Maria Sharapova knocks out Simona Halep in return to 2017 US Open

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Hello? Are you there tennis world? It’s me, Maria Sharapova. Remember me?

Oh yes…yes we do.

In one of the most anticipated first round matches in US Open history, Maria Sharapova [WC] d. Simona Halep [2] 6-4 4-6 6-3 under the lights on Arthur Ashe stadium.

From the moment the draw was announced, many had this match circled with the thickest red sharpie. We’re talking, like, ink bleeding through your draw sheet onto your table aggressiveness of sharpie-ing.  And if you didn’t, then you missed a heck of a match.

Only 10 matches in the last 19 months? No problem. Missing nearly the entire US hardcourt season? Casual. A WebMD injury search history the size of Texas? Naturally.

But despite all that, Maria believed. And she made casual viewers, loyal fans, media, and the haters alike all remember what a presence and competitor she is in her first Grand Slam appearance since the 2016 Australian Open — her first since her return from suspension.

Check out the buzz from the match care of, what else, the internet:

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US Open Survival Guide: Tips on Attending the US Open

US Open Arthur Ashe

Back in 2012, I wrote about some tips on visiting the US Open.  While many of those are still relevant today, I thought a refresher was well overdue.  The experience of visiting your first (or 32nd) Grand Slam is always exciting.  So while you soak in the awe and wonderment, here are some things that might help you prepare for the US Open and New York City’s finest.

Or if you’re not into freakishly over-preparing like me, just know this one thing —  TAKE THE LIRR! Alright, let’s get rolling.

Catch Players on the Practice Courts: One could argue watching your favorite players on the practice court is better than an actual match, mainly for the lack of stress part. Regardless, practice is a great way to watch players who may not be scheduled during your session.  There is a whole viewing section — both upper bleachers and grounds walking area — that you can partake in. However, it does fill up.  I suggest taking a look at the schedule listed on the screen outside the area and try to grab a seat or at least catch your fave walking to the session. Volunteers help with crowd flow, so patience is key.

US Open Tennis Practice Courts

Pick up a program and daily schedule: “I have the app, I don’t need to buy a program or schedule!” Oh, you mean the US Open app? Pfft. Little stands across the grounds sell a collectible tournament program and for a few extra dollars they’ll include a daily schedule and newsletter too.  Well worth it for the souvenir of the program and the opportunity to read something during changeovers or lunch.  See also: sun protection. As an aside, the small booths that sell them are typically CASH ONLY.

Food Village: Get there early or get there late: Like any event attended by thousands of people, doing anything during an off-peak time is ESSENTIAL. And that goes for the next important thing to the actual tennis — food and drinks.  The below photo is a shot of the main food area close to the entrance — and this is considered light traffic!  The food court is home to burgers, hot dogs, pastrami sandwiches, pizza, Ben & Jerry’s, the list goes on. Eat a hearty breakfast and take a late lunch.  You can also sneak around and grab a meal from food trucks parked away from the food village or across the grounds at the Grandstand Food Village.

You can also choose to bring small snacks, though there are limitations.  See what you can and cannot bring.

US Open Food

American Express Really Does Take You There: For those that are AMEX cardholders, don’t forget to bring your credit card with you. You’ll be able to get a US Open free earphone tuned to different stations that provide match commentary throughout the grounds.  If you have one from a previous year, bring it — it will work too! (Or at least it did in circa 2014.)  Workers will swipe your card (no charge) and you’re good to go.

Chase Phone Charging Stations: Not to be outdone, Chase provides a phone charging station in case you’re running out of battery (all those Federer photos and videos will do that to your phone). Yes, each square in the color grid below is a locker for your phone. You’ll just fill out information with the Chase team, who will then assign you a locker.

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Honey Deuce Drinks: Did you really go to the US Open if you didn’t have a Honey Deuce? The popular drink comes in a collectible cup with the names of every US Open Champion.  They’ll set you back roughly 15$, but a cup from the gift shop would do you over nearly the same — here, you get some Grey Goose to go with it! Sounds like a steal to me.

