2012 US Open kicks off tennis but boon for boro still in offing

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Roger Federer of Switzerland returns a serve to Donald Young during a match at the US Open. Photo by Christina Santucci
Fans line up near the president's gate in hopes of getting autographs from players and celebrities. Photo by Christina Santucci
Singer Jordin Sparks performs. Photo by Christina Santucci
Donald Young prepares to serve. Photo by Christina Santucci
Ryan Cui, 9, takes a break from the action while attending opening day of the 2012 US Open with his father. Photo by Christina Santucci
A member of Black Violin perform on the court. Photo by Christina Santucci
Tennis player Maria Sharapova serves. Photo by Christina Santucci
Attendees are silhouetted by smoke and lights during the opening ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
Mayor Michael Bloomberg addresses the crowd. Photo by Christina Santucci
Jon Vegosen, chairman of the Board and president of the USTA, addresses the audience. Photo by Christina Santucci
Kim Clijsters, of Belgium, returns to Victoria Duval. Photo by Christina Santucci
Actor Alec Baldwin walks the red carpet with wife Hilaria Thomas. Photo by Christina Santucci
Victoria Duval returns to Kim Clijsters. Photo by Christina Santucci
Fireworks conclude the opening ceremony as the "Star Spangled Banner" is played. Photo by Christina Santucci
Arthur Ashe Stadium is illuminated with green and blue lighting during the opening ceremony. Photo by Christina Santucci
Members of Black Violin perform on the court. Photo by Christina Santucci
Tennis fans Patricia King-Calhoun of Brooklyn enjoys the show with her son Michael King of South Jamaica. Photo by Christina Santucci
Stanley Tucci walks the red carpet with his wife Felicity Blunt. Photo by Christina Santucci
Roger Federer jumps in the air. Photo by Christina Santucci
Vogue editor Anna Wintour (c.) attends opening night. Photo by Christina Santucci
Debbie Phelps, the mother of swimmer Michael Phelps, attends the opening night festivities. Photo by Christina Santucci
Members of Black Violin wave to the crowd. Photo by Christina Santucci

The 2012 US Open opening matches kicked off an economic bonanza for the city Monday, but a man working for a borough nonprofit trying to get spectators to stay in Queens did not have the same luck as some of the athletes.

“This is the best tennis tournament in the best city with the best fans anywhere,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who delivered a short speech at the opening ceremony before pop stars, break dancers and fireworks entertained the crowd gathered at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

A hushed crowd sat in the Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch No. 3-ranked Maria Sharapova take down her opponent, Melinda Czink, where the tense atmosphere was periodically broken by people shouting to the 25-year-old on a first name basis: “C’mon Maria!”

Later in the evening, the top men’s player in the world, Roger Federer, defeated Donald Young in straight sets.

The drawing power of these tennis stars nets the city about $750 million a year in economic activity, according to Bloomberg, but it is unclear how much of that money trickles down into the neighborhoods surrounding the tennis center.

“Whatever it is, we’d like to have more,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that had a booth set up at the Open.

Alex Wu, marketing assistant for the QEDC, was manning that booth and attempting to steer tennis enthusiasts to restaurants in Flushing and Corona.

Instead, he found himself mostly guiding people to the subways to return to Manhattan or New Jersey.

“If you take one train stop, there is a lot more food,” Wu recalled telling a family from Tennessee, who actually made the trek.

But it was a rare success for the day.

Most people wanted to go back to Manhattan or New Jersey, he said, but Bornstein cited hotel rooms filled to capacity in neighborhoods around the complex as a sign that travelers are coming around to Queens.

There were also plenty of good food and drink options within the walls of the tennis center.

It is rare to be at a sporting event and see people walking by with champagne flutes, but that is exactly what Tolly Riaz, a tennis pro who used to work at the Douglaston Club, was doing.

Riaz is originally from Pakistan and loves the sport because it unites the entire world, regardless of political or ethnic differences.

He recalled one of his players, also from Pakistan, went on to a US Open doubles final with a partner from India, a partnership that would be unheard of in the diplomatic world.

“Sport brings people together,” he said, standing amid a crowd from all over the world.

Mauricio Cano came all the way from Colombia to attend the open, and he did not leave empty-handed.

After Sharapova’s win, she lobbed a series of signed tennis balls into the audience.

“I was shouting in Spanish, ‘Maria, over here!’” he said.

Though Sharapova is Russian, she nevertheless hit one his way.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 12:37 am, August 30, 2012
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