By JOHN DORN
With the U.S. Open opening this week in New York City, it's easy to get swept up in the vast coverage and storylines that the event offers. But, if we're being honest, diehard tennis fans these days are few and far between.
Don't worry, we have the casual fan -- and the complete novice -- in mind, so that you can follow along with this week's action with a clue.
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Starting Monday and running all the way through Sept. 13, the U.S. Open is one of tennis' biggest events. So before it really gets into full swing, read through our handy list, and you'll be a tennis pro (well, you'll know what's going on) in no time.
Men's and women's matches are scattered across 17 courts over 14 days.
With a massive amount of tennis being played over the two-week stretch, the tournament would obviously drag on for weeks if not for simultaneous play -- and a lot of it.
To speed things up -- in the early going, particularly -- play is split up between 17 courts. These include four "show courts" (Arthur Ashe, Louis Armstrong, Grandstand and Court 17, which is an incredibly intimate court that's actually sunken below ground level) and 13 "field courts." There are also five practice courts.
Arthur Ashe Stadium just got a major facelift.
The most noteworthy of those courts is Arthur Ashe, coming in the facility's main arena. Over recent months, the stadium has been under construction, adding new lights, sound and video screens. A retractable roof has been in the works, but that won't be complete until next year's event.
It will be a little while before we see some great tennis.
It's important to understand that the opening few weeks won't be featuring the top-notch matches. Think about the NCAA Tournament but more bland and with even more people you've never heard of. You'll get a great match here and there, but for the most part, the big fish will wipe out the little fish -- fairly handily.
It's going to be HOT.
Taking a look at the forecast via weather.com, the opening week of play is going to be SO HOT. After that, it may cool off a bit, and also get more wet and humid. Either way, player's won't exactly be comfortable, and the longer the matches last, the sloppier play may be.
A total of $42.3 million will be awarded.
That total is more than the other three majors of the tennis season -- Wimbeldon, the French Open and Australian Open. Both the men's and women's winners will receive $3.3 million, while the winning doubles teams will earn more than a half-million.
Marin Čilić, last year's men's winner, is seeded ninth. But a repeat is unlikely.
Čilić pulled off the stunner a year ago, but on the men's side, no player has repeated as champion since Roger Federer won five straight from 2004 through 2008.
It's been more than a decade since an American man won.
To that point, the last American to win was Andy Roddick in 2003 -- who actually made it back-to-back Americans following Pete Sampras' 2002 win.f this year's 15 USA players in the tournament, just two are seeded -- John Isner and Jack Sock.
Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are the two top seeded men.
This should come as no surprise, with Djokovic aiming for his third grand slam win of the season, and Federer always a threat to hoist a trophy. Djokovic knocked off Federer in the final round of Wimbeldon earlier this summer.
Maria Sharapova won't be participating.
In a stunning turn of events, Maria Sharapova pulled out of the event just hours in advance, citing a leg injury. Sharapova won the U.S. Open in 2006 as a 19-year-old.
Serena Williams has won the women's title the past three years -- but even more history is on the line.
Even at 33 years old, Serena Williams seems to just be hitting her peak. She's already solidified yet another "Serena Slam," which refers to Williams taking home the title in four consecutive Grand Slams. With that feat already achieved, she's out to do what no woman has done since Steffi Graf in 1988: Win every Grand Slam major of the season.
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A win in Flushing wouldn't just secure the four-peat for Serena, but put her in territory that only Graf, Margaret Court and Maureen Connolly Brinker have reached. There's little debate that Serena is the best to ever do it. A victory this September at Arthur Ashe would just be icing on the cake.
Click through to see past US Open winners throughout history: