The US Open--Top Tennis, Parties and Celebrities
The US Open has once again rolled into New York and it promises to be more competitive and glitzier than ever. A record amount of prize money is at stake, 650,000 spectators are expected and celebrity attendance will be the most paparazzi-friendly in history. And if that’s not enough, the world’s most lucrative annual sporting event is competing for attention with New York Fashion Week for the first time in history.
Hopefully you’ve booked your town cars, Four Seasons hotel suites and contacted a great ticket broker to join the fortnight filled with impressive tennis action and champagne receptions. For US$50,000 some visitors to NYC covered all bases with a package deal at the posh Lowell Hotel. For that price, pampered guests receive three nights at the 2500 square foot penthouse, VIP seating at the men’s and women’s semis and finals, a gourmet basket of champagne and caviar to take to the matches and transportation in a Bentley Flying Spur.
However you get there, there is plenty to do on the grounds and in the city throughout this two-week period. The tournament will feature virtually every top player in the world but highlight the two with the greatest Forbes earnings potentials – Roger Federer and Maria Sharapova. Both superstars are defending champions at Flushing Meadows and smart odds are on them to retain their prized titles. The Swiss is the overwhelming favorite among the men to take his fourth consecutive trophy in New York. Reaching each of the last nine Grand Slam finals and winning the US Open series thanks to his dominant performance in Cincinnati, he’s fit, confident and determined to claim the prize in Arthur Ashe Stadium in front of A-list supporters like Anna Wintour (who rarely misses his matches). Novak Djokovic edged the world’s number one in Montréal but he only needed to win a best of three duel to pull off that magnificent upset. The young Serb is simply not fit enough this year for 21 intense sets of winning tennis though. Other potentials to reach the finals are Rafael Nadal (who has never done well in New York), inconsistent 2006 finalist Andy Roddick, resurgent James Blake, emotional Cypriot Marcos Baghdatis and former champion Lleyton Hewitt, who has had a solid summer.
Sharapova won San Diego earlier this summer and pulled out of Los Angeles with some sort of leg injury. The leggy Russian is never-the-less gracing New York with her loud grunts and ferocious backhands intact. She’s rested and anxious to prove her doubtful critics wrong. Six slightly less publicized ladies will stand in her way; Justine Henin won Toronto but she isn’t fully match-tough; Serena Williams hasn’t played all summer and is a doubtful contender; and Wimbledon champion Venus is ready to back up her London miracle. Serbians Ana Ivanovic and Jelena Jankovic seem destined for an international breakthrough, while another Russian, Anna Chakvetadze, wants Gotham fans to finally memorize her excruciatingly difficult last name.
But Sharapova has already won in the celebrity fan department. “I think that she is one of the few young icons today that is meritorious, not just a celebutante,” noted tennis fan Vera Wang. “I think she is someone who proves that just because you are beautiful does not mean that you are not hardworking, accomplished and talented.” Fabiola Beracasa, whose boyfriend is a former tennis player, also reserved her highest esteem for Sharapova: “She’s a phenomenal athlete and I admire that she has a strong, healthy body. I was obviously surprised at how tall and blonde she was but I also admire her fashion sense. For a person of such a young age, she’s not afraid to find vintage pieces and take wonderful risks with her styling!” Wang, Beracasa, Oscar de La Renta, Bee Shaffer, Lauren Bush, Ralph and Dylan Lauren are some of the regulars expected at the grounds, along with Sheryl Crow, Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, and Katie Couric who have already reserved tickets to this year’s parade of tennis stars.
Parties and tennis player sightings are of course on top of everyone’s agenda this year. The Annual Taste of Tennis event will showcase cuisine created by celebrity chefs like Marcus Samuelsson and David Burke and served by tennis stars like Roddick and former US Open Champ Svetlana Kuznetsova. Sharapova will host a Nike party at Top of The Rock (the Rockefeller Centre), while Jancovic will treat guests to a Reebok brunch. Nobu 57 will be packed nightly with tennis stars like Nicole Vaidisova and Daniela Hantuchova, while players like Andy Murray and Tommy Haas will gather nightly at Nick Bollettieri’s Bar at the Radisson Lexington Hotel. Opening Night Gala will feature a grandiose tribute to Althea Gibson with a performance by Aretha Franklin and the rumored appearance of a megastar named Oprah. For some tennis stars though, old-fashioned entertainment in New York City reigns supreme. “I love musicals! They are the best!” exclaims Rafael Nadal. “I always go to Broadway and Times Square when I’m in town!”
— Valentine Uhovski