First-timer's guide to the U.S. Open

Fans take in a night match at Arthur

Fans take in a night match at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. (Credit: Getty Images)

Roger Federer, Venus Williams, Andy Roddick and the rest of tennis' top pros are coming to New York. The U.S. Open, which starts Monday at Flushing's Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, draws more than 700,000 fans annually - a testament to an event that's equal parts tennis elegance and New York pizzazz.

If this is your first foray into the world of U.S. Open tennis, here's how to find your way:

When to go

If you're a casual fan, a day-session pass during the first week is your best bet. With dozens of early-round matches to choose from, you won't lack for things to do. Night sessions at Arthur Ashe Stadium are also fun, and you're guaranteed to see some big-name players.

A grounds pass ($50-$58) gets you into the 10,000-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium, the cozy but popular Grandstand and all 15 outer courts. It does not include access to the 22,000-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, the Open's premiere venue.

An Arthur Ashe Stadium ticket ($56 for nosebleeds, $455 courtside) guarantees you a perch for top matches. You also have full grounds access.

Get your seat

Except at Arthur Ashe Stadium, seating is on a first-come-first-served basis. Lines generally are not too long (less than five minutes), with the exception of Louis Armstrong court, which tends to back up if there's a high-ranked player having a match. To be safe, line up 15-20 minutes before big-name matches to get the best seat possible.

What to wear

Dress casually - and don't be surprised to see serious afficionados decked out in tenniswear themselves. Prepare for hot, sticky weather. Wear comfortable shoes and apply lots of sunscreen.

3 tips for tennis manners

1. SHH! Shouting or cheering while the ball is in play is never OK. Don't do it.

2. APPLAUSE Loud cheering is tolerated somewhat more liberally at the U.S. Open than at other major tournaments. But polite applause is always allowed.

3. SIT STILL Avoid leaving your seat while the ball is in play. It distracts the players at smaller courts where the seats are at eye-level. If you use the facilities or a concession stand, remember that ushers will not let you back to your seat until there is a break in play. You'll have to wait for the players to change sides, which occurs after every two games of a match.

5 tips on things to do at the Open

1. Plan your day.

Use the big scoreboard in the central plaza to see who's playing on which courts and when.

2. Get an autograph.

The best spot to hang out is near the practice courts, where players frequently walk by on the way to matches. Autograph sessions also will be held at the SmashZone and on Family Day (tomorrow), including book signings by Venus Williams and Andre Agassi.

3. See a match on the Grandstand court.

Soak in the atmosphere as the 7 train rolls by and listen to the roar coming from the adjacent courts.

4. Hit the outer courts.

At Courts 5 and 9, you can get so close to the action, you can literally reach over the fence and touch the playing surface itself. Watch 135-mph serves whiz by at eye level and imagine yourself out there.

5. Eavesdrop on the practice courts.

It may be your best spot to see a star at work. At ground-level, the courts are obscured by black screens. But climb up the bleachers on Court 4 and you'll have an unobstructed view.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Tennis videos

Related Stories

Vote

Who will win the U.S. Open men's title?

Rafael Nadal Roger Federer Novak Djokovic Mikhail Youzhny

advertisement | advertise on newsday