IT’S time for the final grand slam of the season, with New York City once again the centre of attention as the US Open gets underway.
Defending champion Rafael Nadal returns to Flushing Meadows as the No.1 seed looking for an 18th grand slam title, but will face stiff competition from fellow legends Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic.
Serena Williams missed last year’s tournament through pregnancy, and in her place a pair of young American stars battled it out in the women’s final — with Sloane Stephens defeating Madison Keys.
But Williams is back and, after being handed the 17th seed by officials this week, looms as one of the favourites for the women’s title — along with No.1 seed Simona Halep.
Where is the US Open played? The hard courts of Flushing Meadows in New York City!
When? The men’s and women’s first round begins in the early hours of Tuesday September 28 (Australian time) — with the tournament coming to a close with the men’s final on Monday September 10.
What times are play scheduled? The morning sessions will start at 1am AEST, with the evening session beginning at 9am AEST.
What is the prizemoney? The 2018 US Open will result in the biggest purse in tennis history, with a record $US53 million ($A72 million) to be divided up.
The men’s and singles winners will pocket $US3.8 million, with the runner-up to receive a handsome $US1.85 million.
Semi-finalists land $US925,000 each, with quarter-finalists falling just short of half a million each for their efforts ($US475,000).
Reaching the main draw alone gets you a cheque for $US54,000.
There’s plenty of money to be made in the doubles as well, with the winning men’s and women’s teams earning $US700,000 each.
HOW TO WATCH
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Could this be the fortnight where it all goes right for Nick Kyrgios for two weeks, and he delivers a breakthrough grand slam title?
You can never rule anything out with the No.30 seed and the best Aussie hope in New York. And honestly, at this stage who knows what we will get from him?
His most recent showing, at the Cincinnati Masters, showcased the full catalogue of Kyrgios’ infuriating talents. Incredible baseline rallies and impossible shot-making, spliced together with disinterested play, questions about his attitude and tanking accusations.
He dazzled — at times — before ultimately falling to the powerful Juan Martin del Potro.
If not him, then hardworking teenager Alex de Minaur appears the next best chance of making a run.
De Minaur is one of two teenagers sitting inside the world’s top 50, having soared up the rankings in 2018.
He will be looking to build on his third-round appearance at Wimbledon and is eyeing off a maiden main draw win at Flushing Meadows — having lost in straight sets in the first round to sixth seed Dominic Thiem last year.
Bernard Tomic bombed out in qualifying, losing to Thanasi Kokkinakis — who could be the dark horse Aussie contender with a massive serve and heavy baseline game that is suited to the hard courts, should he advance through qualifying.
The men’s contingent is rounded out by James Duckworth, Matt Ebden, John Millman, Jordan Thompson and wildcard Jason Kubler.
The torch has seemingly well and truly been passed on from former US Open champion Samantha Stosur, who has slipped to 64th in the world rankings and arrives in New York with little to no form under her belt.
Stosur failed to make the most of her lucky loser entry at the Connecticut Open, where she lost in straight sets to Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka.
In her place, it is young gun Ash Barty (seeded 18th) and Daria Gavrilova (seeded 25th) who carry Australia’s hopes on their shoulders.
Barty is the top-seeded Australian, and enters in strong form — having won eight of her past 11 matches in hard courts, before pulling out of the Connecticut Open due to illness.
Gavrilova failed to defend her Connecticut Open title, losing in a tough three-setter to Stosur’s conqueror, the 20-year-old Aryna Sabalenka.
Novak Djokovic: Ended his major dry spell with victory at Wimbledon, and backed it up by landing the only ATP Masters title that had eluded him with a straights-sets win over Roger Federer at the Cincinnati Masters. Could be back to his best.
Rafael Nadal: The defending champion, and World No.1, is favoured to go deep again. Nadal has won five titles in 2018 — with victories in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Rome and Toronto complementing his record-breaking 11th French Open win. Playing like he’s 22, not 32.
Roger Federer: Another legend enjoying a stunning late career bloom, the world No.2 has added three grand slam titles in the past two years — but fell in the quarter-finals at Wimbledon this year and hasn’t tasted success in New York since 2008. Played some vintage tennis to reach the Cincinnati Open final, but showed some wear and tear as he was swept in straight sets by Djokovic.
Alexander Zverev: The leader of the youth brigade, Zverev is seemingly on the cusp of joining the list of grand slam winners. He reached the quarter-finals at Roland Garros this year and has surged to fourth in the world on the back of three titles in 2018 — including on the hard courts of Washington this month. Has recently taken the legendary Ivan Lendl onto his coaching staff in a bid to take his game to the next level.
