Kinky Boots and Tennis Shoes – New York, USA

We loved attending the US Open Tennis Championships so much in 2014 that we couldn’t resist another visit while in the USA.  To make the most of our time in New York I thought it would be a good idea to take the night flight from Phoenix.  Steve was sceptical.  The flight left Phoenix at 11.59pm and arrived into New York at 7.30am – I didn’t factor the time difference into my calculations : 0. New York is three hours ahead of Phoenix so we were going to be landing at 4.30am Phoenix time.  No problems, four hours sleep will be enough as long as we can sleep on the plane.  We did manage to sleep but it wasn’t the best quality sleep we’ve ever had – we both had very weird dreams.  I dreamt Steve was flying this small plane and we were about to crash – I woke up and realised I was on a big plane and Steve was nowhere near the cockpit!  The other dream involved being on a bus with all these famous tennis players and one of my friend’s husbands (Paul Martens) was causing havoc and I was working out how to tell his wife (Debbie Martens) that he had been misbehaving although she is well used to it 😜.

We decided we were going to navigate the Subway into the city.  First you catch the AirTrain to Jamaica Station and then get on the E Train.  The AirTrain services all the Terminals at JFK and costs USD5.  Once we got to Jamaica Station we purchased a MetroCard – USD2.75 gets you right into downtown New York.  We had wisely used ShipSticks to ship our golf clubs from Phoenix to Orlando so we didn’t need to lug the body bag on the Subway.  It’s so easy with only a suitcase each!

We found our hotel easily – we stayed in Even Hotel Times Square South.  They promote themselves as a wellness hotel with their tagline being Experience Wellness Your Way. Stay Well On The Road.  They have a 24 hour gym and exercise equipment in every room.  They had a selection of naturally flavoured waters at reception and a restaurant promoting healthy food.  Obviously this place resonated well with me – Mr Thomas, not so much from the fitness side of things but he did like the flavoured water!  Given it was only about 9.30am we couldn’t check in so we put our bags into storage and went in search of food.  The hotel said they would email us when the room was ready. 

It was Sunday of the Labour Day long weekend so the city was pumping.  It also happened to be Brazil Day so some of the streets around Times Square all the way down to Central Park were closed and there were market stalls everywhere and music playing.  There were a lot of people wearing Brazil shirts.  You hear so many different languages being spoken.  We made our way to Central Park where we thought we would have a little lie down under a tree – we were starting to feel the effects of our less than ideal quality, four hours sleep.  As you get closer to Central Park you start being hounded by the guys hiring bicycles, horse drawn carriage rides and cyclo rides.  It is like swatting away flies and being tired probably didn’t help our tolerance levels.  We found a nice shady spot and I checked my emails – the hotel had emailed to say our room was ready – it was only 12pm – how good was that!

We meandered back to the hotel and promptly fell asleep for a good three hours.  Feeling refreshed we then got tidied up for our night at the theatre – we had tickets to Kinky Boots at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre.  This musical came highly recommended by some friends who had seen it and it didn’t disappoint.  We loved our first theatre experience in New York and would have to say it was the best musical we have ever seen.  The props and singing were amazing.

The story was about a shoe business that had been owned and operated by the same family for years.  The father was priming the son to take over but the son wasn’t really interested and was pursuing the highlife in London.  The father died unexpectedly so the son returned to run the business albeit not very successfully.  A chance meeting with a transvestite inspired him to change the direction of the business and Kinky Boots was born.  There are lots of good messages in the musical and I would go and see it again in a heartbeat.  

From Kinky Boots to Tennis Shoes as we headed out to Flushing Meadows to watch some round of 16 matches.  As I do, I studied the public transport maps and came up with a plan.  We were going to walk down to Penn Station and catch the Long Island Light Rail (LILR) out to Mets Willet – two stops, 29 minutes and we would be there.  As we were going into Penn Station to buy some tickets these two guys who were selling some sort of tour tickets said to us “I bet you’re going to the tennis” and to Steve ” you look like a golfer” (Steve’s wardrobe basically consists of golf clothes).  We said we were and they were like “what are you doing going in here?”.  I said we are going to catch the LILR and they said don’t do that it’s too expensive, you gotta catch the 7 train.  They were so insistent but very friendly – they pointed us in the direction of the Subway and told us to catch the E train to Times Square and then get on the 7 train.   We felt compelled as they were trying so hard to save us money so off we went.  I think we saved about USD3.25 each per trip.  I had looked at this option and although cheaper it takes nearly twice as long.  The other point to note was we had already purchased MetroCards which you can’t use on the LILR.   We got to the tennis no problems so all’s well that ends well.

