USTA Launches New Programming and Fan Enhancements for 2009 US Open
August 21, 2009
*FLUSHING, N.Y., August 20, 2009 – *The USTA announced today a series of expanded fan enhancements and programming for the 2009 US Open. This year’s Opening Night ceremony will celebrate athletes who “give back” with a special appearance by Andre Agassi and other notable athletes. Other on-court ceremonies during the tournament will pay tribute to Arthur Ashe and Pancho Gonzalez. New features at the US Open this year include the recently opened USTA Indoor Training Center that will host an array of US Open activities, hundreds of hours of US Open programming on new cable broadcasters ESPN2 and Tennis Channel, and for the first time a live reveal show of the US Open Draw on ESPNews.
Other fan enhancements include the return of SmashZone, the premier interactive fan experience in tennis, and the return of wheelchair tennis to the US Open. The USTA will host its first-ever Family Day at the US Open, with reserved family courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium. Also at the 2009 US Open, the country’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-site, and the nighttime order of play will be reformatted so the men take the court before the women during some evening sessions. Instant replay also has been added to the Grandstand, meaning the US Open will now feature the system on all three primary show courts.
The US Open Welcomes ESPN and Tennis Channel: ESPN2 will make its debut as the lead cable broadcaster for the US Open, providing approximately 100 hours of TV coverage and more than 260 hours of coverage on its signature broadband network ESPN360.com. The US Open also will have a major presence on ESPN, ESPN.com, ESPN International, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes and ESPN Mobile Properties. All action on televised courts will be presented in High Definition. Tennis Channel will provide “round the clock” coverage of the US Open in 2009, with nearly 250 hours of planned total coverage. In addition to live match coverage, Tennis Channel will bring fans up-to-speed with post-match highlight shows and next-day preview shows.
Special Opening Night Ceremony: A ceremony celebrating athletes who “give back” will feature two-time US Open champion Andre Agassi, soccer’s Mia Hamm, quarterback Doug Flutie and former San Antonio Spurs center David Robinson. The special ceremony on Arthur Ashe Stadium court also will include an appearance by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and feature musical performances by Grammy winner Rob Thomas and Rock and Roll Hall of Famers The O’Jays. The ceremony will be televised live on ESPN2.
Pancho Gonzalez Tribute: On Saturday night, September 5, special guests including actor Benjamin Bratt will host a tribute to former U.S. National Champion Pancho Gonzalez on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. The tribute will celebrate Gonzalez on the 60th anniversary of his second consecutive victory at the U.S. Championships and will include a video presentation highlighting Gonzalez’ life and tennis career. Gonzalez family members, as well as a number of former players and Hispanic community leaders, will be in attendance.
Arthur Ashe Court of Champions Induction: Arthur Ashe will be inducted into the US Open Court of Champions in a ceremony held Thursday evening, September 10. In 1968, Ashe won the first US Open of the Open Era. An amateur at the time, Ashe became the first African-American man to win the US Open.
25th Anniversary of Super Saturday: On Saturday, September 12, the USTA pays tribute to the first official “Super Saturday,” which took place 25 years ago. The US Open stands alone among the four majors by packaging the Men’s Singles Semifinals and the Women’s Singles Final on the second-to-last day (and evening) of the event. The first Super Saturday was the biggest blockbuster of them all, featuring some of the greatest names in tennis—including Jimmy Connors, Chris Evert, Ivan Lendl, John McEnroe, and Martina Navratilova—with all four matches on Center Court (including the men’s seniors match) going to the limit.
Live US Open Draw Reveal Show on ESPNews: For the first time ever, the US Open draw will be unveiled live from Bristol, Conn., airing uninterrupted on ESPNews from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Thursday, August 27. Defending champions Roger Federer and Serena Williams will join USTA President and Chairman of the Board Lucy Garvin for a viewing ceremony at The TimesCenter in Manhattan. ESPN anchor Chris McKendry will host with Patrick McEnroe and Mary Joe Fernandez analyzing the draw.
Live Online Streaming: USOpen.org, the official website of the US Open, will offer the most extensive live streaming in the history of the event, airing all matches within the ESPN and Tennis Channel broadcast television windows. Streaming up to five matches simultaneously, US Open.org will make more than 150 matches available for free within the United States. Live streaming also will integrate live match stats updates, fan commenting and picture-in-picture capabilities.
