For one week, the grounds of the U.S. Open belong to the fans.
From Monday through Sunday, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park will host free music, food and other activities, along with a chance to catch some of the top tennis players in the world warming up for the Grand Slam event.
“The U.S. Open is our biggest opportunity to bring tennis to the masses — to give people the opportunity to see this sport up close and personal,” said USTA spokesman Brendan McIntyre.
For years, it was a well-known secret shared by die-hard tennis fans: You can catch qualifying matches and roam the grounds without a ticket the week before the tournament started. But now, the USTA has embraced the week and christened it “Fan Week.”
The organization uses Fan Week as a way to reach out to new fans and tennis lovers who can’t afford pricey tickets to the internationally-popular tournament. U.S. Open matches officially start Aug. 26.
A series of matches between tennis legends also will take place during Fan Week, including a contest between former U.S. Open champion John McEnroe and Jim Courier. Other matches include Andy Roddick vs. James Blake, and a women’s doubles match including Martina Navratilova, Tracy Austin, Lindsay Davenport and Arantxa Sanchez Vicario.
A first-ever “Open Pride” event also is planned to celebrate the LGBTQ community. Tennis great and trailblazer Billie Jean King will join other LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ athletes in a panel discussion “Love All — An Open Conversation.”
Also for the first time, fans can watch players practice inside Arthur Ashe Stadium, which is usually closed to the public during fan week.
“[In] what other sport do fans have the opportunity to see players practice right before the biggest event of the year,” McIntyre said. “This would be like fans getting a chance to walk in the week before the Super Bowl and see the two teams getting ready.”
Indie rock band LANY is set to perform live on Wednesday, followed by country music star Brett Eldredge on Thursday and singer Leon Bridges on Friday.
Wednesday is also designated “Queens Day” in honor of the U.S Open’s home borough, with accompanying local performers and exhibitions, and the annual Arthur Ashe Kids Day will be held on Saturday with live entertainment and activities.
All Fan Week events are free, but some require a ticket. For more information go to usopen.org/fanweek.