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Carroll’s Column: All you need to know about US Open Fan Week

Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Park - Image Credit: US OPEN/IBM

NEW YORK — Game, Set, and Match! Next week, sports fans across the Tri-state area can enjoy the wind down of summer-time with Men’s and Women’s pro-tennis being played in Flushing, Queens. 

The best bargain in professional sports, US Open Fan Week, returns to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Park, from Tuesday, August 22 through August 27. Admission is free, but unlike in past years, attendees must complete a brief online registration form in advance by logging onto A QR code will be sent to your email address which will allow entry.      

Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow Park – Image Credit: US OPEN/IBM

The qualifiers tournament for wildcard berths in both the men’s and women’s main US Open draw will take place from Tuesday, August 22 through Friday, August 25 at the various side courts of the BJK National Tennis Center. Most of the competitors in the qualifiers are up-and-comers whose rankings are in the high 90s and low 100s. There are always a few familiar names sprinkled in the qualifiers whose rankings have slipped for various reasons. The best-known players are Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman on the men’s side and American Taylor Townsend on the women’s. 

Recently retired players James Blake, Kim Clijsters, and Caroline Wozniacki will be taking part in exhibition matches at Louis Armstrong Stadium starting at 7PM on August 22. This is also a free event for the public. The following evening Carlos Alcaraz, Francis Tiafoe, and Douglaston legend John McEnroe will be taking part in an exhibition at Louis Armstrong Stadium to benefit Ukraine relief organizations. Tickets must be purchased to attend.

Image Credit: US OPEN/IBM

Another ticketed event is the popular “Flavors of the Open” taking place Thursday evening, August 24, in the concourse of Louis Armstrong Stadium. It is a tasting of sample dishes served at the various restaurants and food vendors who are taking part at the 2023 US Open. It is also a chance for tennis fans to talk to celebrity chefs, as well as current and former tennis stars. 

It was only a few years ago, when Fan Week was simply known as the Qualifiers Tournament. It was a well-kept secret as only a select group of passionate tennis aficionados attended. The United States Tennis Association deserves credit for transforming Fan Week to the point where it is easy to think of the US Open as a three-week event instead of just a two-week Grand Slam.    

Image Credit: US OPEN/IBM

The USTA is making Arthur Ashe Kids Day, traditionally a ticketed event, into a completely free day for attendees. It will be held on Saturday, August 26 from 9:30AM to 4:00PM. As always, there will be entertainment and tennis demonstrations. The following day, fans are welcome to watch the top pros, who will be competing for the $65 million in prize money, practice on the courts outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium.      

As a further bonus, the USTA is promising that every concession stand, and most booths from US Open sponsors, will be open during Fan Week. 

SNY debuts Gary Keith & Ron: 18 – Documentary on Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling – Best TV Broadcast Team in MLB

The Mets cable home, SNY, debuted a documentary titled “Gary Keith & Ron: 18″ Friday night. Mets fans have obviously not enjoyed the 2023 Mets season, but they can take pride in their team having the best television broadcast team in Major League Baseball with Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling. No less an authority than Baseball Hall of Famer, and Astoria native, Bob Costas makes that clear here. 

SNY commissioned “Gary Keith & Ron: 18″ to mark the trio’s eighteenth year of broadcasting Mets games. That breaks the seventeen-year mark held by original Mets voices Ralph Kiner, Lindsey Nelson, and Bob Murphy. Gary Cohen, who grew up a huge Mets fan in Flushing, pays homage to that triumvirate throughout the hour-long show.   

Gary Cohen in 2023 Mets Hall of Fame Induction ceremony – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

Gary Cohen stressed the importance of he and his colleagues being entertaining even when the Mets are on the wrong end of a blowout, which has often been the case this season. This year music has been a popular topic in the booth as Gary and Keith have discussed the merits of the ‘70s and early ‘80s rock band, Styx, while Gary and Ron have done the same with Depeche Mode. 

SNY’s Kidcaster Contest: Eight-year-old Christopher Ivazes is a pro in the booth! 

Eight-year-old Christopher Ivazes was this year’s winner of SNY’s Kidcaster contest. Last Tuesday, he did the play-by-play for the bottom of the fourth inning of the Cubs-Mets game. To his credit, he did not appear nervous, nor did he come off as a precocious baseball savant.

When Ron Darling mentioned how Abraham Almonte may have been taking called strikes because the strike zone in the minor leagues, where he has spent most of 2023, is smaller. “He’s got to adjust!” Christopher exclaimed. The kid has a future. 

Brett Baty demoted to Syracuse Triple-A

The Mets did the right thing in sending back third baseman Brett Baty to their Syracuse AAA team. When the season began, many Mets fans believed he would be the next David Wright, and a sure candidate for National League Rookie of the Year. Those lofty expectations may have weighed on him as his offense and defense were awful.

Brett Baty – Image Credit: George Napolitano/Latino Sports

While Baty was struggling, his friend and fellow rookie, catcher Francisco Alvarez (Guatire, Venezuela), was one of the very few Mets bright spots in 2023. Alvarez’s success may also have affected him. Baty homered in his first two games back with the Syracuse Mets. Of course, getting away from the putrid Mets for a few weeks must be beneficial to anyone’s psyche. 

WFAN makin’ some ‘Hot Takes’

WFAN’s midday duo, Brandon Tierney and Sal Licata, said on the air last week that the Mets clubhouse was a toxic place. They also blamed first baseman Pete Alonso, claiming he was a causal reason, and that he should be traded.

Pete Alonso – Image Credit: Bill Menzel/Latino Sports

First, even though the Mets have had a miserable season, I have not heard about dissension in the clubhouse. Mets manager Buck Showalter has done a good job in keeping morale up as well as anyone can. 

Secondly, while everyone is allowed to have an opinion, especially on sports talk radio, where hosts frequently do a 180-degree turn the very next day, there is a business side to making outrageous statements in the world of social media.     

WFAN Sports Radio – Image Credit: WFAN New York

WFAN’s general manager, Spike Eskin, must be encouraging his on-air personalities to say things which will generate Internet clicks which he believes will create new listeners. I constantly see WFAN postings promoting controversial statements on both Facebook and Twitter. While that gathers attention, it also strains credibility as listeners rightfully wonder if the hosts really believe what they are saying.

Cuckoo Coup by Don Gould Out Now

Former WNBC sports anchor Don Gould is retired from broadcasting and living in Florida. He has recently self-published a book about the January 6th attempted insurrection titled “the Cuckoo Coup.” It is available on Amazon. 

Winning Time returns on HBO/HBO Max for Second Season

“Winning Time,” the comedy dramatization of the 1980s Los Angeles Lakers, is back for its second season on HBO and HBO Max. Quincy Isaiah and John C. Reilly star as Magic Johnson and Lakers owner D. Jerry Buss, respectively. The series is based on veteran sportswriter Jeff Pearlman’s book, “Showtime.”

What We Do in the Shadows back on Hulu for Fifth Season

The humorous “What We Do in the Shadows” has returned for its fifth season on cable’s FX and the Hulu streaming service. The comedic series looks at the lives of four vampires from the “old world” who were born in the 19th century and are residing now in Staten Island. The show owes a huge debt to such 1960s television classics as “The Munsters,” “The Addams Family,” and “Dark Shadows.”

You can read more of Lloyd Carroll’s columns posted weekly on The Queens Chronicle.

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