Experiencing US Open Tennis with SPG Amex

As part of this 2012 SPG Amex Star blogger gig I received free access to the official American Express Starwood Preferred Guest Credit Cardmember  event at the 2012 US Open.

There was not much information provided to me prior to the event and I had no idea what to expect. My understanding is 85 tickets were sold exclusively to SPG Amex cardmembers for $165 per ticket for the September 5, 2012 event from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Turns out that was a pretty good deal in my opinion after attending the event and seeing what was provided with the Amex SPG cardmember deal for the US Open event.

$165 for the SPG Amex event included lower promenade seating at Arthur Ashe Stadium ($105 value), a gift bag (SPG cap, SPG luggage tag) and a cocktail reception with Lindsay Davenport, former #1 ranked tennis player in the world and the 1998 US Open Women’s Singles winner.

Lindsay is also a Californian. 

Take the #7 train to Shea Stadium

Unlike my travel to many cities, I arrived at JFK Airport without pre-printed directions for travel from the airport. My flight time meant I needed to go directly from the airport to the tennis event. I asked the New York Visitor Center how to get to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The young woman working the booth had no idea where the tennis center was located and did not even know what I was talking about when I mentioned the US Open tennis tournament. She transferred me to another representative.

Take the Air Train to the E Train to the #7 Train were the directions marked on my subway map of New York. The Air Train fee is $5.00 to get to the train station at Jamaica Center. The subway fare is only $2.25 to travel throughout the city on the subway. I was at the National Tennis Center within an hour.

I liked this advertisement on the subway train.

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“What the Helsinki…Let’s Travel.”

Mets-Willets Point station at Flushing Meadows in Queens is where Shea Stadium was located. That stadium was torn down in 2008-09 and in its place is Citi Field stadium, home of the New York Mets. The USTA Tennis Center is the opposite direction of Citi Field about a five minute walk from the subway train stop.

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Citi Field stadium is current home of New York Mets baseball team.

The National Tennis Center is a large complex featuring Arthur Ashe Stadium in the center and several other tennis courts, food, bars and vendor shops.

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Arthur Ashe Stadium seen from the subway stop at Mets-Willets Point.

There was a storage room where I checked my suitcase for $5.00 prior to entering the Tennis Center.

Flushing Meadows Corona Park was also the site of the New York World’s Fair in 1939-40 and 1964-65.

SPG Amex Hospitality Suite event

I arrived at the Tennis Center Hospitality Pavilion around 5:45pm. The building had multiple rooms with several corporate sponsored parties happening. The SPG Amex event was scheduled for 5-7pm.

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I had not eaten all day since boarding a plane in Monterey, California at 5:50am followed by a direct walk onto an American Airlines 767 in LAX and then a rush to get to the National Tennis Center from JFK.

Inside the SPG event I was greeted at the counter and asked to sign a filming waiver. There were professional videographers working the event.

I made a straight shot for the bar where I downed two glasses of water and then headed over to the food table where there were what appeared to me 31-40/pound size shrimp, grilled asparagus and salmon. There were several other food selections including some nice meaty bites, but I only wanted surf and greens after a day of flying.

I plopped myself down in a chair at the only empty table near the food counter. One or two bites into my seafood platter someone says to me,

“You are sitting in my chair.”

Looking up at this woman, I immediately said, “Lindsay?”

Lindsay Davenport told me I could stay seated, but that I would have to host a Q&A session. I excused myself.

That was my celebrity encounter.

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Lindsay Davenport in front of Starwood Hotel backdrop.

I recognized Lindsay immediately. I watched far more tennis in the 1980s and 90s than I do now. Surprisingly neither my wife or mother recognized her by name. Lindsay Davenport was the world’s #1 women’s tennis player four years in 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2005.

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Lindsay Davenport Q&A at SPG Amex event.

The bar was located right side of the Q&A. As I left to make the 7:00pm match between unknown players someone working the SPG Amex event mentioned we could come back to the hospitality suite until 9:30pm.

