A Croat takes on the U.S. Open! (and Cilic wins too)

My husband Vince welcomes any chance to hang his enormous Croatian flag over our balcony, and Marin Cilic’s U.S. Open victory gave him just that opportunity.

Even better, Vince and I saw Marin play as he knocked off Tomas Berdych in the quarterfinal round and we knocked off a significant item on our bucket list.

More than 20 years ago, I wrote a list of sporting events I intended to see before I died. The last item, a bullfight in Spain, listed only to keep me alive.

Rummaging through a drawer earlier this year, Vince found the list and, with his good friend Joe Gallagher, began making plans that landed us in New York last weekend. Eager rookies, we arrived at the National Tennis Center’s beautiful grounds well before the gates opened, making all of my uncharacteristic prep work (I left my purse in the hotel room) unnecessary. We happily noshed on bagels from a street cart outside until the super friendly gate keepers, dressed in the latest tennis togs, motioned us in, offered to answer any questions we had and encouraged us to give the sponsor rooms a swing-through. We had some fun in the NFL experience-like exhibits, and have a few cool videos and pictures to show off our line judge and overhead smash prowess.

The real draw for us, though, was Arthur Ashe Court and we hustled over for what we thought was an 11 a.m. start, marveling at the smooth organization and lack of lines. So intent were we on finding our seats, that we didn’t look up until we arrived….all alone. Just us, security, and a couple of guys hitting practice balls on the court below.

We recommend purchasing the $5 daily schedules sold in kiosks throughout the stadium.

Undeterred, we climbed back down and headed over to the practice courts where we struck gold. Serena Williams and her entourage, including her tiny dog Chip dressed in a white collar and businessman’s  tie, set up camp on court five with Caroline Wozniacki on the next-door court.

Imagine any other professional sport in which two opponents practices, work out strategy, and fine tune game plans right next to each other. It’s a fascinating exercise in sports psychology. Serena’s ground strokes sounded like a rifle shot (appropriate because her shirtless hitting partner, Sergio, flexed a nice set of guns as he worked her out.)

Back at the stadium, we watched the popular Bryan brothers beat Scott Lipsky and Rajeev Ram enroute to their 100th title, walked to an outer court to catch a little of the mesmerizing wheelchair tennis, and then, lured by the rocket blast sound of Croatian Marin Cilic’s serve, we returned to center court to watch him play.

As bucket list items go, our trip to the U.S. Open turned out perfectly. Someday, we hope to return. Meanwhile, there are 23 other items I need to check off.

Stay tuned.

All alone at the US Open
We showed up a little early for our first match and found ourselves in an empty stadium. #Rookiemistake
Vince after the Cilic win
Back home, Vince went all out for the U.S. Open men’s final and was so thrilled to see Croatian Marin Cilic, he of the booming serve, win it. (Vince will take any opportunity to hang that enormous Croatian flag, but this one seemed legit.)
Serena and
This is Serena and her shirtless hitting partner Sergio. You’re welcome.
Serena's coach and Chip
Look closely at the dapper dog Chip’s white collar and tie. He’s watching Serena alongside Serena’s coach Patrick Mouratoglou.
Caroline Wozniacki  and Serena Williams
Is there any other sport in which competitors, their trainers and coaches line up next to each other to practice and fine tune the game plan? That’s Caroline Wozniacki in the orange outfit. Fascinating.
Let’s just say we weren’t surprised when Serena won the title in straight sets.
Joe and Vince
Many thanks to Vince and his great friend Joe for putting together this item on the bucket list. It was one for the ages.
Cilic match
Marin Cilic’ serves sounded like rocket blasts and, during the match we saw, many exceeded 130 m.p.h. Whew!
Wheelchair tennis
Wheelchair tennis astounded us. An amazing display of determination and athletic prowess.
Vince at the Cilic match
This is Vince after fellow Croatian Marin Cilic won his match. #Croatianpride

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