We had tickets to Arthur Ashe which is the main stadium. -these tickets also get you into the general seating on all the other courts.  First up on Arthur Ashe was Juan Martin Del Potro from Argentina versus Dominc Theim from Austria.  We were really excited to see this match as Del Potro is making a comeback after battling a wrist injury and Theim is an up and coming star who has played really well this year.  Unfortunately Theim retired after the first set due to an injury – a bit ironic really. 

Juan Martin Del Potro (known on the tour as Delpo)

He was born in Argentina and is aged 28 years old.  He is 6 foot 6 inches tall, weighs 97kg and plays right handed.  He has played in 7 US Opens and won the title back in 2009 defeating Roger Federer.  He turned pro in 2005 and has earnt USD15 million in prize money to date.

Dominic Theim

He was born in Austria and is aged 23 years old.  He is 6 foot 1 inch tall, weighs 82kgs and plays right handed.  He has played in 2 US Opens and is currently ranked number 7 in the world.  He turned pro in 2011 and has earnt USD4 million in prize money to date.

The next game on Arthur Ashe was between Venus Williams and Karolina Pliskova.  Playing on Louis Armstrong at the same time was Stan Wawrinka and Illya Marchenko.  We always like to support the Swiss players and we have seen Venus play a few times so we decided to go over to Louis Armstrong and see if we could get a seat which we did.  We watched the first two sets which Stan won quite easily and then saw that Venus and Karolina were going to three sets.  

Stan Wawrinka 

He was born in Switzerland and is aged 31 years old.  He is 6 feet tall, weighs 81kgs and plays right handed.  He has played in 11 US Opens and is currently ranked number 3 in the world.  He turned pro in 2002 and has earnt USD23 million in prize money to date.  

Illya Marchenko

He was born in the Ukraine and is aged 29 years old.  He is 6 foot 1 inch tall, weighs 84kgs and plays right handed.  He has played in 3 US Opens.  He turned pro in 2006 and has earnt USD1.5 million in prize money to date.

We got back to Arthur Ashe in time for the third set between Venus and Karolina.  It was a good game and went all the way to a tie break.  The power seesawed between the two and both woman played some great tennis.  Right up to the tie break I thought Venus would win but Karolina over powered her in the tie break to win 7 – 3.  Karolina holds the record on the woman’s tour for the most Aces.

Venus Williams

She was born in the USA and is aged 36 years old.  She is 6 foot 1 inch tall, weighs 73kgs and plays right handed.  She has played in 17 US Opens and won the event in 2000 and 2001.   She turned pro in 1994 and has earnt USD34 million in prize money to date.

Karolina Pliskova

She was born in the Czech Republic and is aged 24 years old.  She is 6 foot 1 inch tall, weighs 72kgs and plays right handed.  She has played in 4 US Opens.  She turned pro in 2009 and has earnt USD4.5 million in prize money to date.

Next up was Serena Williams versus Yaroslava Shvedova.   We had only seen Serena play doubles before so we were looking forward to seeing this game.  As of September 5, 2016, she has been ranked world No.1 for 186 consecutive weeks, setting the joint record for the most consecutive weeks as world No.1 by a female tennis player, and 309 weeks overall. Williams is regarded by commentators, players and sports writers as the greatest female tennis player of all time.  Serena won the match easily 6-2, 6-3 and broke Roger Federer’s record of 307 grand slam games won.

Serena Williams 

She was born in the USA and is aged 34 years old. She is 5 foot 9 inches tall, weighs 70kgs and plays right handed. She has played in 17 US Opens and has won the event 6 times. She turned pro in 1995 and has earnt USD81 million in prize money to date.

Yaroslava Shvedova

She was born in Russia and is aged 28 years old. She is 5 foot 11 inches tall, weighs 70kgs and plays right handed. She has played in 9 US Opens. She turned pro in 2005 and has earnt USD5.6 million in prize money to date.

