experience, it seemed like there was an overall enthusiasm for Grounds Admission, particularly in the first or second round of the tournament. The theory here is that there are 17 courts, and a Grounds pass gets you access to 15 of them (you miss out on Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong stadium, which is normally the biggest names). However, the flexibility of moving around between 15 courts means you have the opportunity to see a ton of matches and get extremely close to the court. As someone who likes to make use of my photography gear whenever I have a good excuse, this seemed like a great chance to dust off the equipment. Early on in the tournament, those big names are usually playing really lowly seeded players anyway, so they usually destroy them.

The matches are scheduled to go from 11 AM to 7 PM (although they tend to always go later). We ended up catching pretty good weather, not too hot or sunny. I made sure to break out the sunblock in case of excessive sun (there was very little shade available unless you were in the eating area), and my Illini hat was unpacked and worn for the first time in ages. I even got a semi-enthusiastic “Go Illini” from another spectator.

I printed out a schedule of all the games and courts that were going on for the day, but later discovered there was an official iPhone app that provided the same information along with scores (and I discovered that they would move some of the later games around if some matches were going excessively long).


Unfortunately I am not all that enthusiastic about tracking professional tennis players outside of the top 5, so I hadn’t heard of most of the players on the schedule (which consisted for men’s and women’s singles and doubles). We ended up wandering around and trying to find a court where a mens match was going to happen, but after that we just walked around until we found something interesting. Surely we could have been much more proactive about locating matches that were getting close to finishing, but we ended up being a bit more loyal to the games we were watching and saw them finish out.

Matches Watched

  • Svetlana Kuznetsova defeat Shuai Peng
  • Jack Sock defeat Máximo González
  • Alison Riske defeat Mona Barthel
  • Dominic Inglot / Treat Huey defeat Julian Knowle / Jürgen Mezler
  • Tommy Robredo defeat Frank Dancevic
  • Feliciano López defeat Bradley Klahn
  • Daniela Hantuchová defeat Victoria Duval

If you take a look at the map, you can see how close some of the courts are. A few of the courts have some semblance of stands, but others have portable bleachers (3 levels of benches) and people just standing next to them. Additionally, those courts are right next to each other, so you can stand between the courts and watch both games.

2012 Grounds map.indd

The Billie Jean King Tennis Center actually had quite a large food court area of pretty solid food (and umbrellas over the tables). Off the top of my head, they had maybe 10 official food places (burgers, pizza, sandwiches, crepes, ice cream, etc), along with some scattered stands around the grounds. They also had a really high number of alcohol stands — plenty of $14 mojito stands were seen.

Although we used public transportation based on recommendations online that said the lot fills up quickly, when we got there (a little after 11 AM) the parking lot appeared to be quite open (at least as seen from the MTA). Considering the cost of public transportation for us ended up being a $10 round trip, the $20 parking lot probably wouldn’t have been a terrible plan considering it would have taken less than half as long to get there driving.


Although I wish I had a stronger zoom lens to get more intimate photos of the players, I had a fun time playing around with camera settings and taking some shots. Admittedly I felt a bit more hesitant to take photos on the courts with the bigger audiences as it seemed like no one else was taking photos, but once we found our way onto the smaller courts it was more of a photography free for all as I watched spectators take plenty of photos. Perhaps people in the stands lacked a strong enough zoom to make taking photos worthwhile. I think next year I might take the opportunity to rent a lens for the occasion (I’ve had success with LensRentals in the past when I wanted to try out a lens).

I did spend a bit of time the day before doing some research to make sure I’d be allowed to bring in my camera. The internet forums mentioned that if you had a larger lens, you might get denied at the gate, which (fortunately for my bank account) I do not own. The security at the gate was very strict in disallowing backpacks, sending people back to the entrance where there was a $5 bag check. I brought my Lowepro Slingshot 102 AW and they didn’t flinch, so you could probably get away with a slightly bigger camera bag (I think the single shoulder strap puts it in a category separate from a backpack). If you don’t bring a bag at all, you get to go through an “express” line since they don’t have to bother with bag checks.

One of my regrets is that I didn’t do any research about ideal settings for sports photography. I tend to play around with using high ISOs and try to capture action shots with my current lens (which reaches out to 105mm at a maximum), but it would have been nice to find some photos of action shots that professional took and taken a look at their EXIF data to see what settings they used. A lot of photos on the internet have EXIF metadata embedded into the photo that let you see things like the camera used, the lens used, shutter speeds, etc. There are probably a bunch of ways to look at this information, but I just use a website like Find EXIF and paste the URL into it. Unfortunately I usually don’t think about doing this until after whatever event I just photographed, but it is worthwhile to check out particularly for subjects that move. Looking at these and reading forums online taught me how to take good pictures of fireworks.

While I didn’t take too many photos, I did find a few that I liked enough to post online. I don’t really do any photo-editing (or more correctly, have never learned), so there is definitely room for post-processing improvement. My bigger regret is not having a lens that had one more f-stop (my lens only goes to f/4) in an attempt to get my subject to stand out a bit more from the crowd.

Svetlana Kuznetsova - US Open 2013

Maximo Gonzalez - US Open 2013

Dominic Inglot - US Open 2013

Mona Barthel - US Open 2013


As a very casual fan of professional tennis (someone who watches maybe the semifinals and finals of the mens tournament on TV), I found attending the US Open far more entertaining than I would have expected. There is something that is really captivating to me about watching people in person who are incredibly good at their craft. Although I started to tire by the last match of the night (which ended around 9:30 PM), I would definitely recommend attending the tournament for anyone who has the means to, particularly if you are only paying $65 for a Grounds pass and live in the area.

Next year, I think I’d like to try out going twice — once to walk the Grounds again and take in that environment (and take photos), but another day to Arthur Ashe Stadium to see some of the big names (probably later in the tournament so there is a stronger opportunity of seeing two ranked players). Some of the research that I did mentioned that sitting up high at Arthur Ashe provided poor viewing angles, but hopefully trying to buy tickets whenever they go on sale will allow me to pick up some decent seats.