The two-week long 2016 U.S. Open is the capstone of the year’s Grand Slam tournaments, marking the end of another year of major international tennis competition. Running from Monday, August 29 to Sunday, September 11, the tournament kick off at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in New York City.
Ranked among the most attended annual sporting events in the world, the U.S. Open serves as one of the year’s biggest stages for world-class tennis players to give their best performances, but also comes with an enormous amount of pressure.
And, despite being accustomed to high-pressure situations, stress may have been the downfall of two of the top-seeded tennis players during the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Venus and Serena Williams were the No. 1 seed in the women’s doubles tournament and had just won their 14th Grand Slam championship title at Wimbledon in July, but were beaten handily by Lucie Safarova and Barbora Strýcová of the Czech Republic in the first round.
"We played terrible and it showed in the results," Serena told reporters after the match.
The loss marked the sisters’ first defeat in 16 Olympic matches together, having won gold in 2000, 2008, and 2012.
It wasn’t just the sister’s doubles performance that fell short of expectations. In the third round of the women’s singles tournament, Serena suffered a stinging loss 6-4, 6-3 to Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in what may have been the tennis legend’s last Olympic appearance.
Following her Olympic upset, Serena announced that she would not be competing in the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati due to “shoulder inflammation,” a decision which could ultimately cost her the No. 1 tennis ranking.
It almost seemed as though the whole world of tennis had gone topsy-turvy.
Not only did Venus and Serena flare out early in the Olympic tournament, but Novak Djokovic, who in June became the first man in 47 years to hold all four Grand Slam titles after winning the French Open, lost to Juan Martín del Potro of Argentina in the first round of the men’s singles tournament. Djokovic left the court in tears, telling reporters it was “one of the toughest losses in my career.”
Djokovic, who is currently ranked No. 1 in men’s singles, will compete in the U.S. Open as the top-seeded male player. Heralded as the greatest tennis player of all time—even called “this tennis era’s Ali” by NBC Sports– Djokovic will certainly come out guns blazing at the Open next week.
And so will Serena.
Serena Williams is still scheduled to play in the U.S. Open, where she will be the top-seeded seeded female singles player. She will also have the opportunity to win her 23rd Grand Slam title—a new record which would surpass Steffi Graf’s 22 titles to earn her the title for most major wins by a tennis player (male or female) in the Open Era (which began in 1968).
Last year, Williams was “stunned” by her semifinal round loss against Roberta Vinci, which cost her a calendar-year Grand Slam. This time around she won’t let anything stand in her way.
Other big names in the U.S. Open men’s singles tournament include Rafael Nadal, who holds 14 career Grand Slam titles, and Andy Murray, currently ranked No. 2 in the world and a three-time Grand Slam title winner, having won at Wimbledon in July. Angelique Kerber, who won the 2016 Australian Open, and Garbiñe Muguruza, who won the 2016 French Open, will try to win the women’s tourney.
Another thing to note about this year’s U.S. Open? The total prize money compensation has been reported as $46.3 million—a 10 percent increase from last year, making the Open the world’s highest paying Grand Slam.
The 2016 U.S. Open Tennis Schedule:
The 2016 U.S. Open will include both day and night sessions, with morning sessions beginning at 11:00 a.m. ET and evening sessions beginning at 7:00 p.m. ET, up until the quarterfinals, which begin September 7th.
The women’s singles semifinals will take place at 7:00 p.m. ET on September 8 and the men’s singles semifinals are scheduled for 3:00 p.m. ET the following day.
The women’s singles final is set for 4:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 10 and the men’s final will take place at 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, September 11th.
How to Watch the 2016 U.S. Open Tournament Live Stream (and for Free):
You can also see live matches for free on Thursday, September 8th from 12:00-6:00 p.m. ET at the United States Open Community Day, hosted by USTA, the national tennis association. There will be free admission to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center and tennis fans will be able to attend the semifinals of both the men’s and women’s doubles tournaments, as well as the Champions Invitational, where former Grand Slam tournament champions (like John McEnroe) will be playing.
Community day will also include a farewell tribute to the Louis Armstrong Stadium, which is being razed and rebuilt for the 2018 US Open, from 4:00-6:00 p.m. ET.