The A-List Guide to the U.S. Open
This story first appeared in the Sept. 6 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
On the tennis court, love means nothing. But when it comes to the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, love also can mean the outpouring of perks showered on VIPs.
The 132-year-old tournament -- which runs Aug. 26 to Sept. 9 at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., and airs on CBS and ESPN -- ranks as one of the sports world's most accommodating events when it comes to cosseting famed fans. To access the 22,500-capacity Arthur Ashe Stadium, where the highest-profile matches take place, big names are whisked through the private President's Gate. Inside, the United States Tennis Association holds back 15 to 50 VIP courtside seats and puts its most favored visitors such as Nicole Kidman and Jerry Seinfeld in the all-important President's Suite. Players also host family and friends in their own boxes; a regular guest of five-time U.S. Open champion Roger Federer is his superfan, Vogue editor-in-chief and dedicated amateur player Anna Wintour, who threw his 31st birthday party at NYC's The Beatrice Inn in August 2012. Says Wintour, "I find my time at the U.S. Open to be a welcome change of pace and a chance to see the best of the best."
Several brands sponsor luxury suites, with the Moet & Chandon and Heineken lounges considered the biggest celebrity magnets. Prices for the boxes soar above $70,000 for semifinal and finals matches. "There is not a single sporting event that comes close to what we do to surround our event with overall experiences," says USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier, who cites elevated options like the addition this year of a pop-up from the famed Grand Central Oyster Bar.
This year's women's favorites include 2012 victor Serena Williams and Australian Open champ Victoria Azarenka; men's favorites include 2012 winner Andy Murray, top-ranked Novak Djokovic and second-ranked Rafael Nadal. U.S. Open fan Kevin Spacey tells THR he already has a favorite: "Go Andy Murray!" Showbiz CEOs who attend regularly include CBS' Leslie Moonves, Sony Music Entertainment's Doug Morris and Epic Records' L.A. Reid.
The USTA has sold out of finals tickets, and while resales are available through sites like StubHub, prices are steep -- as high as $8,500 courtside and about $140 for nosebleeds. "Going to the U.S. Open is such an amazing experience. You get to watch all of these athletes while sitting next to huge stars and Fortune 500 CEOs," says The Newsroom's Olivia Munn, who adds jokingly, "It's fantastic for your self-esteem."