Towering stadiums which stretch as high as the eye can see, night session matches and music between changeovers: That's the US Open, the fourth and final Grand Slam of the tennis season.
Played on hard courts at the Billie Jean King USTA National Tennis Centre in Flushing Meadows, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of New York, the US Open has never been afraid of a little razzmatazz and is famous for the raucous night sessions played in its mammoth Arthur Ashe Stadium.
Held in late August and early September, the US Open is the season’s final opportunity to see the best players in men’s and women’s tennis battle it out for a Grand Slam title – some looking to underline their dominance or complete a history-making calendar Slam, others desperate to grab the Grand Slam glory in New York which may have eluded them in Melbourne, Paris and London. As befits the final major of the season, the US Open has a well-established season of major events on North American hard courts leading up to it, including Masters 1000 Series events in Canada and Cincinnati and the WTA Premier events in Stanford and New Haven. The US Open Series now tracks the performances of the players across the run-up, with winners of the Series potentially able to claim a $1 million bonus if they go on to win the US Open, as the likes of Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Rafael Nadal have done.
Most of the top players will have been on the continent for at least a month by the time the US Open rolls around, fine-tuning their games to the conditions and adjusting to the often brutal late summer heat – one of the factors, along with the roaring crowds, which can make the matches at the US Open downright gladiatorial.
The US Open has often been known for embracing innovation, introducing a tie break at 6-6 in the deciding set in 1970 and in 2006, becoming the first Grand Slam to use the Hawkeye challenge system. Often struck by rain, the US Open built a roof over its huge Arthur Ashe Stadium – something previously thought to be impossible – which debuted in 2016, ensuring play will continue no matter the weather.
From the five Open Era titles of Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras (tied with Roger Federer) to the emotional retirement of Andre Agassi in 2006 and the multiple titles of Serena and Venus Williams, American excellence has always been tied closely to the US Open. But while the Williams sisters – particularly Serena – continue to rule the women’s side in New York, dominance in recent years has passed on the men’s side to Europeans, with Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal all winning multiple US Open titles while Andy Murray, Marin Cilic and Juan Martin del Potro (a lone non-European outlier) have all triumphed at the US Open.