A is for Arthur Ashe
One of the most popular players of all time, Ashe sadly passed away in 1993 after contracting the AIDS virus from a blood transfusion.
Ashe won three grand slams during his career, including the 1968 US Open, and became the world No 1 that same year.
In recognition of his immense popularity and sporting achievements, the US Open’s main court, which opened in 1997, was named the Arthur Ashe stadium.
B is for bump
At the 1997 US Open, the tennis world was properly introduced to the bubbly 17-year-old Venus Williams, who delighted crowds but whose remarkable achievements unsettled many within the sport.
Racial tensions had been bubbling throughout Venus’s run to the final in 1997, and came to the boil in the semi-final when Williams’ Romanian opponent Irina Spirlea appeared to deliberately bump into the American at a change of ends.
Spirlea laughed menacingly after the incident and said after the match, "she thinks she's the ----ing Venus Williams.”
Venus’s outspoken father Richard was not impressed by what he had seen and called Spirlea a "big tall white turkey".
An excruciating press conference followed, as Venus, who should have been celebrating reaching the US Open final (which she lost in straight sets to Martina Hingis), was subjected to a barrage of questions about whether Spirlea’s bump was racially motivated.
"I don't want to answer that question," she said when asked about her dad’s comments.
"Are you disagreeing with your father then?" said a reporter. "He said that the bumping was a racist incident ... the whole attitude here: racism. Are you disagreeing with that?"
"I think with this moment in the first year in Arthur Ashe Stadium, it all represents everyone being together, everyone having a chance to play," Venus said. "So I think this is definitely ruining the mood, these questions about racism..."
Sadly it would not be the last time the Williams sisters had to deal with issues of prejudice and discrimination.
C is for Jimmy Connors
The brash American Jimmy Connors won five US Opens, but his most memorable run in New York came in 1991 when he reached the semi-final aged 39.
In 1991, Connors was universally acknowledged to be a busted flush. He was approaching 40 and had thought he would never play again after undergoing wrist surgery in the autumn of 1990.
But then something quite magical happened.
In his first round match at the 1991 US Open against Patrick McEnroe, Connors was down 0-3 and 0-40 on his own serve after losing the first two sets, but somehow recovered to win a raucous night match 4-6, 6-7, 6-4, 6-2, 6-4 at 1:35 a.m local time.
The crowd went wild, and after regulation wins over Michiel Schapers and Karel Novacek, Connors defeated Aaron Krickstein on his 39th birthday to reach the quarter-final.
The Krickstein match was pure theatre as a pumped-up Connors ranted and raved his way to a 3-6, 7-6, 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 win, having trailed 5-2 in the deciding set.
Some of Connors’ more choice outbursts during the match included telling the umpire David Littlefield to: "Get out of the chair. Get your ass out of the chair! You're a bum! I'm out here playing my butt off at 39 years old and you're doing that?".
Then in the fifth set Connors screamed at the umpire: "You are an abortion! Do you know that? ... Get the f***out of there!".
The quarter-final against the Dutchman Paul Haarhuis was almost as dramatic, as Connors battled back from a set and a break down to win 4-6, 7-6, 6-4, 6-2.
The match featured one of the most extraordinary points in tennis history, as Connors hoisted up four consecutive lobs to somehow keep his man at bay and ultimately win the point.
Cue absolute bedlam from Connors and the capacity crowd.
Ultimately Connors was well beaten 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 in the semi-final by Jim Courier, but he had captured the public’s imagination like never before.
D is for Delpo
Juan Martin del Potro or ‘Delpo’ as he is affectionately known, was a hugely popular champion in 2009.
The Argentine thrashed Rafael Nadal 6-2, 6-2, 6-2 in the semi-final, but no-one gave him much of a chance in the final against Roger Federer who had won the previous five US Opens and held three out of the four slams.
Del Potro looked down and out when Federer took a two sets to one lead, but somehow – despite looking on the verge of collapse – the 20-year-old hauled himself back into the match and won an epic five-setter 3-6, 7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.
Del Potro was then at the centre of one of the most unbearably awkward post-match interviews, as the indescribably gauche American TV host Dick Enberg refused Delpo’s request to thank his family in Spanish.
The exchange in full:
Del Potro: I don't have the words to explain...