We then checked out the new 10,000 seat Grandstand.  The stadium was designed by the firm Rossetti, which was also behind the iconic Arthur Ashe Stadium. The new tennis space will have increased capacity, with nearly 2,000 more seats throughout its 125,000 square feet of space.  It was a nice looking stadium and the only Kiwi playing in the US Open, Marcus Daniell, happened to be playing in the men’s doubles.  Marcus and his partner, Brian Baker from the USA were playing the top seeds,  Jamie Murray (Andy Murray’s brother) and Bruno Soares.  Murray and Soares went on to win this game as well as the US Open title.

We caught the 7 train back to our hotel and found a great little tapas bar for dinner.  We had walked around the corner from the hotel and nothing was jumping out at us so we decided to head up towards 7th Avenue via 38th Street.  Steve said, we won’t find anything down here – it looked like there was nothing on the street at all and then wallah.  It was called District Tap House and they had these little booths with individual TV’s so we carried on watching the night session at the tennis while we had our dinner.

We also had tickets for Arthur Ashe on the Tuesday but the day session didn’t start until 12pm.  I decided to take a walk downtown in the morning. – everyone was back to work after the long weekend.  I walked towards Pennsylvania Station and there was a constant throng of people coming at me.  It was quite energising to be out among it. – New York is a crazy city and you see all sorts of sights – lots of homeless people, fashionistas, suits, people ranting and raving at each other but it’s fascinating as an outsider looking in.  It is one of those experiences that is hard to describe – you really have to experience it for yourself.

We were feeling pretty proficient at this subway business now so decided to catch the E train to Times Square from just outside our hotel in order to connect to the 7 train.  Confusion over whether we were going Uptown or Downtown saw us hop on the train going the wrong way.  Off at the next station, through the tunnel under the tracks and onto the train going the other way!

Despite our little faux pas we made it to the tennis in good time and checked out the sponsors displays.  Met a Kiwi guy at the Wilson stand, he has been here on a working visa for the past nine months and is loving it.  We took part in a fun video shoot with a massive tennis racket.  Next stop was the Evian Water stand where I had to tweet something to get a free bottle of water.  Someone then told us we could get our photo taken with the trophy at the Mercedes stand so off we went there.

Now for the actual tennis – this was the first day of the Quarterfinals.  First up on Arthur Ashe was Angelique Kerber the current world number two versus Roberta Vinci who had risen to worldwide prominence at the 2015 US Open, when she reached the semi-finals and defeated world number one Serena Williams in three sets, ending Williams’s hopes of winning the Calendar Grand Slam, in what has been described by numerous commentators as one of the biggest shocks in tennis history.   She went on to lose to Flavia Pennetta in the first ever all-Italian Grand Slam final.

Unfortunately it wasn’t to be Roberta’s day and Angie Kerber won in two sets 7-5, 6-0.

Angelique Kerber

She was born in Germany and is aged 28 years old. She is 5 foot 8 inches tall, weighs 68kgs and plays left handed. She has played in 8 US Opens.   She won the Australian Open in January this year.  She turned pro in 2003 and has earnt USD14 million in prize money to date.

Roberta Vinci

She was born in Italy and is aged 33 years old. She is 5 foot 4 inches tall, weighs 60kgs and plays right handed. She has played in 14 US Opens.  She turned pro in 1999 and has earnt USD11 million in prize money to date.  

Next up was one of our favourite players, Gael Monfils versus fellow Frenchman Lucas Pouille.  Lucas Pouille had upset Rafa Nadal in the round of 16 which was a bit frustrating for us as we still haven’t been able to see him play live!  Gael Monfils is normally a showman and very entertaining to watch, however, he was very focused during this match and won in straight sets 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.  The only other Grand Slam semi final that he had played in was the French Open in 2008.

Gael Monfils

He was born in France and is aged 30 years old. He is 6 feet 4 inches tall, weighs 80kgs and plays right handed. He has played in 9 US Opens and is currently ranked number 10 in the world. He turned pro in 2004 and has earnt USD11 million in prize money to date.  

Lucas Pouille 

He was born in France and is aged 22 years old. He is 6 feet 1 inches tall, weighs 81kgs and plays right handed. He has played in 1 US Opens and is currently ranked number 24 in the world. He turned pro in 2012 and has earnt USD1.8 million in prize money to date.  

