What’s the best way to succinctly describe the U.S. Open Tennis Championships, one of the biggest, most esteemed events in the sport?
It’s a “three-week bonanza of tennis,” David Brewer, U.S. Open tournament director, tells SELF. And that bonanza has already begun.
The qualifying tournaments kicked off today at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in NYC, and the main competition, hosted at the same venue, will begin on Monday, August 27 and wrap on Sunday, September 9.
Here, everything you need to know about this big-time series, including its significance, qualifying standards, various events, players to watch this year, and how and when to tune in for it all.
The U.S. Open is one of four Grand Slam Tournaments hosted annually.
The U.S. Open and the three other annual Grand Slam Tournaments (Wimbledon, the French Open, and the Australian Open), are the “tentpoles of the sport,” says Brewer. “They’re the longest running and seen by the players as the most prestigious trophies to win each year.”
They also serve as a gathering ground for essentially every top player in the sport, Brewer adds. Pretty much every big-name tennis player will compete in the Grand Slam events (unless they’re injured or taking time off from the sport) which makes the tournaments extremely high-profile—and extremely exciting.
Though the four Grand Slam tournaments feature the same events and follow the same qualifying procedures, they all carry a unique vibe. “Each Grand Slam event tends to take on the personality of its host city,” says Brewer. As for the U.S. Open: “We are very much reflective of New York—we’re loud, brassy, and gritty.”
Approximately 650 athletes will participate in the U.S. Open in a variety of singles, doubles, mixed doubles, junior, and wheelchair events.
As mentioned, the qualifying tournament began today, with 128 men’s singles players, and 128 women’s singles. “These are the young up-and-comers hoping to earn their way into the U.S. Open main draw,” says Brewer. The top 16 men and 16 women from the qualifying round, which wraps on Friday, will earn spots in the main draw, which is otherwise comprised of the top players based on annual world rankings.
Events in the main draw include men and women’s singles, men and women’s doubles, mixed doubles, junior competitions, and wheelchair competitions. The first two days of the tournament will feature solely singles matches, with additional events beginning on the third day.
Players and teams are eliminated or advance in a bracket-style competition. In total, singles players need to win six matches to make it to the final round; doubles need to win five matches; and mixed doubles need to win four matches. Some players will participate in both singles and doubles, says Brewer, which is a LOT of tennis—or as some might say, a bonanza.
While the championship is anyone’s game, there are several favorites going into the tournament this year—including veterans-slash-legends Serena and Venus Williams.
On the women’s singles side, there’s Romanian Simona Halep, who’s currently ranked number 1 in the world, “but of course Serena [Williams], Venus [Williams] and Maria Sharapova [the defending U.S. Open champ from Russia]” are also top contenders, says Brewer.
As for what’s expected from Serena following her stellar and inspiring performance at Wimbledon in July? “I’m not in the future-predicting business,” says Brewer, “but we’ll just say she always performs well in New York.”
On the men’s singles side, there are the “usual suspects,” says Brewer, including the defending champion Rafael Nadal (currently ranked number 1 the world), plus Serbian Novak Djokovic, who won Wimbledon this year, and Swiss player Roger Federer, currently ranked number 2 in the world.
In honor of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Open this year, there are several components of the tournament in New York City that are free and open to the public.
For one, the qualifying rounds are entirely free and open to the public now through Friday, August 24, at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York. The public is also invited to attend free, open practices at the center now through Friday the 24th. Roger Federer will practice tomorrow from 10 A.M. to 11 A.M. ET, and Novack Djokovic will practice on Thursday, August 23 (time to be announced).
If you can’t make it to Queens, there’s an expo at Brookfield Place in lower Manhattan featuring player
appearances, food, live music, and a full-sized tennis court on Wednesday, August 22, and Thursday, August 23, from 10 A.M. to 8 P.M. each day. Check out USOpen.org for schedules and more details on these free events.
The tournament officially begins on Monday, August 27, and continues with daily games through Sunday, September 9. Here’s how and when you can tune in.
Every single game throughout the tournament (including this week’s qualifying rounds) will be broadcast on ESPN, says Brewer, which you can access via cable, Hulu Live, Sling TV, or DirecTV Now. If you don’t have cable or one of these subscriptions, you can download the ESPN+ app (a seven-day trial is free; you can purchase a monthly subscription for $4.99) to view coverage.
You can also view live scores, live match streaming, and match highlights on USOpen.org and with the US Open app.