NEW YORK — This might be the year to expect some surprises at the U.S. Open.
Play in the year’s final tennis major is scheduled to begin this morning, with defending women’s champion Samantha Stosur getting the honor of opening in Arthur Ashe Stadium against Petra Martic of Croatia.
And the first men on Ashe court will be third-seeded Andy Murray, the newly crowned Olympic champion, and Alex Bogomolov Jr., who once played as an American and now represents Russia.
This summer has been jam-packed with the insertion of the Olympics into the short space between Wimbledon and the U.S. Open.
And because the Olympic tournament was played on Wimbledon’s grass courts, hardcourt preparation time has been compacted even more.
Chris Evert, a six-time U.S. Open champion who will be doing television commentary for ESPN, said this Open is particularly hard to predict.
“Look at the women right now,” Evert said. “Maria Sharapova, she pulled out of two tournaments because of a virus. I think the players already have shown signs of fatigue.”
Brad Gilbert, another former player and ESPN commentator, agreed with Evert.
“I think the hardest transition is going from grass to hard court because hard court, it’s the surface that’s the toughest on your body,” he said.
“Novak Djokovic went right from playing the last Sunday of tennis at the Olympics to playing right away on hard courts in Canada.”
Djokovic, the defending men’s champion and seeded No. 2 this year, flew straight from London to Toronto after losing the bronze-medal match at the Olympics.
He played six matches in Canada and won the tournament, then flew to Cincinnati and lost in the final to Roger Federer.
Of the loss, Djokovic said, “Mentally, I wasn’t there, I wasn’t fresh. It’s been a very busy time and maybe that caught up with me at the end.”
The top-seeded man, Federer, begins his quest for a sixth Open title and his first since 2008. He will play American Donald Young tonight, just after three-time champion Kim Clijsters, who is retiring after this season, plays American Victoria Duval.
Rafael Nadal, the 2010 Open winner and owner of 11 major titles, is out of this Open because of the same knee injury that caused him to skip the Olympics.
A beneficiary of Nadal’s absence might be American John Isner, who is seeded ninth and is in the quarter of the draw led by fourth-seeded David Ferrer of Spain.
Isner could get to the semifinals now without facing Nadal, Federer, Djokovic or Murray, who is still searching for his first Grand Slam tournament victory.
Fourth-seeded Serena Williams is expected to contend for her fourth Open title and 15th major. Williams is coming off decisive championship performances at Wimbledon and the Olympics.
Williams, who hasn’t won the U.S. Open since 2008, said she isn’t tired.
“I look forward to this,” she said. “It’s almost like a launching pad for what I want to do for the rest of the hardcourt season.”
With scattered thunderstorms and a 40 percent chance of rain in the forecast, that will revive talk of building a roof over Ashe court.
But it will cost a lot — at least nine figures. USTA chief executive Gordon Smith said technology does not yet exist to put a roof on top of the 23,700-capacity stadium.
Rain has delayed the U.S. Open the past four years, making the tournament finish on a Monday. That, in turn, has forced the USTA to give back money to CBS, which televises the final weekend and has had to show the men’s final on a Monday.
“But the amount of money we’ve lost by not having a roof and the amount of money we might make by adding a roof is negligible compared to the cost of adding a roof,” Smith said.
Added USTA chairman and president Jon Vegosen, “We’re going to have a roof one day. I just can’t tell you when.”