The U.S. Open Tennis Tournament is the last of the four Grand Slam events conducted each year, following the hard-court Australian Open, the clay-court French Open, and Wimbledon played on grass. It is held in August and September for a fortnight that extends from the week before Labor Day to one week after. Since 1978, the venue has been the acrylic hard courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens, New York.
The very first “United States National Championship” was a competition exclusively for men, conducted in 1881. It took place at the Newport Casino in Newport, Rhode Island and only members of the U.S. National Lawn Tennis Association were allowed to enter. Women began having their own national championship tournament in 1887, the same year in which nationwide Men’s, Women’s and Mixed Doubles championships were inaugurated.
However, it was not until 1968 that all five of these events were merged into a single tournament as the U.S. Open at the West Side Tennis Club in Forest Hills, New York. This served as the venue for the national competitions until 1978, when new facilities were completed at Flushing Meadows.
In 1997, Arthur Ashe Stadium was opened, named after the African American tennis pro who won the Men’s Singles title in 1968. The 22,547-seat facility has been the center stage for the U.S, Open ever since, accompanied by 5,500-seat Louis Armstrong Stadium, opened in 1978, and the Grandstand Stadium, along with numerous side courts.
The attention of fans, as well as most of the wagering, focuses on the Men’s Singles and the Women’s Singles, each of which features a single-elimination format based upon a 128-player seeded draw. Other major knockout events during the two week’s of tennis action here include Men’s and Women’s Doubles based on a 64-team draw and Mixed Doubles with 32 teams in competition.
Matches in the Men’s Singles and Doubles competitions are played and decided as best-of-five sets. All other events are based upon the best-of-three sets. Tiebreak games are played whenever the score reaches 6–6 in any set, including the final set, which makes the U.S. Open unique among Grand Slam tournaments.
As an “open” tournament, the U.S. Open is open to any current USTA member, professional or amateur, aged 14 years or older. A series of sixteen Sectional Qualifying Tournaments are conducted by the USTA, including both singles and mixed doubles, from April through July.
Past winners at the U.S. Open include almost all of the greats of tennis history. Since 1968, Americans Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras won the Singles title five times apiece, as did Switzerland’s Roger Federer. Among women, America’s Chris Evert triumphed six times, including a run of four consecutive wins.
In 2010, the U.S. Open featured the richest purse in tennis history—more than $22.6 million. Both the Men’s and Women’s Singles champions, Spain’s Rafael Nada and Belgium’s Kim Clijsters, earned a record $1.7 million apiece, as this is one of the few sports competitions that awards equal prize money to both men and women. Additionally, all players receive per diem payments to assist them with the cost of lodgings and other expenses.
An estimated 700,000 fans are in attendance during the two weeks of U.S. Open tennis events. Ante post betting begins as much as a year in advance, but it is heaviest during the weeks immediately after the winner of Wimbledon is decided in July. Apart from wagering on the outright winner, “match betting” is highly popular—i.e., picking the winner out of two players in a heads-on meeting. Also available is wagering on sets, with or without handicaps, as well as final score betting.