This year, tennis fans have watched three major tournaments, seen six different champions in the men's and women's singles, and known full well that was just the warmup.
The U.S. Open is New York's answer to the civility of the sport. You spit on the grass at
It is the last major hurrah of the year. It is also the toughest to win. It is as hard-charging and fast-moving as the city that hosts it. It is played on hard courts. The weather varies from monsoon to Mojave Desert. Fans and players can look forward to great tennis. Also, drowning or baking.
The Australian is the first major of the year. It is summer in Melbourne, everybody is happy, rested, friendly.
Then comes the French in Paris. So you lose. So you can't get a ticket. So what? There is the Eiffel Tower, and a five-star restaurant on every corner.
Wimbledon is strawberries and cream and decorum. Always decorum.
The U.S. Open is an angry taxi driver, 2 million people who are 10 minutes late and half of Wall Street in full voice at the night matches, winding down from a day of failed cold-calling. Only in New York do the players sometimes provide the sideshow.
Those players, however, present many story possibilities.
Her main challengers seem to be
Lurking nearby will be the ever-determined
On the men's side, the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is a reprise of the
Federer, whom broadcaster and former player Brad Gilbert calls "the Cal Ripken of tennis," is seeded No. 2. That makes a prime-time Djokovic-Federer rematch final a possibility.
This will be Federer's 60th straight appearance in a Grand Slam event. He turned 33 two weeks ago and is the father of four, two sets of twins.
Stan Wawrinka, Australian champion, is seeded third.
Andy Murray of Britain, who won here in 2012 and boosted an entire country's sports self-esteem by winning at Wimbledon last year, has slipped recently and is seeded eighth. He would have to get past Djokovic to get to the final.
Other than Serena Williams, U.S. title hopes in this U.S. tournament are slim, probably none.
John Isner would top the men. He is ranked No. 13 and has a serve that breaks speed guns. But he doesn't appear to have the all-around game needed for a breakthrough. He also has an ankle injury that may slow him.
For the women,
Two of this year's six major champions won't even play in New York. Last year's U.S. Open champion
That means Wawrinka (Australian) or Djokovic (Wimbledon) could emerge as player of the year with a second major. Same thing on the women's side. Sharapova has her French title and Kvitova her Wimbledon.
For the final time, wrapping up 47 consecutive years, CBS will be handling all the high-profile telecasts.
The winners of the men's and women's singles will each pocket $3 million. If a winner also had the most points in the lead-in U.S. Open series, the prize will be $4 million.
Monday night, the U.S. Tennis Assn. will hold its annual on-court gala. Longtime broadcaster and former player Mary Carillo will be among the honorees.
Also featured will be John McEnroe, who will listen, along with a crowd of more than 21,000, to the aptly named musical group, Fitz and the Tantrums.
Yes, they are serious.