New York – there’s no place quite like it.
For a Kansas boy, it thrills and chills me with every visit. Senses are heightened. Every thing is just better or worse depending what view you want to take. Spectacular scenery, the hustle and bustle, the drama, great art, wonderful fashion, fascinating people from celebrities to the down and out – New York teems with it all.
That’s why no tennis tournament can match the US Open. It has all that New York can offer. The roaring masses in Arthur Ashe Stadium, celebrity sightings, drama growing with each round, player’s skills that are an exquisite art form and fashion everywhere make for two wonderful weeks.
Forget about the upcoming football season for a few weeks. Don’t worry about the pennant races. (The Yankees are going to win it all over the Cardinals.) Come home at night and tune to the US Open tennis. Sit back and enjoy.
Wimbledon has the grass, strawberries and cream. The French has the quirky clay courts with players sliding from shot to shot. The Australian has the heat and that wonderful Aussie spirit. None own the night, though.
The US Open comes alive at night. Maybe it is because this tournament reminds all that summer days are now waning. The crowds become even louder, more boisterous. The drama heightens as matches drag on deep into night and early morning. Remember an aging Jimmy Connors, fists pumping with every winner, finally defeating Patrick McEnroe in the fifth set at 1:30 in the morning in 1991? Connors would come back with another historic match that year, another gut wrenching, five-setter, over Aaron Krickstein before falling the in the finals.
All the greats have lit up the night, but two stand out in my mind as true reflections of the New York spirit – Pete Sampras and Michael Chang. Sampras is believed by many to be tennis’ greatest player. He has won 14 grand slam titles and won the US Open five times. Chang only reached the finals once. None of that matters.
What matters is the fight they both showed in almost all of their matches. Chang once lost a five hour 26 minute match, the longest in US Open history, to Stephan Edberg. Sampras seemed dead so often, announcers all but delivered his eulogy. Both would cramp, throw up, stumble and tumble. Then they’d lift themselves up and somehow drag themselves through the next point, the next game, the next set, and the match. Their matches took so long because no opponent could ever break their spirit.
The same can be said of the greatest city in the world.