KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We were thrilled to be invited back to New York to visit with Puneet, Komal and Anya. We were discussing plans for Year Six of our travels during our visit in the spring and Puneet enticed us with an offer of complimentary tickets to the US Open. He had been presented with the tickets from Chase Bank but didn’t think he would be using them as they were dated for a weeknight. We’d never been to a professional tennis tournament, and the US Open is a top-drawer event.
To make matters even more interesting, if we came a few days earlier, we would be able to take in some of the Barclay’s Cup, a PGA classic scheduled to be played in New Jersey, not far from where Komal is currently working.
The USTA’s Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre is located at the Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. We didn’t realize that the Corona Park was the site of the 1939 and 1964 World’s Fairs and that there are many attractions quite apart from those related to the world of tennis. The former US pavilion at the 1964 World’s Fair became the Queens Museum and when we read about the jaw-dropping scale model of the entire city of New York, with all five boroughs, we decided to make a full day out of our visit to the US Open.
It’s relatively easy to reach the US Tennis Centre; it’s located near the end of the number 7 subway line that begins in the heart of Manhattan near Times Square. I had read about the opportunity to get a bird’s-eye view of a space dedicated to the art of graffiti from one of the platforms along the number 7 subway. It’s called 7Pointz, and it’s a converted warehouse whose exterior has been decorated by some of the most talented graffiti artists from around the world. It’s most likely worth a visit on its own, but it does sit opposite a new venue known as MOMA PS1, an extension of the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in Manhattan.
When we arrived at the Mets-Willet station, we had a terrific view of the new CitiField, built to replace the aging Shea Stadium, home of the NY Mets baseball team. A little research taught me that Shea Stadium opened in 1964, at the time of the World’s Fair and that the Mets moved there at the end of their third season.
We wandered past the perimeter of the US Open site and on through the leafy lanes of Corona Park. As we walked towards the Queens Museum, the leaves parted to allow our first glimpse of the towering Unisphere, the centerpiece of the 1964 Fair. I was duly impressed with it’s striking size and noted that the continent of Africa was facing us, the main destination on our itinerary for the coming nine months of travel. We chose a park bench, well away from the mist drifting from the water fountains surrounding the sphere, and dawdled over our packed lunch of fruits and fresh dates.
The next couple of hours were spent pouring over the exhibits in the Queens Museum. We had first seen a scale model of a massive city when we visited Shanghai a couple of years ago. When we read that the model of New York City was the largest such model in the world, we felt compelled to visit it too. It did not disappoint, but we were equally fascinated with a detailed exhibit on the watershed and aqueducts that were constructed to supply fresh water to the city from upstate New York.
At last it was time for the gates to open for the evening. The excited crowds hurried in and many when straight for the concession stands, the US Open gift shops and especially the stands dispensing cold beer or vodka mixers in souvenir glasses. The $13 dollars for a vodka highball didn’t seem to deter many visitors.
We hadn’t looked at the program in advance so we were delighted to learn that the number one-seeded players, Novak Djokovic and Caroline Wozniacki, each had a match that evening. It was still the early days of the US Open so they were playing relatively unknown opponents, but it was exciting to see how powerful the world’s best players are.
Wozniacki was up against the Dutch player Arantxa Rus but won handily 6-2, 6-0. By the end of the match, we could see that Rus just wanted the ordeal to be over. She hung her head and walked off the court with her racquets before the congratulatory interview with the winner began. Djokovic demolished Carlos Berlocq from Argentina in only 90-minutes. It was so one-sided that the crowd quickly came to support the Argentinean and indeed he was given a standing ovation when he finally won a game.
Despite the fact that it had been a 30+-degree day, it cooled off quickly, so near Flushing Bay, and despite the jackets we put on, we became quite chilled. When I looked around, most of the others in the nosebleed seats around us were dressed in light, sleeveless tops and short shorts. It must have been all those vodkas that kept the locals warm. We left before the match was over, wanting to get ahead of the crowd that would be heading to the only subway station that takes fans back to Manhattan. It wasn’t like there was any doubt who would win the men’s match.
Note: As I write this entry, we are at Puneet’s on Labour Day Monday watching television in air-conditioned comfort. It’s a muggy day and the coming week is forecasted to bring us at least three days of rain. We’re alternating between watching the FedEx Cup golf tournament and more of the US Open. Today, the Serbian Djokovic is getting more of a workout from his opponent, Dologopolov from the Ukraine. We just watched an exciting tiebreak that established itself as the longest tiebreak played so far in this tournament.