Enberg: Well, we have some rewards that will help explain your success! For winning this championship, you earn the winner's prize of $1,600,000! And because Juan Martín was third in the US Open Championship Series that's another $250,000. So $1,850,000 is the answer to your success here in New York!
Del Potro: Can I speak in Spanish?
Enberg: I'm sorry, Juan, we're running out of time here... There's more! In addition to the $1,850,000, a 2010 IS Convertible with a retractable hard-top. To present the keys, Deborah Senior, Lexus corporate manager...
E is for eating
Just like at Wimbledon, eating is a big part of the fan experience at the US Open.
But instead of strawberries and cream, and luxurious tea and scones, New York serves up an altogether different culinary experience.
Get ready for hot dogs, chilli dogs, curly fries and more - all super-sized for your delectation.
We’re not in Kansas anymore Toto…
F is for Flushing Meadows
Or to give it its full name Flushing Meadows–Corona Park. Flushing Meadows has been the home of the US Open since since 1978.
The tennis is actually played at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre, which is part of the 897- acres Flushing Meadows complex. And the Tennis Centre has taken big steps to modernise for this year, with the Arthur Ashe court having a retractable roof ready for the 2016 tournament.
G is for Golden slam (Graf 1988)
It was at the US Open where Steffi Graf completed the unprecedented (and never repeated) feat of winning all four grand slams, as well as the Olympics, in a calendar year.
Graf achieved sporting immortality with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 win over Argentina’s Gabriela Sabatini, having dropped just 13 games en route to the final.
H is for Lleyton Hewitt
The feisty Aussie is included in this list for his achievements and misdemeanours at the 2001 tournament.
15 years ago, a 20-year-old Hewitt stunned the tennis world with his straight-sets demolition job of Pete Sampras in the final, which secured the Australian his first grand slam title.
Earlier on in the tournament though, Hewitt was at the centre of a race row during a second round match against James Blake.
Hewitt won the match in five sets but lost his cool and was accused of racism after being foot faulted and saying: "Look at him (the linesman) and tell me what the similarity is (beckoning towards Blake). I want him off the court, I've only been foot-faulted at one end. Look at what he's done."
I is for injury
Injuries are a part and parcel of any tennis tournament, but few have been as bizarre as the one suffered by Eugenie Bouchard at the 2015 US Open.
The Canadian sued the USTA after slipping in the locker room on "a foreign and dangerous substance" (alleged to be a cleaning product) and suffering concussion that forced her to withdraw from the tournament, and subsequent events.
J is for Junior winners
Britain has a good recent record of producing young champions at Flushing Meadows – well three in the last 12 years isn’t a bad return. Andy Murray kicked off the run back in 2004 when the then lanky 17-year-old beat Sergiy Stakhovsky of Ukraine. Five years later and Heather Watson became the first British girl to claim the crown in New York before Oliver Golding etched his name into the junior champions’ board in 2011. Murray lays claim to being one of five players to land the juniors and seniors titles (Edberg ’83, Davenport ’92, Roddick ’00 Azarenka ’05 being the others).
K is for Angelique Kerber
The German capped a stellar 2016 by winning the US Open to claim the world No 1 ranking from Serena Williams. Kerber has had a tougher time of it this year, but she is still one of the favourites to lift claim the title.
L is for Late night finishes
They call New York the city that ‘never sleeps’ and Flushing Meadows does it’s fair share to help live up to that billing. John Isner, he of Wimbledon marathon-match fame, holds the joint-record of the latest ever finish back in 2012 when he lost to Philipp Kohlschreiber. It was 2.26am when their third-round match concluded coming some 19 years after Mats Wilander beat Mikael Pernfors in the early hours. Wilander was asked post-match: “Ever played so late,” to which he replied: “Played what?”
M is for money, money, money
This year's US Open will become the first tennis tournament to top $50 million (£39m) in prize money following a nine per cent increase in the total purse.
Winners of the men's and women's singles titles will each earn $3.7m (£2.86m), more than £600,000 more than Wimbledon winners Roger Federer and Garbine Muguruza.
Runners-up at Flushing Meadows will pocket $1.825m (£1.4m) from the $50.4m total pot. The US Open remains the most lucrative slam of the four majors. It offers a mighty £1m more in prize money to the men's and winner's champions than that of Roland Garros.
