The US Open
The US Open has become one of the most famous sporting events in modern history, attracting the highest level of competition from the best of the best in the world of tennis. With a record $50.4 million in prize money on the line, this year’s matches have quite literally “upped the ante.” Held annually at NYC’s very own Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, just a short jaunt from the Upper West Side condominiums at 101 West 78, every match features players who come to win. And not just for the historic cash. These players love the game, and a lifetime of devotion to honing their skills is something that both the greats and the up-and-comers all have in common. Whether you’re watching the tournament from the comfort of your luxury Upper West Side residence, or you’ve scored courtside seats for the finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium, a few favorites are always sure to thrill us with their action on the turf and intrigue us with their life stories off the court.
Roger Federer’s stats speak volumes and support the contention that he may be the greatest player in tennis today. Currently ranked by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) as No. 3 in men’s singles, Federer holds both the record for overall No. 1 placements (302 weeks) and most consecutive weeks at No. 1 (237 weeks). For 14 years, he never dropped out of the top 10, and since going pro in 1998, he’s racked up the most Grand Slam men’s tennis titles, with a total of 19 to date. But before the accolades and accomplishments, Federer was just a kid from Switzerland with a need to be better than his last shot: an exceptional kid, that is, with a crushing serve and a practiced precision attacking the baseline like no other. Somehow, despite the fame and glory and wealth, he still manages to just be…Roger. A dad to not one but two sets of twins (boys and girls), a man who hates to be late, and someone who’s afraid of horses, Federer enjoys watching movies with happy endings, indulging in a good laugh, and being a bit silly when the mood strikes. And while the chattering class was busy speculating about a pending retirement, he was busy winning his 18th and 19th Grand Slam titles, including a hard-earned win against his friend and fiercest competitor, Rafael Nadal.
Due to deliver her first baby in the fall of this year, Serena Williams won’t be at this year’s Open, but—come on—any list of our favorites would be incomplete without her. She’s tied Steffi Graf for longest streak at No. 1, with a 186-week run, and ranks third in all-time No. 1 appearances, with 319 weeks at the top. Though on hiatus until after her baby is born, Serena managed to squeak in one last Grand Slam title with her 2017 win at the Australian Open. And she did it while eight weeks pregnant! Considered to be the greatest women’s tennis player of all time, Serena sprang from humble beginnings in Saginaw, Michigan, before she moved to Compton, California, with her family at the age of three. Homeschooled, she grew up coached by her parents and a family friend, playing on what she described as “grass-riddled courts.” When she was nine, her family moved to Florida to enroll the young prodigy in the Rick Macci Tennis Academy. By age 10, she was ranked No. 1 in the junior circuit of the United States Tennis Association, with a record of 46-3. Later that year, her father pulled her and her sister Venus out of competitive play to allow them to focus on their schooling. As she grew into an increasingly formidable player, her double-handed open-stance backhand and a 128 mph serve marked an aggressive and high-risk style that throws opponents off their game and contrasts sharply with her precision baseline play. Smart. Powerful. Graceful. Serena is the total package and a true gift to the sport.
At the age of eight, Rafael Nadal won his first championship in an under-12 tournament. Seeing the promise in his nephew, professional tennis player Toni Nadal trained and pushed him harder, encouraging his ambidextrous prodigy to play left-handed. By age 12, Rafael had won titles in his Spanish homeland and throughout Europe. A natural athlete, Nadal also excelled in football; however, fearing that too much distraction would harm the boy’s studies, Nadal’s father asked him to choose one or the other. The rest is simply awesome history. The winner of 15 Grand Slam singles titles, an Olympic gold medal, and the youngest of five players to achieve the Career Grand Slam in the Open Era, Nadal has already done it all in a career that feels as if it’s only getting started. His greatest rivalry is likely with his friend Roger Federer, who he has bested 23 times in their 37 meetings, including nine of 12 matches in Grand Slam tournaments. He’s also earned a unique moniker, sometimes being referred to as the “king of clay” for his prowess on clay courts. And it’s true. In fact, 13 of his 23 wins against Federer were on the orange stuff.