Late Monday afternoon, amidst the hustle and bustle of honking horns and New York City’s nine-to-fivers starting their journey home, I boarded an innocuous-enough looking mini bus on the corner of Park Avenue and 46th Street. This was to be our transportation to Heineken’s Media Night, an all-access event that began with a party bus stocked with Heineken and other refreshments, and ended with me sitting so close to the action that I interrupted Novak Djokovic during one of his final service games to close out Day 1 on Arthur Ashe Stadium. Sorry, Djokster. You won in straight sets anyway.
But back to the beginning. Upon arriving at the grounds in Queens, myself and a few other lucky media folks were whisked in through a VIP entrance, and started our night off right at the Heineken House. A veritable fortress of drinks, games, gear, and plenty of screens to catch all the tennis, the House, which is located above the food village, is a great escape for any fan entering the grounds. Heineken, who’s in their 23rd year of sponsorship with the Open, didn’t just wet our whistle with more refreshing suds-because why not more beer-they made our taste buds come alive with gourmet sandwiches created by Jeff Zalaznick and chef Mario Carbone. You know, the dudes from the ridiculously delicious restaurant Parm on Mulberry Street in the Nolita neighborhood of Manhattan. We’re talking Italian combo, panini’s with gooey mozzarella and tomato…Ya, we’ll stop now. Anyway, these sandwiches will be served throughout the tournament at the Heineken House. In case you needed another reason to get out to the Open.
After chowing down and taking out a few frosty Heineken’s, we tried our hand at some of the interactive games on offer. There was cornhole-one of my personal favorites-as well as a variety of other tennis related challenges, with the best scores on display through the “Legend Setter” challenge screens at the House. Safe to say, I didn’t find my name on any screen after giving it a go, but you might have better luck.
On to the tennis, though. The main reason we came, right? Disclaimer: I have been to the U.S. Open many times, and I have never walked into Ashe and actually gotten off the escalator after reaching the first level in order to get to my seats. Like 8,000 Christmas mornings rolled into one. We made our way to the Heineken suite, and it was literally like walking through C.S. Lewis’ wardrobe. I’ve seen NYC studios less hooked up than this space. There was a big-screen to watch the matches, more amazing food, and of course, plenty of free-flowing Heineken on tap. Through another door, and we were out on a terrace with seats so close to the court you could hear the ball kids breathing. The tennis was world class, as it always is at the end of August in Queens, but the hospitality Heineken extended towards us far surpassed my imagination. Sure, few who go to the Open will get to experience tennis from the Heineken suite, but anyone on the grounds can enjoy the Heineken House, and everything else the popular red star brand has to offer. Thanks, Heineken. For one of the few times in my life, I can say the hangover the next morning was definitely worth it.