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The 2012 US Open opening matches kicked off an economic bonanza for the city Monday, but a man working for a borough nonprofit trying to get spectators to stay in Queens did not have the same luck as some of the athletes.
“This is the best tennis tournament in the best city with the best fans anywhere,” said Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who delivered a short speech at the opening ceremony before pop stars, break dancers and fireworks entertained the crowd gathered at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows Corona Park.
A hushed crowd sat in the Arthur Ashe Stadium to watch No. 3-ranked Maria Sharapova take down her opponent, Melinda Czink, where the tense atmosphere was periodically broken by people shouting to the 25-year-old on a first name basis: “C’mon Maria!”
Later in the evening, the top men’s player in the world, Roger Federer, defeated Donald Young in straight sets.
The drawing power of these tennis stars nets the city about $750 million a year in economic activity, according to Bloomberg, but it is unclear how much of that money trickles down into the neighborhoods surrounding the tennis center.
“Whatever it is, we’d like to have more,” said Seth Bornstein, executive director of the Queens Economic Development Corp., a nonprofit that had a booth set up at the Open.
Alex Wu, marketing assistant for the QEDC, was manning that booth and attempting to steer tennis enthusiasts to restaurants in Flushing and Corona.
Instead, he found himself mostly guiding people to the subways to return to Manhattan or New Jersey.
“If you take one train stop, there is a lot more food,” Wu recalled telling a family from Tennessee, who actually made the trek.
But it was a rare success for the day.
Most people wanted to go back to Manhattan or New Jersey, he said, but Bornstein cited hotel rooms filled to capacity in neighborhoods around the complex as a sign that travelers are coming around to Queens.
There were also plenty of good food and drink options within the walls of the tennis center.
It is rare to be at a sporting event and see people walking by with champagne flutes, but that is exactly what Tolly Riaz, a tennis pro who used to work at the Douglaston Club, was doing.
Riaz is originally from Pakistan and loves the sport because it unites the entire world, regardless of political or ethnic differences.
He recalled one of his players, also from Pakistan, went on to a US Open doubles final with a partner from India, a partnership that would be unheard of in the diplomatic world.
“Sport brings people together,” he said, standing amid a crowd from all over the world.
Mauricio Cano came all the way from Colombia to attend the open, and he did not leave empty-handed.
After Sharapova’s win, she lobbed a series of signed tennis balls into the audience.
“I was shouting in Spanish, ‘Maria, over here!’” he said.
Though Sharapova is Russian, she nevertheless hit one his way.
Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4566.
©2012 Community Newspaper Group
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