US Open begins with a bang

Fabiana Diaz (l.), a devoted Roger Federer fan, poses with her mother, Dalila, while they take a tour of the Unisphere before heading to watch the opening ceremonies of the 2009 US Open. Photo by Christina Santucci

Tennis’ biggest stars arrived at Flushing Meadows Corona Park Monday to vie for the sport’s biggest tournament and their fans from all over the world flocked to see them perform on the Queens stage.

The US Open tournament, the final leg of tennis’ grand slam, kicked off with several matches at Arthur Ashe Stadium with star athletes such as defending men’s champion Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, defending women’s champion Serena Williams and her sister Venus.

Fans lined up for hours outside the stadium to get the chance to see the athletes serve, backhand and topspin their way to the top.

“It’s just a great spectator sport, and there is nothing like being there and seeing the excitement,” said Lindsey Worster, 24, of Greenwich, Conn.

Kevin Truong, 25, who came all the way from Vancouver, Canada, said he prefers tennis to other sports such as baseball and football. The tax accountant, who came to Opening Day with his older sister, Pamela, said the competition in tennis is more intense because there are dozens of athletes vying for the top spot.

“There is electricity that is generated by individuals. It’s more mano y mano as compared to team teams,” he said.

Some spectators came just to get close to their favorite celebrity athletes. Fabiana Diaz, 28, a Venezuelan native currently in school in Boston, arrived decked out in a black T-shirt and cap that proudly promoted her love for Federer.

Federer, the No. 1 ranked men’s tennis player who also holds the record for winning the most grand slam championships, always puts on a show for tennis fans when he takes on his opponents, according to Diaz.

“He’s won 15 championships already. He’s so great to watch,” she said.

The athletes were not the only stars gracing fans with their presence. The opening night included a performance by rock star Rob Thomas and The O’Jays, who sang their hit “Love Train.” Afterward, Mayor Michael Bloomberg jokingly called the No. 7, as the cheapest and fastest way to get to Flushing, the real love train.

The tournament lasts for two weeks, culminating in the women’s final match on Sept. 12 and the men’s final the next day.

The tournament has been an end-of-summer staple in Queens for more than 70 years. From 1924-78, it was played at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills until the competition was moved to Flushing Meadows.

Arthur Ashe Stadium and the nearby Billie Jean King Stadium have become international attractions to tennis fans from around the world.

“It’s very pretty around here and I like the atmosphere in the park,” said Mark Teresi, of Dallas, who came with his wife Jeanne, daughter Annie and her friend Katy Cooney.

First-time visitors to the stadium also gave high praises to Flushing Meadows Corona Park. Many walked around the vast greenspace while waiting for their matches and checked out some of its attractions, including the Unisphere.

“It’s a beautiful setting. It’s a diamond in the rough in the sense that you can come here easily and make a day out of it,” said Brian Tom, of Bergen County, N.J., who visited with his wife and teenage daughters.

This entry was posted on Thursday, September 3rd, 2009 at 9:19 pm and is filed under Feature, Print Articles, Sports, TimesLedger. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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