N is for Ilie Nastase
The disgraced Romanian etched the template for tennis bad boys back in the day so it was so surprise that his clash with a 19-year-old John McEnroe in 1979 was explosive.
Nastase annoyed with McEnroe’s stalling techniques protested in the only way he knows how – by pretending to sleep on the baseline using his racket as a pillow. Nastase was warned about his conduct, given a one-point penalty and then, when he continued to refuse to play, defaulted by the umpire. It wasn’t the end of the chaos. Tournament officials reinstated Nastase, changed the chair umpire and McEnroe went on to record a four-set win.
During the 18-minute hold up, fans threw beer cans and other objects onto the court with the NYPD called upon to calm matters down. Nastase and McEnroe are said to have wrapped up the evening by going out for dinner.
O is for outfits
Free from the shackles of Wimbledon’s all-white dress code players adopt a bold and bright sense of style in the Big Apple. Who can forget this dazzling rainbow-number from Nadia Petrova back in 2010...
or Serena's 'biker' look in 2004...
P is for Flavia Pennetta
The 2015 women’s champion caused a stir two years ago by announcing her plans to retire from the sport during her post-match celebration speech. The all-Italian final clash with Roberto Vinci was a 10,000-1 pre-tournament shot as Pennetta swept past Petra Kvitova and Simona Halep en route to the final while Vinci disposed of Serena Williams. "This is the way I would like to say goodbye to tennis," she said before hoisting the trophy and accepting the $3.3 m winner's cheque. "I'm really happy. It's what all the players seem to want to do, to go out with this big trophy.”
Q is for quitters
By the time the US Open comes around players have spent eight gruelling months on tour and with achy bodies and fatigue setting in coupled with searing heat in New York it's no wonder they start to drop like flies in the final slam of the year. Tow years ago 14 players pulled out of the singles - equalling the Open record for the highest number of retirements during a grand slam.
R is for Renee Richards
When Renee stepped onto court to face Virginia Wade at the 1977 US Open she made history in becoming the first player to play in both the men’s and women’s singles. For Renee had 17 years previously made hers, actually his debut there in the men’s draw. In 1975 Richards had a sex-change operation and the Richard H Raskind who competed at the 1960 US Open thereafter became Renee Richards. Despite much controversy over her inclusion in the 1977 championships, she was cleared to take part but she was beaten in straight sets by Wade.
S is for Richard Sears
Richard Dudley Sears, known as Dick, had quite the record at the US Open: the first seven winners of the tournament were Dick Sears, Dick Sears, Dick Sears, Dick Sears, Dick Sears, Dick Sears, and Dick Sears. When he secured his first Title, 1881, he was still a student at Harvard. The US Championships, as it was then called, was contested on the grass courts of the Newport Casino in Rhode Island. In its early years, an All-Comers knockout tournament produced one player who would then take on the defending Champion, which is to say Sears, in a Challenge final match.
In his first three years, he did not drop a set and, upon winning his seventh Title in 1887, he retired from tennis. He also dominated the men’s doubles, winning six in a row from 1882-1887 with his partner James Dwight. He accomplished all of this wearing Harry Potter glasses, as well, so he must have been some player.
T is for Traffic
John McEnroe and his doubles partner Peter Fleming had a shocker in 1986. As was their custom, the formidable pairing (three times winners at the US Open) practiced in the morning and ate lunch at the Long Island home of McEnroe’s parents.
They called in to ask about the status of the match before them, Miloslav Mecir's v Guy Forget, and set off from Cove Neck.
''We phoned and said we better get out there,'' Fleming told The New York Times, ''but we didn't expect Forget to roll over in the third set.”
And then they hit traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
“There were no phones to call from, we just cut it too close. We thought we'd have another 45 minutes before the other match was over,” said Fleming.
But they were too late: they arrived five minutes after the 15 minute call and were defaulted.
Would Randy Gregson, president of the United States Tennis Association and chairman of the Open make an exception? No. He laid down the stern discipline of rules is rules – not surprising seeing as he had already ousted McEnroe from the US Davis Cup team on account of his “behaviour.”
