The women’s singles final is scheduled for Sept. 12, and the men’s singles final is set for Sept. 13. Here’s everything else you need to know about this year’s event:
How do I watch?
What’s different about this year’s tournament?
The most noticeable difference will be the absence of fans. Usually up to 30,000 spectators flock to the National Tennis Center daily during the Open, but this year, only a few members of players’ trimmed-down teams will be in the stands, socially distanced and wearing masks. When players arrived at the bubble — which most of the field did ahead of the Western & Southern Open — they took two coronavirus tests within 48 hours and were allowed to practice on the U.S. Open campus only after they received two negative results.
Somewhat less noticeable to viewers at home will be the use of automated line judges, a system called Hawk-Eye Live, in place of human ones on all courts except Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium. There also will be a limited number of ball kids at the event, and they won’t actually be kids. All ball boys and ball girls will be 18 or older, they will follow all testing protocols and health guidelines, and they won’t be handling anyone’s towels. Players will have receptacles stationed behind the baseline and will have to (gasp) retrieve their own sweat rags.
Schedule-wise, the U.S. Open is taking place a week later than it usually would.
What about the French Open and Wimbledon?
Wimbledon, which masterfully played the long game and had an insurance policy that covered cancellation because of a pandemic, won’t be played this year. The French Open, rather controversially, will begin Sept. 27, two weeks after the U.S. Open ends, leaving players competing in both little time to adjust to radically different surfaces and handle any potential problems relating to international travel amid a pandemic.
Who won’t play in New York?
A whole host of big names won’t be traveling to the Big Apple, especially on the women’s side. No. 1 Ashleigh Barty and No. 2 Simona Halep are out, as is reigning champion Bianca Andreesu. Only four of the top 10 women in the world will be in the draw.
On the men’s side, the sport’s two biggest figures aren’t playing. Roger Federer previously shut down his season after having surgery on his right knee, and Rafael Nadal withdrew this month citing pandemic-related travel concerns.
Who are the favorites?
Without Federer and Nadal in New York, this hardly needs to be written, but the U.S. Open is world No. 1 Novak Djokovic’s tournament to lose. The 33-year-old will have the chance to win his 18th Grand Slam title and gain ground on Federer (who has 20) and Nadal (who has 19 and will be the favorite to win the French Open, his signature event). After Djokovic, last year’s runner-up, No. 3 seed Daniil Medvedev, and No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem are the next strongest contenders. A title would be the ultimate breakthrough for Thiem, who has lost three Grand Slam finals, including this year to Djokovic at the Australian Open, and has never made it past the quarterfinals in New York.
Things are a little more complex in the women’s draw. No. 3 seed Serena Williams will have another chance to tie Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam singles titles and is a major favorite simply by virtue of being in the draw. But her play leading up to the U.S. Open hasn’t been effortless — she’s 3-2 since the tour’s return, and all of those matches went three sets. She will need her serve to be at its best to help close out bouts without getting into marathon matches in which mental lapses could be a problem.
Other than Williams, No. 4 seed Naomi Osaka could secure her third Grand Slam title in New York. The 22-year-old, who withdrew from Saturday’s final of the Western & Southern Open with a left hamstring injury, has a juicy draw that could lead to a third-round rematch with Coco Gauff. Off the court, Osaka recently leaned into her status as one of the most powerful players in the game when she joined NBA players and other athletes in refusing to play her semifinal at the Western & Southern Open, prompting the tournament to halt play for a day. But the hamstring injury could scuttle her hopes of claiming the U.S. Open title.
Anyone else to keep an eye on?
The player field is chock full of Easter eggs to look out for this year, including former Grand Slam champions looking to test themselves and win some matches. Keep an eye on three-time U.S. Open champion Kim Clijsters, back in the game at 37, and two-time Grand Slam champ Victoria Azarenka, who is looking feisty as ever after a patchy few years on the tour. Former U.S. Open champ and three-time major title winner Andy Murray is lurking in the men’s draw as well, eager to find out how far his metal hip can take him.
Greener, equally intriguing talent is peppered elsewhere, from No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin, this year’s Australian Open winner, to Gauff, who faces a tenacious first-round opponent in No. 31 seed Anastasija Sevastova. Men’s No. 4 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas has perhaps the least intimidating section of the draw among the top seeds.