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Tennis fans swarm to Queens for Open

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Tennis, anyone?

The answer to that question was a resounding “yes” over the weekend as thousands flocked to Flushing Meadows Corona Park for the 2009 US Open tournament.

This year’s tournament set a first week attendance record of 423,427, a number higher than the total attendance of any US Open prior to 1991.

Spectators not lucky or wealthy enough to score prime seats at the premium matches inside the capacity-crowd Louis Armstrong and Arthur Ashe stadiums for the fourth round of men’s singles play packed the plaza area and sprawled out on small patches of lawn to watch the action on big-screen televisions.

Hundreds watched from café seats Monday evening as American John Isner lost out to Fernando Verdasco inside Armstrong Stadium, ensuring the United States would not be represented in the quarterfinals for men’s singles for the first time in the history of the tournament.

Spectators like Alexander and Winifred Mack, both 50, from Hempstead, L.I., sensed some disappointment among tournament-goers.

“I think the crowds are different this year,” Winifred Mack said. “More reserved, I think.”

Alexander Mack chalked that up to a lackluster roster.

“The American male players, they don’t seem like they came to play,” he said. “The ladies are much better.”

Other tennis fans agreed. Several cited 17-year-old American Melanie Oudin’s victory over 13th-seeded Nadia Petrova as the highlight of the day’s athleticism.

“She seemed more exciting,” Alexander Mack said. “Maybe it’s because she’s young and hungry.”

Of course, not everyone at the US Open came to see the titans of tennis take the court. Wayne, N.J., residents Allan and Michelle Mordkoff, both 45, spent most of their time at the junior matches on the open courts, where their son was a ballboy.

“He was great,” Mordkoff said, noting this year was his first time at the tournament. “I’ve dabbled in tennis, but to watch people who can really play, it’s amazing how much I suck at tennis.”

While many in the crowd came from the tri-state area, fans like Laurie Sadler, 40, and Malcolm Renwick, 53, came from as far as Dallas, Texas, to get their tennis fix.

“It’s action,” Renwick said. “The whole thing is action. It’s not like golf, which is boring.”

Renwick also had high praise for the Billie Jean King Tennis Center.

“It’s the best in the world,” he said, noting he has been to tournaments in Paris and London. “You can walk around and see a lot of different matches, the bar and food booths, it’s very well-laid out. You don’t have to wait for anything.”

But it was the prices, not the wait time, for items like a $4.50 bottle of Pepsi, a $13 beef crepe or an $18.75 shrimp and lobster salad that gave Allan Mordkoff pause.

“If I came here every day for a couple of weeks, I’d lose weight,” he said.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:29 pm, October 10, 2011
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