US Open Bracket Challenge: The 2009 US Open Bracket Challenge will make its debut, allowing fans to fill out the US Open brackets online to win prizes. With separate competitions for the men’s and women’s singles draws, the participants compiling the most bracket points in each draw by the end of the tournament will win a trip to the 2010 US Open. Prizes will be awarded to the second through 10th place finishers as well. The challenge can be accessed at USOpen.org and will go live following the US Open draw unveiling ceremony, aired live on ESPNews on Thursday, August 27.
USTA Indoor Training Center: The new 245,000-square-foot indoor building near the East Gate is a state-of-the-art training facility that opened in November and will house the fan-friendly SmashZone, USTA Membership, the Heineken Light Lounge and other activities during the 2009 US Open. Featuring 12 tennis courts, locker rooms, a fitness center and a full-service pro shop, the new building increases year-round access for tennis players to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, the world’s largest public tennis facility.
Family Day: The US Open is holding its first-ever Family Day on Tuesday, September 1. Parents accompanied by children 14-and-under can sit together in reserved courtside seating in Louis Armstrong Stadium. The day’s activities will feature contests, giveaways, special entertainment attractions and autograph sessions. An exclusive family breakfast, located in the Corporate Hospitality Pavilion in the Indoor Training Center, is also available as an add-on package with a previously purchased September 1 day session ticket.
SmashZone: The premier fan interactive attraction in tennis, SmashZone will return to the 2009 US Open after a three-year hiatus. Located in the Indoor Training Center, the 20,000-square-foot interactive experience features the QuickStart Tennis play format (tennis scaled to size for kids) on two courts, as well as on “Center Court” where there will be revolving programming each day, including special guest appearances, games, contests and exhibitions. Other activities include a Fast Serve Cage, “American Express Challenge a Pro,” “The Training Zone,” a state-of-the-art electronic backboard, “You Call the Shots” where fans can become sports broadcasters, and tennis video games.
American Express “Challenge a Pro:” Using interactive GreenScreen technology, fans are invited to “virtually” play against tennis pros Sam Querrey or Caroline Wozniacki on-site at the US Open “SmashZone.” A unique digital video is captured and then sent to the participant via text, MMS or email, which can also be shared with family and friends and posted to their social networks.
American Express “Rally Experience:” All tennis fans on-site will be able to take their passion for tennis into the gaming world by simultaneously engaging in a virtual tennis match using their mobile phone as a controller with pro players Shahar Peer and Gael Monfils. American Express will donate $1 to the USTA Serves Foundation for every participant that plays throughout the US Open event, up to $10,000. Players and Open attendees can watch as the number of participants is tracked along with the time of each play on a giant LED screen located in the heart of the Open.
Best Tennis Town: On September 6, the much-anticipated winner of America’s Best Tennis Town will be announced on-court in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Representatives from the finalist cities of Independence, Kan., Midland, Mich., and Ojai, Calif., will attend the US Open, with the winner receiving $100,000 for tennis programs in its local area. The nationwide call required towns to self-nominate via application form and submit a five-minute video highlighting the community’s passion for tennis. Ten cities were chosen as semifinalists and then voted on by the general public.
Kids Nightly Anthems: An instant tradition from the past two US Opens, children selected from auditions at the US Open Casting Call held at Radio City Music Hall in early June will perform in Arthur Ashe Stadium. Out of the 225 children who tried out, 15 were selected to perform. The performers hail from the New York metro area, Philadelphia, Florida, Tennessee, and New Jersey. Two singers have performed in all three US Opens and two sisters from Brooklyn, N.Y., will take the stage together.
Record Prize Money: The 2009 US Open purse will top $21.6 million, marking the third consecutive year that the tournament’s prize money has increased by $1 million. Both the men’s and women’s US Open singles champions will earn a record $1.6 million with the ability to earn an additional $1 million in bonus prize money based on their performances in the Olympus US Open Series. The top three men’s and top three women’s finishers in the Olympus US Open Series will together earn up to an additional $2.6 million in bonus prize money and be crowned at the US Open, which provides a potential total payout of $24.2 million.
