Tickets to ride
Although we sat quietly for most of the time, a leisurely trek of 12-plus years that encompassed some 38,000 miles, three continents, and most importantly the four Grand Slam tennis tournaments was filled with five sets worth of impressions.
U.S. Open (2000-09)
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, New York
Distance from Boston: 203 miles
With a venue large enough to host a University of Kentucky Midnight Madness basketball crowd, Ashe Stadium (cap. 23,157) makes it possible for there to be a bad seat at a tennis match. But what the cookie-cutter concrete structure lacks in charm is more than compensated by the star power of the crowd, the massive National Tennis Center, and the Broadway-like production featuring jumbo screens, rock music-infused changeovers, and on-court interviews the USTA delivers year after year.
The All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, Wimbledon
Distance from Boston: 3,281 miles
Breakfast at Wimbledon takes on a surreal feel when you’re actually at the All England club for a meal of fish and chips and strawberries and cream. Order and elegance -— where else do players bow and curtsy? -— define the tournament. With pristine grass courts and ball kids who never waver from their mundane duties, even after 130 years Wimbledon still upholds the foundation that tennis was built on.
French Open (2010)
Stade Roland Garros, Paris
Distance from Boston: 3,446 miles
If it’s red clay, it must be Paris. In an age in which high-definition instant replay can change the course of a game, it’s hard to argue with a ball mark on the courts of Roland Garros. The surface gives a gritty feel to the entire championship (it also makes a very unique key-chain souvenir), and a first-round match between Andy Murray and Richard Gasquet that went five sets and four-plus hours only left us wanting more.
Australian Open (2013)
Melbourne Park, Melbourne
Distance from Boston: 10,522 miles
Melbourne Park’s Rod Laver Arena is more rock-concert venue than sporting show court, but oi! oi! oi! does the Australian draw the most rabid fans in the world. Fans support the team in a blaze of yellow and green — even when it’s 100 degrees in the shade — and a practice session for up-and-coming homeboy Bernard Tomic is standing-room only. And at what other sporting event can you order fried calamari at a concession stand?