Heading into the 2014 U.S. Open, the hierarchy on tour remains unclear.
Through the year's first three majors, there have been six different winners. Two of those—Rafael Nadal and Li Na—won't be in New York.
The men's No. 1 player, Novak Djokovic, won Wimbledon but hasn't looked the same since, going just 2-2 with defeats to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Tommy Robredo. The women's No. 1 player, Serena Williams, has five singles titles but has yet to make a quarterfinal at a major. That's the first time she has gone 0-for-3 in reaching the final eight since 2006.
No one has grabbed a stranglehold atop the sport, and parity has turned into the overarching theme in 2014.
That should make for a thrilling final major of the year at Flushing Meadows. Let's take a look at what's on the slate for the tournament's opening day on Monday.
|Time (ET)||Matches||Network||Live Stream|
|11 a.m. - 7 p.m.||First Round||Tennis Channel||Tennis Channel Live|
|1 p.m. - 6 p.m.||First Round||ESPN||WatchESPN|
|6 p.m. - 11 p.m.||First Round||ESPN||WatchESPN|
Full Tournament: U.S. Open Live
Tennis Channel: Tennis Channel Live
Schedule of Play
|Arthur Ashe Stadium (Day Session)||Round||Time (ET)|
|Danielle Rose Collins vs. (2) Simona Halep||First||11 a.m.|
|Kimiko Date-Krumm vs. (19) Venus Williams||First||Not before 1 p.m.|
|(3) Stan Wawrinka vs. Jiri Vesely||First||Next|
|Louis Armstrong Stadium (Day Session)||Round||Time (ET)|
|Sharon Fichman vs. (4) Agnieszka Radwanska||First||11 a.m.|
|Robin Haase vs. (8) Andy Murray||First||Next|
|(21) Sloane Stephens vs. Annika Beck||First||Next|
|Taro Daniel vs. (5) Milos Raonic||First||Not before 5 p.m.|
|Arthur Ashe Stadium (Evening Session)||Round||Time (ET)|
|(5) Maria Sharapova vs. Maria Kirilenko||First||7 p.m.|
|(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Diego Schwartzman||First||Next|
Note: You can find the complete schedule of play here, courtesy of USOpen.org
Top Players in Action
(1) Novak Djokovic vs. Diego Schwartzman
If Djoker is going to advance past the first round, he's going to have to beat someone who isn't from France for the first time since early July.
Since returning to North American tournaments after his successful run at the All England Club, the Serb—who was married in July and is expecting a child—only has wins against Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon. It's especially odd since he's typically at his best on the hard surfaces.
Nevertheless, as he told reporters, via Live-tennis.com's Hannah Wilks, he still expects great things:
I have high expectations for myself. I always have. Especially at this stage of my career where I feel like now is the time that I'm at my peak physical strength. I want to use this time of my career as much as I can to win as many matches as possible.
And he should have high expectations. Djoker has made the final at seven of the last eight hard-court majors, including four consecutive at the U.S. Open.
He should have zero trouble with World No. 79 Diego Schwartzman, but it's worth watching to see if he's in better form than the last month. Especially with such a difficult draw on the horizon.
(2) Simona Halep vs. Danielle Rose Collins
In the previous four years, Simona Halep went 10-14 in her grand slam matches. This year, she is 15-3. After failing to get past the fourth round, she made it to the quarters in Australia, the final at Roland Garros and the semis at Wimbledon.
The 22-year-old rising star has developed into a steady force on the women's side of the sport, winning four titles and skyrocketing to No. 2 in the world rankings. Her next step is winning a major.
Although she is coming off an upset at the hands of Magdalena Rybarikova at New Haven, she sounds ready to go in New York, via the WTA's official Twitter feed:
Halep will meet Danielle Rose Collins, a 20-year-old American who has yet to appear in a major, in what should be a nice opportunity to ease her way into the tournament.
(3) Stan Wawrinka vs. Jiri Vesely
After a breakthrough 2013 season, Stan Wawrinka kicked off 2014 with his first major victory in Australia.
Since then, however, he has run hot and cold.
There have been times where he has looked like the same player as he was in Australia, ready to enter the upper echelon on the men's side. But there have been times where he has looked like just another guy, losing to Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the first round of the French Open or to Kevin Anderson in the second round in Toronto.
How far will Wawrinka advance in New York?
Despite a recent run of poor play, the powerful Swiss with a gorgeous one-handed backhand is typically at his best on the hard courts. In addition to winning in Australia, he took Djokovic to five sets in a thrilling semifinal at Flushing Meadows last year.
He gets an intriguing first-round opponent. Jiri Vesely is ranked just No. 76 in the world, but the big 21-year-old has a huge forehand and nearly beat Andy Murray at the BNP Paribas Open earlier this year.
If the "good" or merely "average" Wawrinka shows up, this one won't be close. If it's the "bad" one—the one who took just three games total in the last two sets against Julien Benneteau in Cincy—things could get interesting.