U.S. Open activities are a Grand Slam

Indijhan Richard of Brooklyn, 6, practices at a

Indijhan Richard of Brooklyn, 6, practices at a hitting station during Arthur Ashe Kids Day at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing. (Aug. 25, 2012) (Credit: Barry Sloan)

The U.S. Open is New York's one guaranteed world-class sports event every single year, and even people who have never picked up a racket want to see the two weeks of action at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center -- a venue that just got slated for a $550 million expansion, including a retractable roof, by 2018.

But you don't have to wait years to see great tennis. Beginning Monday, Serena Williams and Andy Murray will be defending their respective titles, and they'll be joined by the likes of Maria Sharapova, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. The one thing you can be sure of is that mighty players will topple, and someone you've never heard of will play like a dream.

There's lots of info in the Open's Fan Guide (usta.usopen.org/US-Open/ us_open_fan_guide), and here are a few extra tips.

ARTHUR ASHE KIDS' DAY

Saturday brings something that many look forward to even more than the tournament: a free day of fun for kids and parents (aakd.com). There are tons of interactive games in the morning, including Beat the Pro and the IBM Speedzone for measuring a serve's pace. Or you can just choose to watch the pros practice all day. Although the 1 p.m. stadium concert is sold out, there's also a free concert with Megan Nicole and others at the Hess Express Stage at 10 a.m.

DOUBLE THE FUN

The men's, women's and mixed doubles tournaments are all too frequently overlooked. Imagine: twice as many great players on the court at the same time, and the chance to see teamwork in action. (Will American brothers Bob and Mike Bryan recapture the men's title this year?) Doubles is sometimes included in the day or evening sessions on the stadium courts, but there's tons of it in progress on the smaller courts. You can graze all of them (singles, too) with a grounds admission ($64.50 and up, 866-OPENTIX, usta.us open.org/US-Open/individual_tickets).

FOOD & DRINK

Sometimes it seems like the tournament is actually a food-a-thon first and a sports event second. A newcomer to the many options in the Food Village this year is NYC favorite Hill Country BBQ, offering a chopped brisket sandwich ($15); wash that down with a Honey Deuce ($14), the Open's signature vodka cocktail, from the Grey Goose Bar. Old favorites are also making changes. The Oyster Bar has a big new menu of seafood items, and the East Plaza grill has added a Pat LaFrieda filet mignon steak sandwich, topped with Monterey Jack cheese and sweet caramelized onions on a baguette ($16).

LOGISTICS

Save yourself the driving hassle. The LIRR (which has special service for the two weeks) and the good old NYC subway are the best ways to get to the tournament, and Mets-Willets Point is the stop for both.

As always, security is tight, so check their site before you bring anything into the grounds (usta.usopen.org/US- Open/what_can_you_bring).

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