For any tennis player in the United States, the U.S. Open is the Mac Daddy of everything tennis … it is the biggest tournament in the world. This event has the biggest monetary prize to win; it is played in the biggest tennis stadium in the world and is played in the greatest city in the world … New York City!
The fan who attends the U.S. Open is very special to the game of tennis. More sports fans than traditional tennis fans and that makes playing the U.S. Open extremely unique. The sports fan loves the drama that is sport … the turmoil of the athletic contest. You will find fans like this at other tournaments around the world, but in New York, the fan wants to get involved in the action.
There were so many times where I would be in some tough match at the Open and I would be getting advice from these random people from the sidelines. Pizza Joe was my favorite of all my New York coaches. Now, they were not coaches at all, I'm pretty sure they didn't even play tennis, and I know Pizza Joe was about 150 pounds over anything athletic when I met him.
Pizza Joe had three amazing lines he would use—two the entire match, and one that I will never forget. If I was winning, he would say, "Jensen, you got'em … he can’t hang with you!” Now if I was losing, Pizza Joe would let me have it, "Yo Jensen, I can miss that shot too … pick it up! His best line was if I was losing badly, he would say over and over, “Jensen, I PAID to see this?”
No matter what my result was, Pizza Joe would be there to see me when I walked off the court. He was so nice after the match no matter what the result was. It was more about the effort put into the contest that New York fans respect the most. To me, that what makes the U.S. Open so very special. The fans want you to give your heart and soul in the fight for victory.
It’s not easy playing the Open with planes, trains and the smell of burgers coming from the food court are some common distractions. Nothing like the smell of a greasy burger when you are deep into a five-set singles match.
The best way to cruise the Open is to bounce. Bouncing is going from close match to close match and wedging yourself into an area to watch the drama. More players tap out and go nuts at the Open than at any other major, as the year has been long and the nerves begin to wear thin. Just the drive from the city every day in City traffic can freak out any player on game day.
The Open is ENERGY and tons of it. Day matches, night matches with tie-breakers in the final set … for any player or fan, the U.S. Open is the best tennis experience in the world.
Other events like Wimbledon have tradition. The French Open is all about fashion and the Aussie is about fun. The U.S. Open is the final major of the year, the final test for all the players searching for Grand Slam glory! The Open is bold and brash. The logo is a tennis ball flying through the air on flames … just like Americans like the game played. Going for the lines!
For all fans, and especially the ones like Pizza Joe, thanks for making the U.S. Open an amazing experience!
Raised in Ludington, Mich., Luke Jensen’s resume includes 10 ATP Tour doubles titles. He was also a member of the U.S. Davis Cup teams that reached the finals in 1991 and won in 1992. His ambidextrous play, including his ability to serve the ball with either hand at 130 mph, earned him the nickname “Dual Hand Luke.” Luke is currently director of racket sports at West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, N.Y. He may be reached by phone at (315) 403-0752 or e-mail LukeJensen84@yahoo.com.