During the Tudors’ reign, King Henry VIII reportedly delighted in playing tennis at Hampton Court Palace’s lavish court. His wife Ann Boleyn was famously interrupted during a game for her execution. This kind of display, a mesh of royal opulence combined with athletic playfulness, is reflected today during Lotte New York Palace’s fifth annual Palace Invitational, which took place Thursday at the hotel.
Standing grandly among the office buildings and restaurants on Madison, the Gilded Age structure features a courtyard that was outfitted for the day with a net and court. Hotel guests and VIPs clad in sundresses and shades mingled over Chateau d'Esclans’ Whispering Angel and Kobe beef sushi. This year, the hotel offered a $10,000 package tied to the event including accommodation, match admission, signature cocktails, breakfast and a signed tennis ball. Outside the wrought-iron gates, a crowd waited to catch glimpses of their heroes: Rafael Nadal, Mischa Zverev, the Williams sisters!
But as these stars head into the U.S. Open, the city’s favorite blend of sports, food, Champagne, parties and branding, the match at Lotte wasn’t tennis but badminton. The smaller, daintier sport has none of the fierceness of professional tennis—at least in this context. NBC’s Dylan Dreyer, who emceed the event, lamented that she wasn’t sure the formal rules were known. Dressed for a party rather than competition, Alexander and Mischa Zverev squared off against Sam Querrey and Danil Medvedev, ending in a lazy tie.
Next, Serena and Venus Williams faced Nadal and Dreyer, who was tapped in as his double but replaced when Cori “Coco” Gauff arrived. Clad in athleticwear and with more visible competitiveness than their male counterparts, the sisters prevailed. When Dreyer asked if they had also won at last year’s event, they couldn’t remember. Dreyer said, “Remember this one now.”