They ended up having to close the roof part way through this match so that was quite cool to see – it takes about 7 minutes to close.

The final game was being played on Louis Armstrong before it undergoes a major renovation so we thought we would pop over there and check it out.  The last game was a men’s doubles quarterfinal between the Bryan Brothers, Mike & Bob and Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez who are not brothers, they just happen to share the same last name.  The Bryan Brothers are from the US and are major tennis icons having dominated the men’s doubles for many years – they have played in 21 US Opens and have won 114 doubles titles.  It was quite fitting that they featured in the last match on Louis Armstrong.  Unfortunately they went down to the two Lopez’s.

I am only just completing this blog as the men’s final played out.  We watched both the women’s and men’s finals on TV in Orlando.  The women’s final between Angelique Kerber and Karolina Pliskova went to three sets with Angelique Kerber being victorious.  She also rose to number one in the world as Serena Williams failed to make it to the semi finals.
The men’s final between Novak Djokovich and Stan Wawrinka went to four sets and I was so excited that Stan won given our affinity with Switzerland.  

I read this on the Internet and hoped that Stan would show them that he is the Man!

“Weird and bizzarre question by a journalist to Stan Wawrinka after the match won against Juan Martin Del Potro on Wednesday evening.

‘I wonder what motivates you? You won two slams, you are very rich, you’ll never catch Federer, Nadal, Djokovic’s number of trophies, but anyone knows on a good day you can beat them – the reporter said – So frankly, I think that one more slam will not change much. What makes you work?’

Wawrinka’s reply was so funny: ‘So what should I do? (Smiling.) I’m 31 years old. What do you want me to do? Just go to the beach? Not doing anything? I don’t know.’. he said.

‘Did you ask that question to Rafa also or to Novak or to Andy? I think I love my sport. I enjoy to play tennis. It’s my passion. I started when I was really young. I have the chance to play in front of an amazing crowd playing a fantastic match like tonight. If you just look the match tonight you have the answer. It’s an amazing feeling to be out there…'”

We were happy that we got to see these two winners play during the two days we were there.

Louis Armstrong Stadium

It wasn’t even built for tennis. In fact, long before Louis Armstrong Stadium hosted some of the most memorable matches in the annals of the sport, before Connors and Krickstein, before Seles and Capriati sparred upon its cement floor, it was known as the Singer Bowl, an aging remnant of the 1964 World’s Fair.

Jimi Hendrix played there. So did The Doors, The Who. Heavyweight Floyd Patterson fought there. But as fate would have it, incoming USTA President Slew Hester, in search of a new home of the US Open (then played in nearby Forest Hills), spotted the then-shuttered facility from his window seat on a flight out of LaGuardia. It was destiny. When it reopened in 1978 with 18,000 seats, renamed for the famed jazz trumpeter who lived in Queens at the time of his death, it was the largest tennis-only venue in the world.

Over the next two decades – until it was eclipsed by the sparkling 23,771-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium in 1997 – Armstrong would serve as the center court for the year-end Slam, an epicenter of the tennis world. Alas, some 43 after it was originally constructed, Armstrong will be leveled after the 2016 US Open, making way for a second roofed facility. USOpen.org looks back at 10 moments from across the years:

August 29, 1978: Bjorn Borg and Bob Hewitt square off in the first match ever played in Louis Armstrong Stadium, Borg topping the South African, 6-0, 6-2. The Swede would go on to reach the final, falling to Jimmy Connors, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2. It’s the second runner-up finish for the future Hall of Famer at the US Open, a title that would elude him his entire career.

September 8, 1979: In the 100th anniversary of the US Open, a pigtailed 16-year-old named Tracy Austin becomes the youngest champion in tournament history, shocking four-time titlist Chris Evert, 6-4, 6-3.

September 13, 1981: John McEnroe roars back from a set down to deny Bjorn Borg in the final, 4-6, 6-2, 6-4, 6-3, winning his third straight US Open and effectively ending the Swede’s career. Following the loss, which assured McEnroe the No. 1 year-end ranking, Borg walks off the court and straight to the parking lot, skipping the trophy presentation and post-match press conference.  