Instant Replay on Grandstand: The Chase Review electronic line calling system makes its debut on Grandstand, giving the US Open instant replay on all three primary show courts. In 2006, the US Open became the first Grand Slam tournament to use electronic line calling technology, which serves as an officiating aid while increasing the excitement for in-stadium fans and TV viewers.
The Return of Wheelchair Tennis: Wheelchair tennis returns after a 2008 absence due to the Paralympic Games in Beijing. The world’s finest players will take to the courts, as eight men and eight women will compete in the Wheelchair Division in singles and doubles, while four players will take part in the Quad Division in singles and doubles (non-gender specific). Play starts on Thursday, September 10, and runs through Sunday, September 13, with a 33 percent increase in prize money over the 2007 competition. Rules of wheelchair tennis are the same as able-bodied tennis, except that the ball can bounce twice.
New Nighttime Play Format: Breaking the tradition of putting the men’s match in the second half of the nightly doubleheaders, in 2009 there will be a new gender-equality policy under the lights. This year, some evening sessions will start with a men’s match followed by a women’s match.
New Champions Invitational Format: The US Open Champions Invitational returns for its fourth year with a new design—players will compete in the popular World TeamTennis format. Players will be divided into three four-person teams, with each team playing a total of two matches from Wednesday, September 9, to Saturday, September 12. Each match consists of one set each of men’s and women’s singles, men’s and women’s doubles, and mixed doubles. As in past years, each of the players invited for 2009 is either a past Grand Slam singles champion or finalist. This year’s invitees include Tracy Austin, Mary Joe Fernandez, Goran Ivanisevic, Hana Mandlikova, Todd Martin, Ilie Nastase, Stan Smith, Guillermo Vilas and Mal Washington, among others. The team captains will be Pat Cash, Billie Jean King and Ivan Lendl.
Heineken Light Lounge: Adults are invited to visit the Heineken Light Lounge, located in the front of the Indoor Training Center. Fans can relax and enjoy a Heineken in the lounge featuring the Heineken Wisdom Wall and the EA Sports Grand Slam Tennis game on the Nintendo Wii system. Limited edition US Open-Heineken merchandise will be available.
US Open Gallery – International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum: Each year since 1999, the US Open Gallery features a display from the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum. This year’s exhibit is themed, “The Grand Slam: Tennis’ Ultimate Achievement” and showcases the Grand Slam achievement in singles, doubles, mixed doubles and on the junior level. The exhibit will display trophies, photos and artifacts from historic calendar-year Grand Slams, including Rod Laver’s in 1969, Steffi Graf’s in 1988, the doubles Slam of Martina Navratilova and Pam Shriver in 1984, as well as Stefan Edberg’s junior Grand Slam in 1983. The US Open Gallery is open daily and located in the southwest corner of Louis Armstrong Stadium.
US Open Tennis Auction: The US Open will host the first major tennis auction in North America, featuring a wide variety of tennis memorabilia including Bobby Riggs’ “Sugar Daddy” jacket from the historic 1973 Battle of the Sexes with Billie Jean King, trophies won by the legendary Bill Tilden and assorted racquets used by Jimmy Connors. The auction, hosted by the prestigious Guernsey auction house, will take place on Friday, September 11, at 2:00 p.m. and Sunday, September 13, at 11:00 a.m. in the Indoor Training Center. Bidding can take place in person or live at auctioneers.com and guernseys.com. A portion of the proceeds benefit USTA Serves, the philanthropic entity of the USTA.
Green Initiatives: The USTA is expanding its efforts this year at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in order to ensure that the US Open will register as little impact on the environment as possible. The NTC grounds will feature 500 recycling bins and all paper products will be made with 30 percent post-consumer waste. Hybrid vehicles will make up 52 percent of the Lexus player transportation fleet (up from 30 percent in 2008) and Constellation Energy, the US Open’s energy provider, will supply Renewable Energy Certificates to offset the US Open’s electricity consumption. A reusable tote bag and organic T-shirts, including one designed by Venus Williams, will be sold on the grounds and a fan awareness campaign which includes player PSAs; an additional PSA from Alec Baldwin will run throughout the tournament.