McEnroe stormed off, furious, completing a miserable Open for him: he’d already been knocked out of the singles in the first round. And spare a thought for Fleming, who had withdrawn from the singles to better focus on the doubles.
U is for Unseeded
There are few more inspiring and romantic stories in tennis than an unseeded player winning a slam. Andre Agassi managed it in Flushing in 1994, becoming the first unseeded King of New York of the Open era. Only two other unseeded men have reached the final since, Britain’s own Greg Rusedski and Mark Philippoussis, both in the era when big beasts roamed the earth sending down thunderous serves and not a lot else. Both of them lost to Pat Rafter.
For women, the 2009 achievement of Kim Clijsters stands out as one of the most remarkable comebacks in tennis. The Belgian had retired in 2007 due to injury and had a baby in 2008. A 2008 exhibition match to mark the unveiling of the Wimbledon roof, however, lit a fire under her and Clijsters decided to return to the game. She accepted wildcards to the 2009 Cincinnati Masters, reaching the quarters, and the Canada Masters, where she got to the third round. A wildcard to the US Open looked little more than a curiosity, but she had an inspired run.
Her scalps included future John Inverdale pal Marion Bartoli and fellow Belgian compatriot Kirsten Flipkens on her way to a fourth round date with Venus Williams. She upset the then world number three 6–0, 0–6, 6–4 and then beat Li Na in straight sets. This gave her a match against Serena Williams, who was given a point penalty on match point due to a foot-fault controversy. Clijsters’s victory made her the first wildcard ever to reach the final, and Caroline Wozniacki had no answer in the final.
V is for Ellsworth Vines
Michael Jordan may have tried his luck in minor league baseball, Sir Ian Botham played football for Scunthorpe, and Denis Compton of course turned out for Arsenal when he wasn’t batting for England. To this list of sporting polymaths we can add Ellsworth Vines, who won the US Open men’s singles tennis twice, and then became a professional golfer. His best result was coming 14th in the US Open golf.
W is for Williams Sisters
When the gangly Venus became the first unseeded woman of the Open era to reach the US Open final, we knew we were seeing a huge talent. But who can have predicted not only how great Venus would become, but that she would be eclipsed by her kid sister? Serena herself is older than the combined ages of Venus, and her conqueror that day Martina Hingis, were in the 1997 final. The longevity of Venus has been incredible, she has only missed two of the last 19 US Opens and has won twice.
Venus’s second US Open title (2001) saw her beat one S Williams in the final: remarkably, this was the first of five occasions that the sisters have duked it out on the hard courts of Flushing. Serena won the next final (2002) as Venus’s serve crumbled. Their so-called rivals were breathing sighs of relief in 2005 when the sisters were drawn together as early as the fourth round, Serena winning. And in 2008, they treated Queens to a close quarter-final: Serena beat Venus 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (9-7) with Venus having break chances in the first set. The 2015 quarter final was a more authoritative affair from Serena but it took something out of her, she lost the semi-final to tank the calendar slam bid.
X is for X-rated language
Serena herself has been responsible for one of the great tantrums the US Open has seen, in her 2009 semi-final with Kim Clijsters, when she rounded on a line-judge who had called a foot fault against her. “I swear to God I'll f****** take the ball and shove it down your f****** throat.”
In a move of sensational hypocrisy, John McEnroe called for her to be suspended.
Y is for Youngest
They say if you’re good enough, you’re old enough, and that’s never been more true than at Flushing Meadow, which has crowned some champions barely out of short pants. Actually, they are still IN short pants. But you know what we mean.
Pistol Pete Sampras is the youngest male winner, at 19 years and 28 days. And what a win it was. The young man from Maryland did it in the hardest way you can imagine: he had to face the mighty Ivan Lendl in the quarter-final, winning in five sets. Seeing as Ivan had reached the last eight finals, this was no small beer. He beat local legend John McEnroe in the semis and then Andre Agassi in the final. It was their third meeting, and their first in slams, and would become the great rivalry of the age.
For the women, Tracy Austin remains the youngest champion, beating four-time winner Christine Evert in the final aged 16 years and 9 months. She too could claim to have passed the toughest tests of all, being as she beat Navratilova in the last four.
Z is for Jay-Z
Mr Beyoncé is just one of the stars of the entertainment world who enjoys an afternoon out at Flushing Meadow.