Inflation can’t stop fans of Serena Williams’ US Open and $22 cocktails

FLUSHING, NY – Guests at this year’s US Open tennis tournament could be courting huge credit card bills – but many told MarketWatch that seeing icons like Rafael Nadal, Naomi Osaka and Serena Williams in their element is priceless.

Bill and Miranda Whitt of Houston, Texas have spent most of the past year saving up for their first-ever trip to the US Open to celebrate Miranda’s 40th birthday.

“We had to succumb to Serena’s influence,” said Bill, 44, a mechatronics engineer who managed to catch the 23-time Grand Slam winner in action before she was knocked out of the Open. Friday night.

Avan, 64, from Kansas, who declined to give his last name, agreed that “it’s worth it – it’s exciting!”

And he managed to save some money by enduring a long layover in St. Louis on his way to his first US Open.

“As much as I’ve played tennis, I’ve never been to the US Open,” he added. “There are shops, stores, restaurants – it’s just a full experience, really.”

And nothing is cheap.

After tennis legend Serena Williams suggested it would likely be her last professional tennis tournament last month, ticket prices soared more than 87% to an average of $568, 117% more expensive than the last year, and nearly double the prices of 2011, according to TicketIQ data. (Williams even sported 400 diamonds on his custom Nike sneakers this week.)

Even players are competing for a record total prize of $60.1 million.

Inflation which currently remains near a 40-year high has also certainly increased the cost of airfare and hotel accommodation to attend the two-week tournament which draws hundreds of thousands of spectators around the world. Queens, New York (which is already an expensive metro area), not to mention on-site concessions like the signature Honey Deuce cocktail (now $22, 10% more than last year) and chicken tenders at $16.

“The food has definitely gone up, but it’s gotten better,” said Vi Ballard, 70, of Palos Verdes, Calif., who has appeared at the US Open more than 15 times.

“Everything is expensive,” she added.

But rumors that the first week of the Open could be Williams’ swansong certainly played a role in driving up ticket prices. Tickets for his game last Monday averaged close to $1,000 on the secondary market.

Still, viewers who spoke to MarketWatch said they weren’t seriously tempted to cash in on their places in the resale market, despite uncertain economic conditions surrounding inflation and a possible recession. Indeed, a record-breaking audience of nearly 30,000 – including Tiger Woods, Spike Lee and Zendaya – filled the stands on Wednesday night to watch Williams beat No. 2 seed Anett Kontaveit of Estonia.

See also: Serena Williams wins again at US Open – but, really, can she ever lose?

“You could sell [your tickets] and make so much money,” said Gwen, a first-time U.S. Open visitor from California who declined to give her last name. She and a friend landed their tickets before Williams announced she was stepping away from tennis, so they could have sold them for a tidy profit. But Gwen said getting away from day-to-day stressors and seeing history in action was too big of a draw.

“There’s so much energy,” she said.

Some guests made room in their budget for the US Open spectacle through hard work and clever budget tricks. Amy Biau, a marketing consultant from New York, has been coming to the Open since 2005. She used credit card rewards points to buy her tickets this year, and she gave herself a budget of $50 to buy stuff.

“I looked at a shirt that was nice, but it was $98,” said Blau, who gave his age as “not 70, not 80.” And she may be out of luck for an affordable souvenir, as even adult US Open online merchandise is $36 and up.

But others like the Houston Whitts are fully invested in the experience.

“We’ve spent the last nine months putting money aside for the US Open,” said Miranda, who handles operations for an oil and gas company. She said they saved money “on every paycheck.”

They cut costs where they could, like marking their tickets in early 2022 when seats were still under $200 each. And they’re staying in a Manhattan timeshare owned by Miranda’s parents to help keep accommodation costs down.

Their biggest budget hack was refilling their water bottles at the venue’s hydration stations, rather than spending $8 per bottle of Evian.

But they couldn’t resist a $22 Honey Deuce (about the price of three Evians at the Open). “We had to buy one just to try it out,” Miranda said.

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