Five things to watch at the U.S. Open

Roger Federer

Roger Federer (Credit: Getty)

The U.S. Open begins play Monday. These are five storylines to watch from the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing:

1. Taking aim at 18

Looking to extend his record of major men's tennis titles to 18, Roger Federer hopes to shake off his straight-set loss to Britain's Andy Murray in the Olympic Games gold-medal match. Federer won't have to deal with Murray, who he's conquered in three previous major finals including Wimbledon in July, or last year's U.S. Open champ Novak Djokovic until the men's final. Also, Rafael Nadal is sitting out this year due to ongoing trouble with his knees, further clearing the path for Federer to capture a record sixth title in Queens.

2. Dream Final

What's not to love about a Serena Williams-Maria Sharapova women's tennis final at the U.S. Open in two weeks? David Letterman welcomed both to his "Late Show" studio last week, hoping to drum up ratings for CBS' broadcast of the Open. On opposite sides of the draw, the reigning Wimbledon and Olympic champion Williams pitted against the current French Open title-holder Sharapova in a prime-time Saturday night showdown would doubtlessly be the highest-rated tennis event of the year.

3. What about us?

Seeded first and second, respectively, in the women's field, Victoria Azarenka and Agnieszka Radwanska might want to crash the Williams-Sharapova party. Also, seventh-seeded defending U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur -- remember her? -- took Williams out in straight sets in last year's final. The last player not named Federer, Djokovic or Nadal to win the men's final was Argentina's Juan Martin del Potro in 2009. He's seeded seventh at this year's event.

4. Noise watch

Normally, officials are most concerned with crowd noise at the sometimes-raucous National Tennis Center. But at this year's Open, expect chair umpires and linesmen to keep an ear open for grunts, groans and shrieks from the players. Opponents of the allegedly unintentional noise-makers cite the primal yelps as major distractions during play, giving WTA rule-makers the idea of installing "grunt-o-meters" at future tennis events. Ungh!

5. A little levity

In the hopes of drawing a fresh audience, the U.S. Open has decided to bring the pro-am circuit to Flushing. A special celebrity event is scheduled for the evening of Sept. 6, where "King of Queens" star Kevin James and four-time Grand Slam champ Jim Courier will take on Adam Sandler and Tennis Hall of Famer John McEnroe in what figures to be a must-watch doubles match. Ex-"SNL" star Colin Quinn will serve as chair umpire.


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