A love of tennis was one the many things that bonded Gary Falkowitz to his son, Ethan, and Mitchell Hassenbein to his son, Drew.
So it was a “surreal” experience, Gary told Newsday on Monday, to be attending opening day of the U.S. Open at Flushing Meadows without them.
Both fathers spoke with tears in their eyes and obvious pride in their hearts. Being at the Open wasn’t easy for them, but they both said it was something they had to do as they attempt to deal with the tragedy.
“You just put one foot in front of the other,” Hassenbein said. “And that’s all you can do. There’s no way of getting around it or getting over it. Just try to walk with it. Try to honor your son the best you can.”
The Falkowitz and Hassenbein families were guests of the United States Tennis Association on Monday. Mitchell Hassenbein also attended the qualifying rounds before the tournament began.
“Drew and I would come every day,” Hassenbein said. “Day One for qualifiers we were here, and I’ve been doing that because we would be here together. This is like a comfortable place for us. Great place.”
Asked what he had been thinking about, Mitchell said, “I think about how we probably walked through every single step of this building so many times and how he loved it. How he’d make me stay to all hours of the night and never wanted to leave. So I think of that and you do your best to honor him. Obviously, it’s very difficult. We’re doing just the best we can.”
Drew and Ethan both had center court experiences at Arthur Ashe Stadium. Drew was part of the coin toss ceremony before the 2021 U.S. Open final match between Novak Djokovic and eventual champion Daniil Medvedev.