What to Expect at the U.S. Open This Year, According to Former Champ Andy Roddick

IBM is bringing fans closer to the action & Roddick is spilling all the details on this year’s new features.

Courtesy of IBM
Courtesy of IBM

Former world No. 1 and 2003 US Open champ Andy Roddick—who needs no introduction, but gets one nonetheless—spent 12 years on the professional tennis circuit, playing the likes of Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer. Despite a lengthy and impressive resume, the now-retired singles star has been a fan of the sport even longer. So it only makes sense he team up with tech giant and longtime tournament partner, IBM. 

"I used to exist in the tunnels below Arthur Ashe Stadium. It's a bit of a different experience now seeing it from the outside and sitting with everyone else and watching downward," Roddick told Thrillist in an interview just days ahead of the main draw. "I was a fan before I played professionally and I'll be a fan for the rest of my life, so the majority of my tennis life will be spent as a fan and not a player. My first time at the US Open was when I was nine years old and I hope my last trip will be when I’m 90." 

IBM has maintained a 30-year relationship with the United States Tennis Association (USTA). In fact, it was behind the USOpen.org launch in 1995, and introduced the tournament’s mobile app nearly 15 years later. The brand remains on the cutting edge—which Roddick himself can attest to. In collaboration with the USTA, IBM Watson continues to one-up itself, creating an unparalleled fan experience at the Grand Slam. This year is no exception. 

"IBM does all this so that when the information makes it to the US Open website or US Open app, it's easy. They've aggregated all the stuff you need to know—from power index to momentum rankings," Roddick explained. "It's been such an important part of the US Open. 700,000 people attend in person and over 10 million engage in these platforms. IBM is the company that makes it run and makes it such a great fan experience." 

Courtesy of IBM

The brand's entire strategy, which includes AI technology-fueled match insights, is to bring fans closer to the action—whether they’re watching at home or from the Arthur Ashe stands.

The IBM Match Insights allows you to analyze millions of data points throughout the tournament, while Win Factors gives you transparency—aka the why—behind those insights. The breakdown includes details down to a player’s court surface stats, rankings, head-to-head records, recent performance, and even media commentary. It’s basically a one-stop knowledge shop. 

"If you're a tennis fan that maybe doesn't follow the ins and outs on a 52-week basis, but you really love the US Open, IBM Watson basically accounts for, 'Hey, who are the hot players going in, what are we looking for?'" Roddick explained. "It'll even give you the tools to see who’s the favorite in different match-ups."

Courtesy of IBM

But as Roddick knows all too well, the US Open is so much more than just another stop along the tour. Organizers have built New York’s Slam into an experiential event—even for those uninterested in court surface stats and player rankings. Translation: you don't have to be a tennis fan to have a good time at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. 

"The USTA does such a great job of making it an event outside of just the tennis matches. Whether they have their big opening ceremony, their big musical acts, and around the grounds there's great food. They've brought in some of the best chefs in New York," Roddick said. "If you watch one or two matches, you can still spend six more hours at the courts just with the pure entertainment of it all. It's gone over time from a tennis tournament to an event full stop." 

Courtesy of American Express

For its part, American Express unveiled its own new-and-improved on-site activations at the tournament. Card members will get exclusive access to the Centurion Suite, where fans can enjoy dishes curated by executive chefs Cedric Vongerichten, Michael Solomonov, and Ignacio Mattos. Amex will also have its iconic radios, a checkout-free shop, and complimentary bag checks, among other perk. 

You'll find counter service options like Fieldtrip, Fuku, Hill Country, Taqueria Nixtamal, and Van Leeuwen Ice Cream within the Food Village culinary hall. Or, there's the option for a more luxe sit-down experience between matches. Among seven high-end dining destinations are chefs Ed Brown and Masaharu Morimoto's seafood-centric Aces and a Cuban-American mashup led by chef David Burke, called Mojito. 

Statistics (and dining) aside, the former American champ is just as excited as the rest of us for Serena Williams' final bow at the US Open. 

"I've never talked less about who I thought the actual winners will be, and that's because the only storyline for week one is going to be Serena Williams," he said, laughing. "I still get goosebumps when I talk about it because I don't want to see her go. For us, trying to come up with superlatives to explain her career and explain the impact she's had on tennis—not just the sport but as a crossover star. She's created a bigger tent for tennis, which I don't even know how you explain how valuable that is." 

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Megan Schaltegger is a Staff Writer on the News team at Thrillist.