Andy Roddick serves in a match against Argentinean Juan Martin De Potro during the men’s singles fourth round of last year’s US Open.
How fortunate we are as tennis fans to have the nation’s biggest tennis tournament, the US Open, right here in the New York area—not to mention the fact that the two-week extravaganza pours approximately $800 million into the local economy every year.
When the fourth and final major sports event on the calendar takes place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, Queens, starting Monday, August 26 until Monday, September 9, defending champion and four-time US Open winner Serena Williams has the best shot of any American to hoist the championship trophy over her head. But it’s great to know there’s a younger American, 20-year-old Sloane Stephens, who can also add some American sizzle to the women’s draw. Stephens actually knocked Williams, her childhood idol, out of the Australian Open in January in the quarterfinals (although Serena tweaked her back in the second set).
Andy Murray, Britain’s favorite Scotsman, is the defending champ in the men’s draw and comes into the US Open on a high from winning his first Wimbledon title. Top-ranked Novak Djokovic, who dominated the hard courts last season and beat Andy Murray at the Australian Open in January but lost to him in this year’s Wimbledon final, will surely hope to regain the upper hand.
And it’s always special every time five-time US Open champion Roger Federer takes the court. Although the 32-year-old suffered several unprecedented losses this year to lower-ranked players, the Swiss Maestro, winner of 17 Grand Slam titles, is still capable of going deep in the draw.
With dozens of exciting players to watch, questions regarding former champions arise. Will 2006 US Open champ Maria Sharapova be 100 percent physically? She pulled out of the Rogers Cup in Canada a few weeks ago because of a strained hip muscle that she injured at Wimbledon. What kind of shape is Rafael Nadal in after losing in the first round of Wimbledon? The clay-court specialist and the 2010 US Open winner should be ready to rock the stadium. Can the top-ranked American men make some noise this year? That would be John Isner, the 6-foot 10-inch giant with the blistering serve, and Sam Querrey. American twins, Bob and Mike Bryan, winners of 15 Grand Slam Doubles titles, are always great to watch. And recently inducted Hall of Famer Martina Hingis has come out of retirement and will be competing in the doubles draw.
But perhaps the bigger story coming into this year’s US Open is not the players themselves but what the players fought for, and got, in terms of scheduling and prize money. Federer, the president of the ATP Player Council, joined other top players in lobbying the USTA to make changes in the schedule, so that the players have a day of rest in between the semis and the final. The plan is to transition to this as a permanent schedule in 2015. In addition to schedule modifications, a few other major changes will be taking place: The USTA agreed to increase the prize money from the $25.5 million last year to $33.6 million this year. And by 2017, prize money for the players will increase to $50 million.
The USTA recently received New York City Council approval with legislation that will provide the USTA additional space, enabling the USTA to build a new Louis Armstrong Stadium, a Grandstand Court, and a pedestrian walkway that will connect the Grandstand to Court 17.
For those who can’t get enough tennis, the qualifying matches take place the week prior to the official start, and Arthur Ashe Kids’ Day is Saturday, August 24.
I’ll be broadcasting the US Open for CBS Sports Radio Network and WFAN Radio from my broadcast booth overlooking the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court. Be sure to wave to me when you come out to watch the festivities. Let the games begin!