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My Visit to the 2021 US Open!

Updated: Aug 3, 2022

"It doesn't matter what your background is and where you come from. If you have dreams and goals, that's all that matters." -Serena Williams

This quote from Serena applies not only to tennis, but today on the 20th anniversary of 9/11, it also seems to embody the spirit of New York City. I can't tell you how happy I was to be back in the city this week, enjoying the resilient spirit of New York and visiting the US Open.



US Open

The excitement at the Open was palpable! Tennis fans are so happy to be back at live tennis events, and the players have missed us! We had day tickets in Arthur Ashe Stadium for the quarterfinals. We saw Daniil Medvedev vs. Botic Van de Zandschlup, followed by Leylah Fernandez vs. Elina Svitolina. We also popped over to the practice courts where we saw Alexander Zverev and Lloyd Harris practicing. We also saw Matteo Berrettini hitting with girlfriend Ajla Tomljanovic (isn't that so cute), but weren't in time to get any photos of them. We all had the obligatory HoneyDeuce cocktail. It's a lovely drink made with Grey Goose Vodka, Chambord, and garnished with honeydew melon balls. We thoroughly enjoyed out time at the Open and my only wish was to have more days there! Next time for sure!


Match point for Leylah Fernandez vs. Elina Svitolina

Alexander Zverev practice session

Lloyd Harris practice session


Inside the Ralph Lauren shop


Post Pandemic Observations

The biggest takeaway from my visit this week is how quiet the city seems. The usual bustling crowd was noticeably smaller this visit. I assume there are still lots of people working from home instead of commuting into the city. This combined with international travel restrictions and the new vaccination requirements within the city could also be a factor. Nevertheless, we enjoyed the streets being a little less crowded, and it seemed cleaner as well. There are lots of empty retail spaces, which is very sad of course. One of our favorite pubs where we used to watch tennis is no longer open. I know the city will bounce back, but in the meantime, the places we visited were filled with friendly staff, welcoming us in, and treating us to great service. Fashion Week, the Met Gala, and Broadway shows are all coming up in the weeks ahead and I hope this brings more people to the city we all love so much!


All of the restaurants we visited asked for proof of vaccination. We downloaded the NYC Covid Safe App prior to our trip. Simply upload a photo of your license and vaccination card into the App. One of our servers told us that on September 13th, the city will begin fines for offenders of this rule, so be aware if you're planning a trip soon.



New Updates to the New York City Guide


tennis

If you're like me, a long time dedicated tennis player, the idea of finding the perfect racquet, with the perfect string combination, strung at the perfect tension, can often feel like a search for Sasquatch. It can be exhausting, and seems so elusive. I've used several different racquets from Roger's Wilson Pro Staff, Serena's Wilson Blade (hello tennis elbow!), three different versions of the Wilson Clash, to the Babolat Pure Drive. I've used two different grip sizes, all poly string, hybrid string, tension at 55, tension at 48, and so on. I've spent hours researching online, taken advice from coaches, various salesclerks at pro shops, and none have been more informative than the time I spent with Roman Prokes at RPNY. There's a reason countless professional tennis players have trusted him with their racquets for decades- he knows his shit! He's never seen me play, but we discussed my level, how often I play, how I play, and what I want from my racquet and made a great suggestion for me. When I told him the racquet I've been using for the past two years, he said, "They've marketed the hell out of it, but it's probably the worst racquet for you." And I said to myself, "F#$&!" Basically, I was trying to get Ferrari performance out of a Mini Cooper. It didn't matter what I changed, how ever many different combinations, it would never be what I wanted. We worked through it all and I left with a new racquet, strung especially for my skillset. The best part? All of this knowledge, he gave me for free. He matched the major online tennis shop pricing and it was ready to pick up the next morning. I love this guy! Even if you can't get to his shop, you can reach him through email, DM, or phone. I only wish I knew about him sooner!


One of the things I learned from speaking with Roman at RPNY is that New York is not the easiest place for visitors to play. Most of the local clubs in Manhattan require membership, and the city parks require purchasing a usage pass. I always come to New York with a packed itinerary, but if you have the time, I would reach out to Coach AJ of Tennis Pro Consultant. He is a fitness coach, and tennis instructor. We connected just before I had to return home, but I wish I had the time to meet with him. He organizes the court, can take you on a hidden courts of Manhattan tour, can lead you or a group through an intense workout, or even give your kids a great tennis/training session. Follow him on Instagram @tennisproconsultant to see what he offers.



restaurants

Our first stop after checking into our hotel was the original PJ Clarke's for their famous oysters. They definitely lived up to the hype! The burgers and truffle fries were delish, and the fried calamari was uh.may.zing!



This is your classic New York Steakhouse. Dim mood lighting, draped in dark wood, and an air of tradition make this such a great place, not to mention everything is incredibly delicious. I'm slightly embarrassed to admit that we visited the bar at least three times during our visit. We popped in after attending a Yankee game on Labor Day, sat at the bar and feasted on a seafood tower and perfectly crafted cocktails mixed by the greatest bartenders, Stu and Aaron. Their french onion soup is a thing of beauty, their steaks prepared perfectly, the cheesecake is the best we've ever had, and I think the lasting memory of their Old Fashioned and Blue Cheese Martini's is enough to keep us coming back again and again. Needless to say, we loved it!




This beautiful bar was just across the street from our hotel and we ended every evening at this very hightop table where we shared a bottle of Prosecco, and watched the US Open night matches on a large projected screen. The staff were so welcoming and we couldn't think of a better place to wrap up the evening.


activities

Yes of course, we're tennis fans first, but baseball is America's pastime. I don't know about you, but I watched countless baseball games with my dad, played softball, watched my sons play baseball, and grew up loving baseball. There is so much tradition in the New York Yankees, I have to recommend you add it to your itinerary if you can. Buy an expensive hot dog, a cold beer, and enjoy a day in the Bronx. It's a beautiful stadium and visiting on Labor Day was so special.



shopping

Is there anything better than shopping in New York City? My only wish was that we had more time to shop. We visited Nike, Adidas, and Uniqlo on 5th Avenue to shop the newest tennis collections. I was shocked to bump into the gorgeous Karolina Pliskova shopping in Nike. It took me a moment to realize it was her and not her twin sister. I said worriedly, "Oh my gosh, aren't you playing tonight?" She replied, "Yes." I think she probably turned around and rolled her eyes, saying, "Cool it lady, I can shop, and play a semi-final match at the US Open on the same day, back off." She was kind enough to take a photo with me, and I'm sad she lost that night. On our last day we took the subway down to SoHo to visit the Wilson Pop-Up. The vibe in SoHo is always cool, lots of college students, but seemed really dirty with trash piled up on the sidewalks. Perhaps trash collection was the next day?


next time

So many great spots, so little time. Here are some of the places I wanted to visit, but couldn't get to. Let me know if you've been to any of these, I've love to hear about them!



If you've never been to the US Open, I would definitely add it to your bucket list. It's one of the most fun tournaments I've ever been to, not to mention New York City is an amazing place with so much to do! Don't forget to subscribe to keep up with all the fun tennis events and newest city guides!


XO,

Val


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