Enjoy the Open!

Serena Williams’ Blast from the Past 1950’s Baby Shower

Okay, Serena Williams has some pretty amazing friends.

Pals hosted a 1950’s themed baby shower for Serena Williams and fiance Alexis Ohanian over the weekend, and judging by the looks of things, no detail went amiss.   Williams who is due later this fall, mingled with friends Eva Longoria, Ciara, and Lala to name a few.

Check out some photos from the bash below, thanks to fellow attendees on the ‘gram. Also, the hashtag #shakerattleandroll2017? Genius.

Couples time at Baby O Diner! @christhefr #shakerattleandroll2017 @serenawilliams @alexisohanian ❤️

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Tips on Buying US Open Tennis Tickets

Arthur Ashe Stadium

The final major of the year is nearly upon us, and with that, a mad dash to secure tickets to the US Open.  New York’s main event takes place this year on August 28, 2017 – September 10, 2017.  Each day of the tournament features “sessions” that are defined by the Order of Play for the day — Day and Evenings.

Check out some tips below on how to see all the action.  For the official website, check out USOpen.org (seriously…dot org? golf getting the upper hand on tennis here).

1. Qualifying Tournament is FREE! FREE! FREEEEEE!

Oh, I’m sorry, did I mention “free”? If you’re unable to make the main draw or want more tennis, the US Open Qualifying Tournament takes place August 22, 2017 – August 25, 2017 and is arguably the best deal in town.  Though it’s easy to mistake the Qualifying Tournament as just an appetizer, you can catch many recognizable names and up and comers throughout the week. Previous qualifying players included Cici Bellis, Laura Robson, Taylor Townsend, Ryan Harrison, and Karen Khachanov.

Check the draw and order of play each day to choose your favorite matches to attend. Play begins each day at 11 a.m. and is open to the public.

2. Know Your Court and Session

Depending on the court you would like to see, a specific ticket type may be in order.

  • Grounds Pass: The popular Grounds Pass allows you entry into the tournament and the ability to visit any stadium except Arthur Ashe, which is all reserved seating.  It’s basically like general admission, with first come first serve seating for all field courts and Louis Armstrong and Grandstand.  Now, Armstrong and Grandstand do have reserved seating areas, but there are plenty of seats for other ticket holders.  Tickets can start from ~$60 USD.
  • Grandstand & Louis Armstrong: Armstrong is the bigger of the two, but both offer reserved seating to their respective courts. You can also use your ticket to visit any other field court, but like the Grounds Pass, just no Ashe.  If you’re debating between the two, Armstrong always offers a strong Order of Play while Grandstand offers an intimate setting.  Tickets can start from ~$80 for Grandstand and ~$100 USD for Armstrong.
  • Arthur Ashe: The most gargantuan tennis court in all the land! I personally view a ticket to Ashe almost akin to the Charlie’s golden ticket.  With an Ashe ticket, you get a reserved seat to the stadium, as well as first come first serve access to every other court.  If you’re looking to catch big name stars (see Federer, Roger), you’re likely going to want to snag AA tickets.  In earlier rounds, tickets can start at ~$60 — the same price as a Grounds Pass — so why not grab a ticket here? Sure, your seats might be closer to the sky than the court, but in case there’s a match worth watching you’ll be there.  Prices to considerably increase in the later rounds, which in that case, the Grounds Pass becomes a better value.

One other thing to note is an Evening session ticket only matters on Ashe (it’s not offered for any other courts above). The Day session, which encompasses all the above courts, typically goes on well past 7p.m., so to me, it’s only worth it if your fave is playing then. Or you just want to experience USO after dark.