Juan Martin del Potro: The likeable del Potro knows what it takes to win in New York, having secured his only grand slam title at Flushing Meadows in 2009. His booming baseline game is perfectly suited to this surface and he’s as dangerous as they come.
Serena Williams: The GOAT is back. After missing last year’s US Open through pregnancy, Williams has incredibly gotten back to her best in no time at all. After winning the 2017 Australian Open while pregnant, Williams missed the next four slams — then returned with a fourth round exit at Roland Garros before finishing runner-up at Wimbledon. A six-time US Open champion, Williams is seeded 17th and will be hard to beat.
Simona Halep: The World No.1 is, naturally, the top seed and comes in as a grand slam winner — having finally broken through with a title at this year’s French Open. Comes in under a minor injury cloud, having pulled out of Connecticut with an Achilles injury — having been defeated in the Cincinnati final a week prior.
Angelique Kerber: The Wimbledon champion comes in with patchy form following early exists in both Montreal and Cincinatti, where she suffered a shock defeat to Madison Keys. But the German veteran possesses an aggressive game which is well suited to the hard courts — where she won her second grand slam title in 2016.
Sloane Stephens: The defending champion has had a mixed time since winning last year’s US Open. She immediately embarked on a remarkable eight-match losing streak, and that foreshadowed the odd year that was to follow. She’s mixed first round exists in both Melbourne and at Wimbledon with an appearance in the final at the French Open. She won the hard court event in Miami in March, defeating Spain’s Garbine Muguruza along the way, but has twice been toppled by Halep in finals.
Garbine Muguruza: The US Open has not been kind to the Spanish star, who has progressed past the second round just once in five attempts. Comes in on limited preparation, with an arm injury ruling her out of warm-up tournaments in San Jose and Montreal.
1. Rafael Nadal, Spain
2. Roger Federer, Switzerland
3. Juan Martin del Potro, Argentina
4. Alexander Zverev, Germany
5. Kevin Anderson, South Africa
6. Novak Djokovic, Serbia
7. Marin Cilic, Croatia
8. Grigor Dimitrov, Bulgaria
9. Dominic Thiem, Austria
10. David Goffin, Belgium
11. John Isner, United States
12. Pablo Carreno Busta, Spai
13. Diego Schwartzman, Argentina
14. Fabio Fognini, Italy
15. Stefanos Tsitsipas, Greece
16. Kyle Edmund, Great Britain
17. Lucas Pouille, France
18. Jack Sock, United States
19. Roberto Bautista Agut, Spain
20. Borna Coric, Croatia
21. Kei Nishikori, Japan
22. Marco Cecchinato, Italy
23. Hyeon Chung, South Korea
24. Damir Dzumhur, Bosnia and Herzegovina
25. Milos Raonic, Canada
26. Richard Gasquet, France
27. Karen Khachanov, Russia
28. Denis Shapovalov, Canada
29. Adrian Mannarino, France
30. Nick Kyrgios, Australia
31. Fernando Verdasco, Spain
32. Filip Krajinovic, Serbia
1. Simona Halep, Romania
2. Caroline Wozniacki, Denmark
3. Sloane Stephens, United States
4. Angelique Kerber, Germany
5. Petra Kvitova, Czech Republic
6. Caroline Garcia, France
7. Elina Svitolina, Ukraine
8. Karolina Pliskova, Czech Republic
9. Julia Goerges, Germany
10. Jelena Ostapenko, Latvia
11. Daria Kasatkina, Russia
12. Garbiñe Muguruza, Spain
13. Kiki Bertens, Netherlands
14. Madison Keys, United States
15. Elise Mertens, Belgium
16. Venus Williams, United States
17. Serena Williams, United States
18. Ashleigh Barty, Australia
19. Anastasija Sevastova, Latvia
20. Naomi Osaka, Japan
21. Mihaela Buzarnescu, Romania
22. Maria Sharapova, Russia
23. Barbora Strycova, Czech Republic
24. CoCo Vandeweghe, United States
25. Daria Gavrilova, Australia
26. Aryna Sabalenka, Belarus
27. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Russia
28. Anett Kontaveit, Estonia
29. Dominika Cibulkova, Slovakia
30. Carla Suarez Navarro, Spain
31. Magdalena Rybarikova, Slovakia
32. Maria Sakkari, Greece