The tennis season's meat and potatoes is quickly reaching its conclusion, but not before the best men and women in the world do battle in Flushing, New York, to determine the 2015 U.S. Open champions in the final Grand Slam tournament of the year.
The action at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center will officially get started Aug. 31, but there is some business that needs to be handled before then. The all-important singles draws will be revealed in a live-streaming special Thursday, and while the tourney won't be won or lost on that day, certain players can be put in much-better or much-worse positions than their opponents.
Both the men's and women's sides have a small handful of top contenders, with the likes of Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova standing out, but additional threats figure to emerge once the draws are released.
With the highly anticipated draw reveal quickly approaching, here is everything you need to know about when and where to watch it unfold.
Date: Thursday, Aug. 27
Time: 11:30 a.m. ET
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Top Players to Watch
Men's tennis has undoubtedly belonged to the world's No. 1 player in 2015 as Djokovic enters the U.S. Open with Australian Open and Wimbledon titles as well as a French Open final appearance to his credit. Even so, there is some concern with regard to Nole's ability to seal the deal in New York.
That is due largely to his uneven performance at the Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati. Although Djoker reached the final, the road to get there was a struggle, and Federer thoroughly outclassed him in the end.
According to ATPWorldTour.com, though, the 28-year-old Serb seems to believe his level of play will improve once the U.S. Open commences:
The U.S. Open is around the corner, and I have to already turn the next page. Hopefully I can do well there. [In Cincinnati} I played a couple good matches and couple not-so-good matches. Still not very happy with my form and with my game, but I have a week to work on it. The conditions in New York suit me a little bit better, so I look forward to it.
Djokovic has been so good in 2015 that even the slightest hint of less-than-stellar play gets people talking. Even so, the guy who was one win away from entering the U.S. Open with a shot at the calendar Grand Slam still has to be considered the favorite.
As Chris Skelton of Tennis View Mag pointed out, Nole's results over nearly the entire past year suggest that he'll be in the mix at the tournament's end if nothing else:
Djokovic has just one U.S. Open title to his credit, and he hasn't won the event since 2011. Kei Nishikori shockingly ousted him in the semifinals last year, which means he figures to enter the tournament with a chip on his shoulder.
Last year's U.S. Open didn't hold true to form, with Marin Cilic beating Nishikori to win the title, which means there may be more potential pitfalls standing in Djokovic's way than there have been in other Grand Slams.
With that said, Djokovic has proven capable of making deep runs, even when he isn't playing his best tennis, so if he manages to find his form before the tournament starts, it will take an unbelievable effort to stop him.
Serena has long been the most dominant force in women's tennis, but she has an opportunity to make history in the biggest way possible at the U.S. Open by completing the calendar Grand Slam.
While she has already won all four Grand Slams in succession before, she has never done it in the same year. If she manages to pull off that incredible feat, HBO's Bill Simmons believes she will forever cement her status atop the world of women's sports:
Williams is the favorite each and every time she enters a tournament, but there was some concern about her form when Belinda Bencic ousted her from the Rogers Cup. The 33-year-old star needed a bounce-back performance in Cincinnati, and that is precisely what she got, as she won the title for the second consecutive year.
Serena was so impressive that even her opponent in the final, Simona Halep, expressed confidence in the American's ability to complete the Slam, according to Ben Rothenberg of the New York Times:
There will be a ton of pressure on Serena to get the job done on her home soil, but high expectations come with the territory of being the world's No. 1 player. There have been many opportunities for her to fold this year after falling behind in Grand Slam matches, but she simply hasn't done it.
After getting back on the winning track in Cincinnati, Williams believes she is fully prepared to go after one of the biggest accomplishments of her career, per the Associated Press (h/t ESPN.com):
"I'm ready," Williams said. "I don't care if I win or lose or break even. I'm ready to start it, get it over with and be done and go on to the next event. But I'm so ready for New York."
Many have given Serena a run for her money at Grand Slams this year, but nobody has been able to put her away. It is difficult to imagine anyone reversing that trend, especially at a Grand Slam tournament she has now won three years in a row.
Williams is on the precipice of history, and regardless of what her draw looks like, she is unlikely to let the opportunity slip through her fingers.
It has been three years since Federer last won a Grand Slam title and seven years since his most recent U.S. Open championship, but the 34-year-old veteran may be in a better position to add to his total of 17 Grand Slam titles now than he has been in quite some time.
Not only did Fed reach the Wimbledon final, where he lost to Djokovic, but he has been very strong since then as well. His win at Cincinnati was especially encouraging, and it certainly seems to have him feeling good about his game entering the U.S. Open, per ATPWorldTour.com:
Now I've got the confidence, I've got the matches, and I'm actually still feeling really fresh even after this week, because the matches have been rather short. I think I moved well. I was explosive moving forward. Volleys were good. I think from the baseline I was hitting my forehand very well.
While the Swiss superstar looked great in dispatching Andy Murray and Djokovic in Cincinnati without dropping a point on serve, there are other factors worth considering.
According to Matt Cronin of USTA.com, Federer was much fresher than the top-level opponents he faced off against at the Western and Southern Open:
Everyone will be on much closer footing in that regard at the U.S. Open, which could put Fed at a slight disadvantage because of his age, but it may not ultimately matter because of how well he is playing right now.
Like Djokovic, Federer fell one win short of reaching the U.S. Open final last year. That had to leave a bad taste in his mouth, plus one can only assume he's playing with a sense of urgency since he knows there may not be many more opportunities to win major titles.
Federer figures to be in the opposite part of the draw from Djokovic, and if he continues to play like he did in Cincinnati, then a rematch of the Wimbledon final may very well be in the offing in Flushing.
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