5 Things to Know About the US Open—Even If You’re Not a Fan of Tennis

Photo: Instagram/@mariasherapova

The US Open is about to be in full, er, swing (the last grand slam tournament of the year kicks off on August 28 in New York City), and chances are good—whether you follow the sport or not—the topic will come up in conversation between now and the finals on September 10.  

Sure, any other year, you could have just name dropped Serena Williams whenever talk turned to tennis and called it a day. But the powerhouse player is pregnant and won't be hitting the courts this time around. No need to panic, though. There are a handful of other fast facts about this year's tournament you can pull out in a pinch. 

Consider this your ultimate cheat sheet for the 2017 US Open.

Photo: Instagram/@venuswilliams

1. The (re)birth of Venus

Serena might be sidelined from this year's tournament, but there will still be a Williams sister vying for the title: Venus. After making it to the quarterfinals in 2015 (where she was bested by her sister), the 37-year-old all-star was knocked out of last year's tournament by Karolina Pliskova (currently the number 1 women's singles player in the world) in the semis. It makes her return to the courts all the more exciting for diehard fans who've watched her career unfold. (Hard to believe, but it's been 20 years since Venus appeared at her first US Open.)

And while she isn't favored to make it to the finals (not that any oddsmaker would ever count her out), she'll still draw a crowd at this year's competition—both because of her fierce forehand and equally strong fitness fashion game. (In case you missed it, Venus now has a stylish side hustle: her own activewear line, natch.)

2. Roger Federer FTW?

Roger Federer has retained his title as the darling of the tennis world—despite having gone five years without winning a major competition. But the Swiss superstar is in the midst of a serious comeback: He's already taken home two grand slam championships this year and is favored to make it a three-peat with a win at the Open.

The one person who doesn't think he's a sure bet (besides, perhaps, Rafael Nadal)? Federer himself. He recently told Vanity Fair that he doesn't think he'll win this year. Not sure if that's him being humble or humble bragging. But if he does wind up on top, it'll be his 20th grand slam title. And here's a fun fact: Whenever Federer's bested the field at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon (which he did this year), he's gone on to win the US Open as well.

3. Fashion will take center court

Who'll claim the final major championship of 2017 is still TBD, but one thing is for sure: Big names in fashion are joining forces with buzzy tennis pros for some major statement-making collabs. Who doesn't love a good tennis dress?

Probably the most high-profile (and high-fashion) of the bunch is the partnership between Maria Sharapova (who won the US Open in 2006) and former Givenchy (possibly new Versace) fashion designer Riccardo Tisci for Nike. Sharapova is a wild card draw at this year's tournament, meaning she was offered a special, last-minute invite to play. And while it's unclear how she'll perform in her first major competition since being suspended in 2016 after testing positive for meldonium, a banned performance enhancement drug, her comeback's certain to be stylish—she'll sport a Swarvarski crystal-studded little black tennis dress accented with lace details and cut-outs.

Photo: Instagram/@lacoste

4. There's another major player missing besides Serena

Novak Djokovic is one of the top male tennis pros in the world—many would argue that he is the best (sorry Federer fans)—and he's sitting out this year due to an elbow injury. Even before his accident, 2017 wasn't shaping up to be a great year for the 12-time grand slam champ: He underperformed at the French Open, and dropped down to number four in the rankings before making the decision to end his season earlier this summer.

While the chances of him going all the way at this year's Open weren't nearly as solid as they've been in the past (Djokovic won titles in both 2011 and 2015), his absence is still a big deal: It's the first major tournament he's missed since turning pro.

5. Why Emma Stone might be the biggest winner at this year's Open

For nearly 40 years, the US Open's been played in the same location: the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the Queens area of NYC. If the only Billie Jean your'e familiar with is the one that wound up not being Michael Jackson's lover back in the day, it's worth noting that this Billie Jean (as in King) is a legendary tennis pro from the '60s and '70s. She was once the top women's player in the world, and one-half of the Battle of the Sexes exhibition match with male tennis great Bobby Riggs in 1973.

Never heard of it? Well you can relive the iconic matchup in all its glory this fall when Emma Stone and Steve Carell recreate it for the new film Battle of the Sexes, which premieres on September 22. Stone, of course, plays King—fringe-banged bob, spectacles, one-arm backhand, and all.

If you're curious, here's what it's really like to go to the US Open, and here's how to get the arms of a tennis pro (without having to touch a racket).

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