In the next two weeks, the sports world will again be absorbed by tennis, and the reason is the fourth Slam tournament of the season – the US Open.
Of course, the #1 topic in the days leading up to the start of the tournament is the absence of Novak Djokovic, who could not enter the US because he did not meet the vaccination requirements of the local authorities.
While the absence of the Serbian is huge, the rest of the tennis elite is in line to give us great emotions in the next two weeks.
The US Open has always been a place for surprise champions, great stories and historic moments. There are those in New York, and the absent Djokovic, who, in addition to three titles, will certainly be remembered for his last two appearances in New York.
This in 2020, when he threw the ball at one of the linesmen in anger and was disqualified, as well as a year ago, when the Serbian was touching the coveted “Golden Slam”, but was stopped by Daniil Medvedev in the final in New York.
Precisely because of its role as the last Slam tournament of the year, the US Open is the place to shape these Golden Slams.
Novak Djokovic failed to do so, but Rod Laver did twice, although only the second time was in the professional era of tennis. It happened in 1969, when the legendary Australian defeated his compatriot Tony Roche in the final in New York to form his second “Golden Slam”.
An even more impressive feat came in 1988 for the ladies, when Steffi Graf added the US Open title not only to her already won three Slams that year, but also to her gold medal from the Seoul Olympics.
The US Open is also the tournament that boasts the largest tennis arena in the world, namely Arthur Ashe Stadium, which opened in 1997 and holds 23,771 spectators, more than any other dedicated tennis facility in the world.
Since its opening, the $254 million facility has been the place where titles are decided and the most crucial battles played out, and at the Arthur Ashe, for example, we watch the first “prime time” women’s match in the history of tennis.
This is the final between the Williams sisters, who in 2001 caused a real hysteria around them during the US Open, and ended up meeting in a battle for the trophy, which Venus Williams won in two sets, and at the time this match broke absolutely all revenue and viewership records for women’s tennis.
It is no surprise that this is happening at the US Open, because it is the first tournament in which, in 1973, the organizers offered the same amount of money bonuses for men and women.
It follows the many acts of Billie Jean King and company that achieve their own little triumph. For comparison, the Australian Open took a similar move only in 2001, 28 years after the US Open.
Although the courts in New York have seen real spectacles of the three greats in the person of Federer, Djokovic and Nadal, although they have their legends Matt McEnroe, Sampras and Agassi, but the biggest hero remains Arthur Ashe, and it is no coincidence that the center court bears his name.
He was the man who won the first edition of the tournament in the professional era in 1968, and in those years of racial trouble overseas, the entire country named a colored army lieutenant as its sports hero.
Otherwise, the favorites of the local public are Pete Sampras and Jimmy Connors, who together with Roger Federer have five titles each from the competition. John McEnroe has four, and although only two, Andre Agassi also lives forever in US Open folklore.
He won his first title in 1994 as an unseeded player, after wrist surgery and a year of many hesitations and problems.
Agassi also had a title in 1999, as well as three epic finals losses to compatriot Picht Sampras that set up an epic rivalry in the 1990s.
It is no coincidence that Agassi’s last match at the US Open and Slam in general (2006) was one of the most emotional moments in tennis this century, and the crowd favorite was sent off with tears in his eyes.
The US Open is also a historic venue with the introduction of two key components – the tiebreak and the hawkeye system.
For the first time, a tiebreak in tennis was played in 1970, namely at the US Open, when the organizers introduced a new rule, then called “sudden death”.
The goal is to shorten endless matches and make tennis a more attractive television product.
At first, the players resented, even contested the rule and protested, but the 26 tiebreaks that were played on the first day of the US Open drove the audience crazy, who did not hide their approval.
Thus, with slight changes in form and refinement, the tiebreak rule began to permeate all tournaments to become the indivisible rule of tennis that it is today.
In addition, in 2006 it was in New York that technology entered conservative tennis. For the first tournament of this caliber, it dares to officially apply the “hawk eye” system, and already with the first judgments, the positive effect is noticeable.
Everyone hails this as a step forward for tennis, and 16 years later we are at a stage where most tournaments are starting to eliminate linesmen and rely on a fully automatic system for judging.
The US Open is undoubtedly one of the most exciting venues in the history of tennis, and from Monday all eyes will once again be on the New York courts, waiting to see who will be the men’s and women’s champions.
The tournament starts on Monday evening (after 18 hours our time), it will be broadcast by Eurosport channels.