By Justin DeMarco

Kids ran around the playground, women read novels on benches, and Shake Shack had a long line, but it wasn’t just another typical sunny Saturday in the park as hundreds of tennis fans gathered around a giant screen at Madison Square Park to watch the US Open Men’s Singles Semifinals match between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer.

The excitement built throughout the day and all eyes were on the jumbo television as the number one and third ranked men in the world battled it out for a chance to play in the US Open final. The only time you realized you weren’t at Arthur Ashe Stadium was either when an oblivious person walked right in front of the screen during a crucial point or the Direct TV feed went down, which only happened once to the sound of “Oooohhhhs” and “Aaaahhhhs” and eventually turned into applause when play resumed a few seconds later.

Most of the onlookers were aware of the live US Open coverage sponsored by American Express and made a day out of their visit to the park.

“I have a kid and a dog and there’s a dog park, a playground, and Shake Shack,” Hayley, a 35-year old mother who lives near Madison Square Park, said. “Watching the US Open here is a good excuse and extra incentive to get the baby and the dog outside the apartment. I get to kill three birds with one stone.”

There were also those New Yorkers who randomly walked through the park only to discover they became the center of attention when they passed by the big screen while play was in progress.

“That was really embarrassing,” one guy said to his friend as the crowd glared at them in frustration. “All of those people were staring at me.” Then the two continued walking and exited the park.

The majority of viewers on hand were Federer fans and wore red shirts to support him and hats with his name on them. One of those Federer fans was a tourist from Switzerland who came to New York on vacation and then stopped by the park to watch the match, even though he admitted that the US Open wasn’t the reason why he came to New York.

“It’s nice that the US Open is at this time, but I came for the sightseeing and the shopping,” Christian, a 21-year old from Olten, Switzerland, said.

Christian actually ended up going to the US Open and purchased tickets to see Rafael Nadal play in an earlier round. Unfortunately for him, his experience was tainted by the weather.

“The atmosphere in the stadium wasn’t great when I was there because it wasn’t full,” Christian said. “But [Madison Square Park] has a good atmosphere today and I’m sure it’s probably good at the stadium, too.”

You could tell the casual tennis fan from the die-hard at the park based on who stuck around to watch the entire match and who picked up their sheet off the grass and left as the two players put on a show in the final set before Djokovic made his comeback and beat Federer to advance to the US Open Final. There was the woman who wore a Vamos Rafa! shirt and waited in anticipation of Nadal’s match against Andy Murray and those who were more interested in lounging and eating the Crispy Heritage pork ribs from Bensmiller Farm sold at the Eataly tent, the Truffle Goat Cheese Crab Pizza prepared by the restaurant Graffiti, or a corned beef or Cuban sandwich from Resto, while drinking Prosecco, beer, or wine.

Whether you’re a tennis nut or a food fan, there’s a place for you at the US Open Live at Madison Square Park. Just remember not to walk in front of the screen at the wrong time.

The women’s singles final will be shown on Sunday, September 11th and the men’s singles final will take place on Monday, September 12th.

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