As top tennis players sweat it out for million-dollar prizes, some U.S. Open visitors are saying: So what? Who cares?
"We have no desire to go inside," said Denise Courter, 43, of Manhattan, who was chatting with friends at the bar facing Arthur Ashe Stadium, glasses of prosecco and wine sweating, too. "This is our dream. We all took the day off from work to hang out at the bar at the U.S. Open."
Though the event draws legions of hard-core tennis devotees, some in attendance skip matches or cut out for a break from the action, favoring the boulevard of bars, lounges and tents with top-shelf drink sponsors.
There's Grey Goose, Heineken, Moët. There are lounges and terraces with white sofas. Center court, it seems, is not always the main draw.
"I marvel at the fact that if you come to Arthur Ashe Stadium, you could find people sitting at the restaurant or at the bar in the middle of the match who have possibly paid $500 to $1,000 for a seat," said Danny Zausner, chief operating officer at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. "They get distracted by the ambience."
Not that Zausner or anyone else in charge of the event was complaining. The parade of bars served as an enticing lure for casual fans more than willing to part with their money in exchange for a drink.
Zausner said by the end of the Open this weekend, visitors will have ordered nearly 100,000 Honey Deuces, the Grey Goose concoction created several years ago for the last stop on the Grand Slam circuit
Erika Alter, 38, of Brooklyn, was with Courter at an outdoor establishment with a name that left no doubt what awaited visitors: Wine Bar & Food.
She said this year she bought tickets for just the ground floor "so we didn't have to bother about going in."
She recalled ditching a Serena Williams match last year, much to her husband's horror. At his insistence, the couple took their seats to catch Andy Murray play his match that same evening.
"Long story short, this year no husbands were invited," Alter said.
For Elizabeth Rodriguez, 51, of Manhattan, watching Murray or any other pro was less of a priority than searching out like-minded fans who place a premium on socializing.
"The first thing I do," Rodriguez said as she left the bar, a glass of Moët Champagne in hand, "is find all my old friends. . . . We say hello, and then we mosey on over to tennis."
Rodriguez said she comes for the tennis of course, but stays "to meet up with people and to have a drink, some food, and catch up."
Dani Reis, 23, of Manhattan, who had stopped near the Moët lounge and was on her second Grey Goose drink, said the Open is far more than just a place to watch the best tennis players on the planet.
"It's a scene," Reis said.
The Open is, in many ways, a marathon spectator event, with fans spending 50 percent of a long hot day in their seats.
For those moments when a change of scenery and maybe some shade is in order, the bars, lounges and pop-up social scene are a welcome respite, Zausner said.
"It's a slice of paradise," he said. It's like going to the Caribbean Islands. Everywhere has something to offer."