Pickleball who? Tennis is making sure nobody views it as a country club pursuit, and knows it has every bit as much fun to offer as any other sport out there.
To showcase tennis’ fun side, the U.S. Tennis Association is putting it all out there. From allowing its biggest venue to be used for wrestling, basketball and dog shows, to hosting concerts, happy hours and the five-man Internet sensation group, Dude Perfect at its showcase event, the US Open, tennis is amping up the fun factor – and that is coming across, loud and clear.
This year’s US Open, for example, which runs from Monday, August 28, 2023, to Sunday, September 10, has already kicked off with the US Open Fan Week, which began this week and builds a near-rabid excitement for the event. And it isn’t all about historical presentations or player expos.
Nope. Not even close.
Entry to the grounds is free each day of Fan Week, and it includes admission to a wide variety of events. Those who are, in fact, current tennis fans can also enjoy featured practices in Grandstand, Louis Armstrong Stadium and Arthur Ashe Stadium. Access is free to the featured practices, and fans can watch how the biggest stars in tennis prepare for a Grand Slam event.
But what about the others, those who are, in more technical terms, future tennis fans?
Well, according to the USTA, those people have plenty of options to join in the fun as well. For example, Sebastián Yatra, the 28-year-old Grammy-nominated singer, songwriter and bilingual composer, is the headlining act for this year's Sounds of the Open presented by Chase. That takes place on Friday, August 28. (Sounds of the Open presented by Chase, an annual concert that, once again, breaks barriers between the old image of tennis, and its new reality.)
According to the US Open website, the pre-show festivities will be hosted by popular afternoon radio hosts Maxwell and Crystal of iHeartMedia New York’s Z100, New York City’s number-one hit music station, and also will feature DJ Citizen Jane. DJ Citizen Jane is a Cuban born, Miami-based DJ who is known for her unique blend of EDM, Mixed Top 40, and Electropop, creating a vibrant and infectious atmosphere at every performance.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) bands will be showcased at the HBCU Yard Experience, featuring live DJs and LED screens showcasing HBCU tennis and cultural history. The headlining DJ is two-time Grammy-nominated producer and North Carolina Central University (NCCU) alum 9th Wonder, and the “Sound Machine” marching band from his alma mater will also make an appearance. There will be additional music performances by A Fly Guy (Florida A&M University) and DJ Heat (Morgan State University). All of the people participating in the day’s coin toss ceremonies will be women athletic directors at HBCUs.
In conjunction with HBCU Live, a networking event and panel discussion will be held for HBCU alumni, influencers and supporters across the sports, business and entertainment industries on the current state of HBCU sports.
Pride Events: Open Pride, the third-annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community at the US Open, is set for August 31. Open Pride has become the US Open's signature celebration of the LGBTQ+ community and is the evolution of “Love All: An Open Conversation," a 2019 US Open panel discussion that featured notable LGBTQ+ athletes Jason Collins, Adam Rippon and Billy Bean, among others.
Food and Drink: Options for foodies and those who love their alcohol: the Taste of the US Open and the Heineken® Happy Hour – as well as plenty of other events. Oh, and yes, the concession stands at the US Open will be up and running throughout Fan Fest, including the options to obtain the signature cocktail, the honey deuce.
Next Net Generation
And yes, says QNS, USTA is working to bring in the next generation of players. This year will feature an expanded distribution of Wilson youth tennis racquets. Last year, 1,000 free racquets were given to kids on Kids’ Day. This year, to celebrate 45 years of partnership with the US Open, Wilson is donating 10,000 junior racquets to be given away to kids during Fan Week. It’s all part of the USTA’s Net Generation activities, to welcome new players to the sport, and to break the cost barriers associated with purchasing new equipment.
In all, 13 US Open courts will be devoted to tennis activities for kids, with drills, contests and competitions taking place from 9:30 am to 1:00 pm ET. All AAKD attendees will be welcome to watch player practices that will be taking place across the grounds and throughout the day as the world’s top tennis players prepare to compete in America’s Grand Slam. The US Open also will offer a $10 meal for kids and their families.
Dude Perfect Returns
The five-man fan-favorite YouTube sensations Dude Perfect will return for the second year to perform during Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day (AAKD) as part of US Open Fan Week. The free performance will take place in Louis Armstrong Stadium beginning at 2 pm ET on Saturday, August 26. AAKD, which celebrates the life and legacy of tennis icon and humanitarian Arthur Ashe, is the world’s largest grassroots tennis event and is held annually on the Saturday before the start of the US Open main draw.
Expect Dude Perfect to face off with professional tennis players and audience members, in a variety of unexpected and off-kilter tennis challenges and some multi-sport fun as well. (After all, these are the same guys who invaded the Amen Corner at Augusta last year.)
Prior to the Dude Perfect performance, featured entertainment on the Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day Center Stage will include pop duo Crash Adams and breakout K-Pop artist AleXa. Also appearing on the stage will be Disney favorites Issac Ryan Brown and Danielle Jalade, along with TikTok superstars and dancing sensations McKenzi Brooke and Reif Harrison.
Now on Center Court: Dogs Shows, Esports, Basketball and Wrestling
The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center has continued to prove it’s not just for those swinging racquets, although more than 50 high schools and colleges do use the site as home court. This past year, the venue played host to the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show for the first time, and the event will return to those grounds in 2024. Just last month, Big 3 Basketball played there, and the venue has also hosted graduations.
In 2021, All Elite Wrestling hosted its first show at the center and returned each year thereafter. Even (gasp!) the APP Pickleball Tour played there.
And Forbes notes, that’s just scratching the surface: The Fortnite World Cup Finals were sited in the BJKNTC in 2019, offering a big splash in showcasing the festival-like atmosphere possible on the sprawling site. With zip lines crossing over the venue's fountains and every seat in Arthur Ashe Stadium filled, the event brought a brand-new demographic to the site.