Grand Slam tennis returns stateside as the main draw of the 2021 U.S. Open — the sport’s final major event of the calendar year — begins on Monday at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, New York.
Following a qualifying stage that whittled the field down from over 100 to 64 players on the men’s and women’s side, some of the largest names in tennis will try to add to their respective trophy cases on the hardcourt. With it brings a chance to make history while others attempt to stake their claim as some of the best in the world.
2021 U.S. Open Main Draw Schedule
- Aug. 30-31: Men’s & Women’s 1st Round
- Sept. 1-2: Men’s & Women’s 2nd Round
- Sept. 3-4: Men’s & Women’s 3rd Round
- Sept. 5-6: Men’s & Women’s Round of 16
- Sept. 7-8: Men’s & Women’s Quarterfinals
- Sept 9: Women’s Semifinals
- Sept. 10: Men’s Semifinals
- Sept. 11: Women’s Final
- Sept. 12: Men’s Final
The U.S. won’t get a chance to see all of tennis’ great stars this year, however, which does leave something to be desired.
A lengthy list of injuries is keeping out numerous big names, including the men’s defending champion, Dominic Thiem. However, even the more casual tennis fans will not be able to see the likes of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Serena Williams, and Venus Williams this year.
Federer — who is undergoing a third knee surgery and will be out for months — and Nadal (foot) see their joint record of 20 Grand Slam titles stuck on that mark. Meanwhile, Serena Williams’ pursuit of a record-tying 24th major title must have to wait a little while longer as she recovers from a torn hamstring.
Remarkably enough, this is the first time that the U.S. Open won’t feature Federer, Nadal, or the Williams sisters since 1997.
Is the field devoid of some star power? Certainly. But it only opens the doors for some names you might not know — and some you already do — to make more noise in Queens.
3 Men’s Players to Watch
Novak Djokovic (-145): The men’s No. 1 seed will be without two of his biggest rivals in Nadal and Federer — which leaves the door slightly further open to make history in Queens. A U.S. Open victory would see Djokovic break the three-way tie between the legendary trio, as it would be his 21st career major won. It would also complete the ever-so-rare ‘Calendar Grand Slam’ of winning the Australian and French Opens, Wimbledon, and the U.S. Open in the same season. A man hasn’t done that since 1969 when Australian legend Rod Laver swept all four championships. American Don Budge is the only other to complete a ‘Calendar Grand Slam,’ which came in 1938.
Daniil Medvedev (+400): Medvedev has been knocking on the door of Grand Slam titles, but the U.S. Open’s No. 2 seed hasn’t quite kicked it down as of yet. He made the Australian Open Final — the other hardcourt major — earlier this year, two years removed from making the finals at the U.S. Open. Medvedev already has a pair of championships on the hardcourt this year, taking the Open 13 Provence in Marseille back in March and the National Bank Open in Canada just last month.
Alexander Zverev (+600): Zverev, like Medvedev, is poised to be the next generation of men’s tennis stars. He is fresh off winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics this summer and was a finalist at the U.S. Open last year, in which he fell to Thiem. In total, he’s won four tournaments this year with three of them coming on the hardcourt, so expect him to make plenty of noise in Queens. However, his presence is a controversial one as he was accused in October 2020 by his ex-girlfriend of domestic abuse
3 Women’s Players to Watch
Ashleigh Barty (+330): Barty continues her ascension up the tennis ranks heading into Queens with major titles at the French Open two years ago and at Wimbledon this summer. She has yet to advance past the Round of 16 at the U.S. Open but she has been on a tear this year. Of the 12 events she’s appeared in, she’s been to the final six times and has won five of them — most recently the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati just last week.
Naomi Osaka (+600): Osaka has made headlines more for her work off the court this season as she becomes an authoritative voice for mental health within the sport. She’s been seen sparingly on the court since winning the Australian Open back in February. She made the quarterfinal of the Miami Open in March, but that’s as far as she’s been in the last six tournaments she’s appeared in. Regardless, she’s a menace on the hardcourt with two Australian Open titles and another pair of U.S. Open championships, including last year’s crown.
Aryna Sabalenka (+1400): The only player on this list not to own a Grand Slam title, Sabalenka has been trending in the right direction this year with a number of strong performances — including a victory at the Madrid Open in May. The 23-year-old had her best showing at a major this summer during Wimbledon, making the semifinals before falling to Karolina Pliskova. It was still good enough to help her nab the No. 2 ranking in the world heading into Queens.
Odds courtesy of DraftKings
This first appeared on AMNY.com