September 8, 1984: Beginning at 11:07 a.m., Armstrong plays host to four straight blockbusters on Super Saturday, a drama-filled morning-‘til-night saga that is still considered by many to be the greatest day in tennis history. Stan Smith defeats John Newcombe, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2; Ivan Lendl saves a match point in edging Pat Cash, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-7, 7-6; Martina Navratilova captures her second straight title, defeating Chris Evert, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4; and John McEnroe and Jimmy Connors linger until 11:14 p.m., McEnroe eliminating the two-time defending champion, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.

September 10, 1988: Nineteen-year-old Steffi Graff puts the finishing touches on one of the most dominant season in the annals of tennis, capping a Golden Slam (all four majors and the Olympic gold medal) by topping Gabriela Sabatini, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1.

September 5, 1989: Following her 7-6, 6-2 quarterfinal loss to Zina Garrison in Armstrong, Chris Evert waves goodbye to an adoring crowd for the last time, the final Grand Slam match of her storied career. “I’m real emotional,” says Garrison. “I cried, but Chris is so unemotional. That’s just Chris.”

September 2, 1991: En route to the semifinals, a supposedly beyond-his-prime Jimmy Connors, a wildcard entrant, celebrates his 39th birthday with an epic 3-6, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 fourth-round triumph over Aaron Krickstein, a match filled with drama, fist-pumps and momentum swings, and one that would become rain-delay fodder for decades to come.

September 9, 1995: Playing only her second tournament since she was stabbed in April 1993, Monica Seles roars into the women’s singles final, where she and longtime rival Steffi Graf play a match for the ages. Despite a second-set bagel, Graf wins her fourth US Open title and her 18th major overall.

September 5, 1996: A dehydrated Pete Sampras literally guts it out against Alex Corretja in the quarterfinals. Despite losing his proverbial lunch on court and at times being rendered immobile, Sampras prevails, 7-6, 5-7, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6.

September 3, 2013: With rain delays scattering marquee matches across the grounds of the USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center, Roger Federer’s fourth-round tilt is moved to Armstrong, marking the first time the Swiss legend has played outside Ashe Stadium since 2006. Federer, one win shy of a first-ever US Open showdown with Rafael Nadal, falls to No. 19 seed Tommy Robredo in straight sets, his first loss to the Spaniard in 11 head-to-head matchups.

The United States Open Tennis Championships – History (reprinted from my blog completed in September 2014)

The United States Open Tennis Championships is a hardcourt tennis tournament which is the modern iteration of one of the oldest tennis championships in the world, the U.S. National Championship, for which men’s singles was first contested in 1881. Since 1987, the US Open has been chronologically the fourth and final tennis major comprising the Grand Slam each year; the other three are the Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon.

The tournament was first held in August 1881 on the grass courts at the Newport Casino, Newport, Rhode Island and in that first year only clubs that were members of the United States National Lawn Tennis Association (USNLTA) were permitted to enter. In 1915 the national championship was relocated from Newport, Rhode Island to the West Side Tennis Club at Forest Hills, New York. A From 1921 through 1923, the tournament was played at the Germantown Cricket Club in Philadelphia and it returned to Forest Hills in 1924

Since 1978, the tournament has been played on acrylic hard courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at New York City, New York, United States.

In 1973 the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to award equal prize money to men and women with that year’s singles champions John Newcombe and Margaret Court both receiving $25,000. The winners in 2013 each received $1,900,000. In 1978 the tournament moved from the West Side Tennis Club, Forest Hills, Queens to the larger USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, in the process switching the surface from clay, used in the last three years at Forest Hills, to hard courts. Jimmy Connors is the only individual to have won US Open singles titles on all three surfaces (grass, clay, hardcourt), while Chris Evert is the only woman to win on two surfaces (clay, hardcourt).

The main court is located at the 22,547-seat Arthur Ashe Stadium, opened in 1997. It is named after Arthur Ashe, the African American tennis player who won the men’s final of the inaugural US Open in 1968. The next largest court is the Louis Armstrong Stadium, opened in 1978, extensively renovated from the Singer Bowl, which was built for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It has a capacity of 10,200. 

About SUNGRL

This blog was originally set up to share our 9 month adventure around Europe and the USA with friends and family in 2014. On returning to NZ in January 2015 I decided to carry it on so I could continue to share any future travel adventures - it has become my electronic travel diary. I hope you enjoy and get inspired to visit some of the wonderful places we have visited.
This entry was posted in New York, USA, United States of America. Bookmark the permalink.

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