Late Summer Tennis

Long before they are scheduled to play their matches, the world's best tennis players take the court, endlessly rallying with their coaches or their opponents. Like students studying for a test, these players use every free moment to practice their strokes so that they are at the peak of their game when it's time for a match. In tennis, like every other sport, practice and dedication are essential to success.

The U.S. Open: For the next couple of weeks, the top tennis players in the world hope that all that practice pays off as they compete in the U.S. Open in New York City. The Open is one of the four major tennis tournaments of the year and the biggest tennis event played in America. It takes place at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is made up of three stadiums. Billie Jean King won four U.S. Open championships in the 1960s and '70s. The most important matches are played at Arthur Ashe Stadium, which was named after the great American player who won the U.S. Open in 1968.

History: The U.S. Open is one of the oldest tournaments in the world. It was first played in 1881 in Newport, Rhode Island, but later moved to New York City. Many great players have found success at the U.S. Open, including Roger Federer, who has won the past five men's championships. American players Jimmy Connors and Pete Sampras have also won five tournaments each. On the women's side, Serena Williams has won three U.S. Open championships, including last year's. American Chris Evert won six U.S. Open titles in the 1970s and '80s and Steffi Graf won five in the '80s and '90s.

What it takes to win: The one thing that all U.S. Open champions have in common is their dedication to the sport. These champions know that they have to use all of their skill and effort in every match in order to succeed. No one wins a U.S. Open championship by accident - they all have worked very hard to put themselves in a position to win. Past champions include many of the fastest servers in the game. The court at Arthur Ashe Stadium is very slick, meaning that balls skip off the surface and stay low to the ground. Players like Andy Roddick (the 2003 champion) and the Williams sisters have an advantage because their powerful serves are difficult to return.

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