3. Ticket Plans vs. Individual Tickets

The US Open offers a variety of ticket selections, including the option to purchase tickets via a plan or individually by session.  Tickets can be purchased either by phone or online through TicketMaster, so have your account at the ready.  Once you’ve decided which court type you want to focus on (see #2) you can choose your ticket type.

  • Ticket Plans: This route is a great option if you know you’ll be attending the open across multiple days during the tournament.  For example, planning on going the full first week of play? Or how about only for Labor Day weekend? There’s a plan for that! It’s an easy way to bundle tickets and makes purchasing tickets much easier than selecting each session.  See more information on Ticket Plan options on the official website: Click Here for Ticket Plan Details
  • Individual TicketsJust as it sounds — you choose tickets based on the day, court, and session. Good if you want to mix and match throughout your time there.  Click Here for Individual Tickets

4. Promo Codes

So maybe you’ve perused the tickets and started thinking “what are these processing fees?!” — you’re not alone. Tickets ain’t cheap! And going to multiple sessions on Ashe? Please. That’s where promo codes come in. Consider doing a quick Google search before purchasing your tickets to see if there are any open deals.  These may come via Groupon or a BOGO special. I’ve been lucky enough to grab two Arthur Ashe tickets for ~$40 total before fees through codes.  Not bad!  Promo codes are typically entered in TicketMaster before checkout.

5. Maximize Rewards Points

Do you have mountains of Chase Ultimate Rewards, Marriott Rewards, or SPG points? You’re in luck! As sponsors of the tournament, there are often deals loyalty members to the above programs can capitalize on.  For the last several years, Starwood (or SPG) offers its members the ability to bid on several USO related auctions.  These range from court side AA seats, to luxury suite access, as part of their SPG Moments program.  I’ve noticed minimum bidding is around 20,000 points for a luxury suite for 2. Not bad! Below is a high-level point transfer map in case you don’t have SPG points directly:

  • Only have Marriott points? Marriott points can be transferred to SPG after linking up your accounts. There is a 3:1 point ratio for Marriott to SPG. For example, 20,000 SPG points = 60,000 Marriott points.
  • Only have Chase Ultimate Rewards? You can transfer your Chase points to a Marriott account, which after the fact you can go the above route of linking it up to SPG.  The Chase to Marriott point ratio is 1:1.

6. Advance Purchases through American Express

The days of advance purchase are long gone unfortunately, but for future reference, American Express cardholders have access to tickets before the general public, typically 1-2 weeks prior.

7. Luxury Suites and VIP

I can’t speak to these because I’m not Anna Wintour, but they exist! I know they exist because while I’m sweating these folks are in air condition.  If you’re feeling like treating yo’ self head on over to here.

I should also mention the Chase Lounge.  Visitors must RSVP to the lounge for the specific session they are attending (and they must hold a ticket for said session).  Inside, guests are welcomed with drinks, snacks, and best of all air conditionnnnn!  Access is free and you can RSVP HERE.  You will need to enter the customer service phone number located on the back of your Chase credit card.  Don’t have a Chase card? I’m sure you can find the number on the interwebs.

8. SHAAAADDEEE

The mention of sweat of course leads me to shade.  New York is HOT in August/September. When buying tickets or just planning your day, consider where the sun might be in relation to your court/seat. I know that sounds crazy, like, how the hell are you supposed to know where awnings exist to create shade. Yeah, I don’t know, just wear a lot of sunscreen.

Enjoy the Open!

Maria Sharapova autobiography to be released September 12, 2017

Maria Sharapova’s aptly titled autobiography — Sharapova: An Autobiography — is set to be released on September 12, 2017, according to Amazon.

When Sharapova’s book was first announced in November 2015, many fans could have easily predicted several chapter topics: origin story, rise to world no. 1, etc.  Since that time, things got interesting to say the least.  

Here’s a snap of Sharapova putting the finishing touches on her book.  You can check out the synopsis and pre-order the book on Amazon now.  Jam not included.

Memoir in progress with my favorite homemade breakfast GF Pancakes with cherry jam

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