Players hit the suite spot with private viewing room access

They weren’t the usual paying fans, however, but rather support staff and players including Naomi Osaka, Dominic Thiem, Sofia Kenin and Grigor Dimitrov.

With no fans on site due to the coronavirus pandemic, those suites — that cost on average $500,000 for the fortnight — have been allotted to all 32 seeded singles players and past US Open champions.

They’ve proved to be a big hit, too, replacing the locker room lounge as the players’ hang out area on site — at least for the elite — while they are still meant to be social distancing as part of the tournament’s bubble.

“To have it is a massive privilege,” 2017 finalist Madison Keys told reporters this week. “I know not everyone has that. Having a place that I can just go and there’s no one else and I can just sit there by myself is really nice.

“I spend most of my time on-site there. I eat all my meals in there. I do a lot of my warmup in there. I stretch in there. I pretty much live in my suite,” she added with a laugh.

“I love that I can kind of peek out and see what’s going on on Arthur Ashe.”

Serena Williams did just that on Tuesday, sticking around to catch older sister Venus’ first-round match in the night session.

It’s rare for tennis players to watch matches in stadiums. Their usual viewing while at events takes place in hotel rooms and in the player lounge.

Murray’s tour

Before his first round match, Murray gave viewers a tour of his own suite that featured a massage table, two TVs, fridges and a coffee machine that he said would go down well with his physiotherapist, Shane Annun.

“We’re normally in the locker room watching TV but I think we’ll be allowed to watch the matches on centre,” Murray, the 2012 winner, said correctly in a video put out by the US Open’s Twitter feed. “We basically got a bunch of seats. As you can see that’s Arthur Ashe Stadium,” he said, the court nearby.

“So we’ll be sitting out here watching matches, which is cool. We can order all of our food and drinks.”

The player Keys lost to in the 2017 final, Sloane Stephens, said the suites came complete with items now commonly associated with Covid-19 prevention.

“They have normal water, protective gear, all of the hand sanitizer, alcohol wipes, sanitizing stuff, masks, everything you could possibly think of,” Stephens told reporters.

“Then obviously we can order food from there. We just have our little QR code. You press what you want, it comes in like five minutes. You can order whatever you want.”

Anything to improve upon?

“We can’t decorate the suite,” Stephens said light-heartedly. “That would have been cool. Other than that, everything in there that you need.”

Had the suites been given out last year at the US Open, American Kenin still would have benefited being ranked 20th.

Now she’s ranked No. 4, after winning the Australian Open. She is the lone women’s grand slam winner this year following the postponement of Roland Garros and the cancellation of Wimbledon amid the pandemic.

A bit special

“I have quite a big suite,” said Kenin. “It’s really comfortable there. I have a couch, TV, go outside on the balcony, watch practices on Ashe.

“It’s a bit special. I’m really happy with the suites. It makes us feel a lot better. I’m really grateful for that.”

Murray watched some of Alexander Zverev’s victory over 2017 finalist Kevin Anderson from his suite and said the seats were “brilliant.”

But for Murray, having other players keep an eye on him close up will take some getting used to. He reflected on the 2012 Olympics in London when he defeated Stan Wawrinka, with Wawrinka’s fellow Swiss Roger Federer in attendance.

“Federer was sitting in his box for that match. That was quite weird,” said Murray. “It was just a bit weird looking up and seeing him sitting in the players’ box when usually you look up and see kind of coaches and family and whatnot. He was there in his Swiss tracksuit and stuff.

“He’s obviously one of the best players of all time, and he was just sitting in the box. I played well in that match, so I don’t want to say he put me off.

“There’s not anyone I wouldn’t want to watch me, but definitely you feel certain players’ presence more than others maybe.”

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