US OPEN 2021: Osaka begins title defense in Slam return

·3-min read

NEW YORK (AP) — A glance at the U.S. Open, the last Grand Slam tennis tournament of 2021:

SURFACE

Hard courts.

SITE

USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows.

SCHEDULE

The 14-day tournament begins Monday. The women’s singles final is Saturday, Sept. 11; the men’s singles final is Sunday, Sept. 12. There are separate day and night sessions.

SPECTATORS

Fans will be allowed back at the tournament — they don’t need to wear masks at matches but must show proof of having had at least one COVID-19 shot — a year after all spectators were banned because of the coronavirus pandemic.

LOOKAHEAD TO MONDAY

Naomi Osaka begins her U.S. Open title defense in the opening night match in Arthur Ashe Stadium, facing Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic. For Osaka, the No. 3 seed who won her second title at Flushing Meadows last year, it’s her first Grand Slam match since she pulled out of the French Open after one round for mental health reasons. Another past champion, Sloane Stephens, plays the leadoff match on Ashe against fellow American Madison Keys in a rematch of the 2017 final. They will be followed by Andy Murray, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, against No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas. Another top contender, No. 2 seed and 2019 runner-up Daniil Medvedev, faces French veteran Richard Gasquet in a night match on Ashe. Coco Gauff, the 17-year-old American seeded 21st, faces Poland’s Magda Linette in the last match of the day session on Armstrong Stadium before No. 2 seed Aryna Sabalenka plays Nina Stojankovic there at night. She’s followed by Nick Kyrgios against 18th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut. Two-time Grand Slam champion Simona Halep, who had consecutive first-round losses in New York in 2017-18, has another potential tough test to start. The No. 12 seed faces Italian Camila Giorgi, who won a hard-court title in Montreal, in the opening match on the Grandstand. Then No. 5 seed Andrey Rublev will have to deal with big-serving Ivo Karlovic, who came through qualifying to earn his spot in the main draw.

MONDAY FORECAST

Partly cloudy with afternoon thunderstorms. High of 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 Celsius).

WHO’S MISSING

Last year’s men’s champion, Dominic Thiem, is sidelined with an injured right wrist and will not be back to defend his title, and for the second year in a row, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are sitting out the U.S. Open. Federer needs another operation on his right knee; Nadal has an injured left foot. Both are done for the year. They share the men’s record of 20 Grand Slam singles trophies with Djokovic, who again is seeded No. 1 in New York. Also absent: Serena Williams, owner of 23 major singles championships, and Venus Williams, owner of seven.

KEY STATISTIC I

1969 — The last time a man (Rod Laver) won all four Grand Slam singles titles in one season. Novak Djokovic will be bidding to match that feat after winning the Australian Open in February, the French Open in June and Wimbledon in July. Djokovic also will be trying to claim the 21st Grand Slam singles trophy of his career, which would surpass the mark he holds with Federer and Nadal. Djokovic plays his first match Tuesday night against qualifier Holger Rune.

KEY STATISTIC II

24 — Number of years since a Grand Slam tournament was held without any of Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal participating; it last happened at the 1997 Australian Open.

PRIZE MONEY

Total player compensation: $57.5 million, up from $53.4 million in 2020 and from the previous record of $57.2 million, awarded in 2019.

Men’s and women’s singles champions: $2.5 million each, a drop of $500,000 from last year and $1.35 million — 35% — from 2019.

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More AP tennis coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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