Once again the center of the sporting universe will be the normally tranquil Flushing Meadows-Corona Park as tennis fans from all corners of the earth will flock to the National Tennis Center for the 2001 U.S. Open from Aug. 29 to Sept. 9.
With a few exceptions, the men and womens draw will feature the usual cast of characters vying for the title, which nets the winner a record $850,000.
On the womens side, Venus Williams and Jennifer Capriati are each seeking Martina Hingis No. 1 world ranking and are favorites to reach the final while Monica Seles has opened some eyes of late with some stellar play in the weeks leading up to the Open.
No. 3 ranked Capriati started the year red hot, winning the first two Grand Slams of the year as she captured both the Australian Open and French Open crowns. Capriati, whose highest year-end ranking was No. 6 in 1991, the same year she made the U.S. Open semifinals, is looking to become the first woman to capture three Grand Slam titles in the same season since Hingis in 1997.
To do so Capriati will need to get past Williams, which is hardly an easy task. No. 2 ranked Williams, the defending U.S. Open champion, won her second-straight Wimbledon title by beating Justine Henin in three sets last month at the All-England club.
The stage may be set for what would be an epic showdown in the womens final which for the first time will be under the lights on Saturday, Sept. 8.
But dont pencil Williams and Capriati into the final just yet. Former Open champion and No. 4 ranked Lindsay Davenport, who won the crown in 1998, is hitting her stride as she beat Seles in the estyle.com Classic final in Manhattan Beach, Calif. and is always dangerous on the hardcourts at the Open.
Other former Open champions in the womens draw this year are No. 8 Serena Williams, the 1999 champ, and Arantxa Sanchez-Vicario of Spain, seeded 16th, who captured the 1994 title.
While there is a handful of players who could win the womens title, the mens draw this year is much more wide open. Andre Agassi, arguably the biggest draw at the Open and the No. 1 ranked player in the ATP Champions Race, won the Australian Open while Brazilian Gustavo Kuerten won his third French Open and veteran Goran Ivanisevic from Croatia shocked the tennis world by winning his first Wimbledon crown.
Russian Marat Safin who was hampered for much of the year by a sore back reached the quarterfinals at the All-England club last month and is healthy for the first time this year.
Under the tutelage of former Open champion Mats Wilander, Safin is looking to defend his 2000 Open title and is ranked No. 2 in the world.
After his bid for a fifth straight Wimbledon crown was upset last month, Pete Sampras is out of the top 10 for the first time since he was a teenager. Sampras, who owns a record 13 Grand Slam titles, won the U.S. Open in 1990, 1993, 1995 and 1996.
Other former Grand Slam champions in the mens draw are reigning Olympic and former French and Australian Open champion Yevgeny Kafelnikov of Russia; 1997 and 1998 Open champion Patrick Rafter of Australia; Ivanisevic of Croatia; 1998 French Open champion Carlos Moya of Spain; 1989 French Open champion Michael Chang; two-time French Open champion Sergi Brugera of Spain; and 1996 Wimbledon champion Richard Krajicek of the Netherlands.
Other notable entries include rising stars Juan Carlos Ferrero of Spain, Lleyton Hewitt of Australia, Roger Federer of Switzerland and Andy Roddick of the United States.
Tickets are still available for some of the U.S. Open sessions and can be purchased by phone through TeleCharge at 1-888-OPENTIX or in person at the USTA National Tennis Center box office.
While Sept. 27 marks the first day of the U.S. Open draw, the National Tennis Center will be rocking on Saturday, Aug. 25 for the sixth annual Arthur Ashe Kids Day.
Headlined by recording artists Lil Bow Wow and O-Town, Arthur Ashe Kids Day is a day-long festival of activities for the little ones, including tennis clinics, interactive games and musical entertainment.
Gates open at the Arthur Ashe Kids Day at 9 a.m. on Aug. 25 and the stadium show which will be broadcast nationally by CBS on Sunday, Aug. 26 will be from noon to 1:30 p.m.
Tickets for the 2001 Arthur Ashe Kids Day, priced at $20 for loge and $10 for promenade seats, are on sale now and are available through TeleCharge and the USTA National Tennis Center box office.
In addition to the excitement of the U.S. Open and the Arthur Ashe Kids Day, legendary tennis players John McEnroe, a Douglaston native, and Boris Becker will meet in the Heineken Challenge as part of a doubleheader following the womens final Saturday night, Sept. 8.
The winner of the three-set match will take the entire $100,000 prize money.
Reach Associate Sports Editor Dylan Butler by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 143.
©2001 Community News Group
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