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Longtime fans missing the in-person US Open experience

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Mark Kaufman and Ned Dorman each saw their 58-year streaks broken during this fan-less U.S. Open fortnight.

Kaufman, a former Cornell tennis player, and Dorman have attended every year since 1962. They don’t know each other, but have something in common, along with more than a dozen other Open diehards. They all have seen their Open streaks of more than 40 years busted because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Looking at the bright side, Kauffman said he has saved $36,000 — not including gas. In another moment, he became despondent, as it was the No. 1 family outing of his life.

“It sucks,’’ Kaufman told The Post. “One of the annual things in your life. It’s like missing Thanksgiving. You go with the same friends — some who would fly in.’’

Kaufman, who just turned 70 and grew up blocks from Ebbets Field, turned into a tennis nut. When the Open moved from Forest Hills to Flushing Meadows in 1978, he bought a box that seats six and paid $1,800. After two seat upgrades, Kaufman, a manufacturer of “terry towels,” renewed his box in 2019 for $36,000.

Now Kaufman is watching the Open on ESPN for free — and still enjoying it. The Post reported ESPN is situating its cameras in lower spots because of the empty seats.

“Tennis more than any other sport is able to show angles we haven’t seen before on TV,’’ Kaufman said. “I wonder if some may wonder next season it’s better on TV’’

Dorman, who attended Game 7 of the Knicks-Lakers NBA Finals in 1970, can emphatically say it is not better. ESPN’s ratings are down 48 percent from last year’s Open.

“My immediate reaction was to call it off,’’ Dorman said. “We didn’t have Wimbledon. Now that it’s on, I’m watching and I’m into it, but I’m trying to work my way into the tournament. It doesn’t feel right. It feels funny. It’s weird.

“What I love about the Open more than anything — and I’ve been to Wimbledon and Australian Open — they are special but nobody has the energy of the Open and karma of the night crowd. I miss that. To hear a couple of people clapping, I’m struggling with it. I’m not sure it was the right thing.’’

The first baby steps of his daughter, Maddy, were taken 36 years ago at the 1984 Open and she has gone every year since.

“It’s part of my life,’’ Dorman said. “On the other hand it’s COVID and you don’t mess around. They made the right call. We need to be vigilant to kill this thing. It’s still tennis matches, not life.’’

Daniel Prine has attended the Open since the 1960s and has been an usher in the President’s Box at Arthur Ashe Stadium since 1998 — annually dealing with celebrities of all types, political figures, athletes, Fortune 500 executives, even astronauts.

It’s not only the fans that are missing, but several hundred ushers a day. Prine once had to tell Mike Tyson he didn’t have a box seat for his daughter — and lived to tell about it.

ned dorman us open fanless experience
Ned Dorman with his wife Ellen (l.) and daughter Maddy Purcell.

Prine would work 200 hours during the tournament — doing day and night sessions. In the box he once hooked up former Braves teammates Hank Aaron and Joe Torre, who hadn’t seen each other in dozens of years.

“It’s strange not being there,’’ Prine said. “I am enjoying the tournament coverage on TV though. I can turn off the blow out matches. I can’t do that at the stadium.’’

Wendy Grant hasn’t turned off a match yet despite her 47-year Open streak ending.

“I have been going to the U.S. Open my whole life,’’ said Grant, who attended her first Open at Forest Hills in 1973. “I look forward to the Open as a summer highlight every year. It’s like a home coming — seeing a lot of the same ticketholders faces and catching up. While I have been glued to the television watching each and every match, it’s disappointing to not be there. I understand and appreciate the protocols in place. I just hope that things will get back to normal for next year’s event.’’

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