Heineken is the official beer sponsor at the US Open. Fine with me.

Unfortunately the SPG Amex event spoiled me. I just could not fork out $8.50 for another Heineken at Arthur Ashe Stadium and a jaunt back over to the hospitality room would have required a minimum 30 minutes break from the stadium.

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Arthur Ashe Stadium at National Tennis Center

Arthur Ashe is a tennis legend I remember more as a social activist than player. He was at the end of his career in the mid-70s when I was a teenager. He won three Grand Slam titles and is the only black male tennis player to have won the US Open (1968),  Australian Open (1970) and Wimbledon (1975).

He died in 1993 from AIDS contracted years earlier with blood transfusions during heart surgery.

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Arthur Ashe Endowment for the Defeat of AIDS

Also attending the SPG Amex event were Ben Schlappig, aka Lucky of One Mile at a Time, John DiScala aka Johnny Jet, Mike Richards of Vagabondish and Jennifer Miner of The Vacation Gals.

The sad part of the SPG event was American player Andy Roddick had just lost his Round of 16 match at the US Open. This US Open was the final event in his career. He retired last week.

One of the more interesting aspects of the Lindsay Davenport Q&A was a discussion of grunting as a distraction on the tennis court.

There was not too much grunting in the three matches I saw except for a bit of sound from Spanish player David Ferrer.

Belarusian Victoria Azarenka had no name recognition for me regardless of her current #1 women’s tennis player ranking. I never saw her play until watching the US Open finals Sunday, September 9. I just had to laugh thinking back on the grunting discussion from the SPG event. Azarenka has a kind of large bird-like trill that is quite distracting. Her grunt is well known in the tennis world.

Serena Williams vs. Ana Ivanovic

What a surprise to see Serena Williams play in the quarterfinals. I could not have been happier with a match selection. Rain showers Tuesday had set the matches behind schedule.

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US Open Quarterfinals match, Serena Williams (left) and Ana Ivanovic (in yellow on right) – Wednesday September 5, 2012.

Serena Williams won the match in a kind of blowout 6-1, 6-3.

Next up was Roger Federer who lost in a four set match that ended at 11:30pm.

The day was long. The weather was hot and humid. Arthur Ashe is an open air stadium where rain messes up the action and there is no air conditioning unless mother nature wishes.

By the time the Federer match ended I was watching the defeat from bed at the Westin New York at Times Square, the official hotel sponsor of the 2012 US Open.

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The Westin New York at Times Square

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post describing the SPG American Express cardmember event September 5, 2012 at the US Open tennis tournament.

For this SPG Amex event I was provided:

  • Economy class ticket Monterey to New York MRY-JFK with American Airlines outbound and EWR-MRY inbound on United Airlines.
  • Two nights at the Westin New York at Times Square.
  • US Open tennis tickets: Lower Promenade ticket ($105) to the Wednesday 7:00pm September 5 session and a Courtside seat ($435) to the Thursday 11:00am September 6 session.
  • Complimentary access to the American Express SPG Hospitality Pavilion at the USTA Tennis Center.

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Ric Garrido, writer and owner of Loyalty Traveler, shares news and views on hotels, hotel loyalty programs and vacation destinations for frequent guests. You can follow Loyalty Traveler on Twitter and Facebook and RSS feed.

About Ric Garrido

Ric Garrido of Monterey, California started Loyalty Traveler in 2006 for traveler education on hotel and air travel, primarily using frequent flyer and frequent guest loyalty programs for bargain travel. Loyalty Traveler joined in 2008.

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  1. @jamison – I did not see The Points Guy.
    Brian is kind of hard to miss at 6’7″.

    @monster – the fare does seem to be $2.25. The sweat running into my eyes while standing in front of the hot subway ticket booth must have blurred my vision.

    I bought a $20 MetroCard to use for the stay.

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