The US Open may be the last Grand Slam of the calendar year, but for tennis players it is certainly one worth waiting for. Outside of the iconic venue and the prestige of winning, players will be more richly rewarded at the US Open than at any other tennis tournament in history.

In what promises to be an open competition on both the ATP and WTA sides, there will be unfancied players hoping to spring a surprise or two on their way to a hefty reward.

Five years ago the USTA made a commitment to elevate the prize money on offer above a staggering $50 million, and they have remained true to their word. The total rewards being dished out has increased by around 9% from last year's figure, taking the offerings up to $50.4 million.

The champions, in both the male and female tournament, will take home $3.7 million in prize money, a record sum that makes this year's incarnation of the US Open the most lucrative competition on the schedule. 

The tournament made its debut in 1881 under the guise of the US National Championships. Richard Sears claimed the first seven men's titles on offer in a truly unprecedented level of dominance.

Whilst certainly impressive, he was somewhat assisted by the rule that instantly granted the winner from the previous year a place in the final. Sears' work was done and he retired after his seventh title, something that has never occurred to Roger Federer.

This rule was abolished in 1912, in theory opening the tournament up to a more varied collection of winners. The battle of the Bills saw Johnston prevail against Tilden in 1919.

Tilden had his revenge, and then some. Tilden defeated Johnston the following year, took down Wallace Johnson the year after, and then triumphed over Johnston again, and again, and again, and again.

Four consecutive victories over Johnston and six consecutive titles marked "Big Bill" Tilden as one of the all-time greats. The following years witnessed the first overseas victories, with the likes of French titan Rene Lacoste and the British legend Fred Perry finding glory on American soil.

In 1968, the US National Championships became officially known as the US Open. As you might expect of a Grand Slam, its list of victors reads like a list of tennis greats. Jimmy Connors took five titles on home soil as did compatriot Pete Sampras, making them the most successful players in the US Open era alongside Rodger Federer.

Tennis betting punters will recognise these three men

The tournament takes place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center situated at Flushing Meadows in New York City. The stadiums are famed for the scale, so it is fitting that the largest prizes on offer are available in some of the world's largest tennis arenas.

The Arthur Ashe Stadium, named after the former world number one who took his first Grand Slam title at the US Open in 1968, is the biggest of them all, with a capacity of just over 23,000.

As the last Slam of the calendar year, the US Open is the last chance for all players to make an impression on the world rankings. The top eight players from the year participate in the ATP World Tour Finals.

With a raft of injuries decimating the list of current leading players, many players will be licking their lips in anticipation of a deep run at the US Open earning them a spot alongside the world's elite at the end of the year.

The US Open is now the most difficult to predict of all the men's Slams, demonstrated by its varied list of winners. Seven different players have accounted for nine of the last titles, with no stranglehold on the tournament since Roger Federer claimed five consecutive trophies between 2004 and 2008. The days of Richard Sears winning them all are long gone. 

In fact, the seven current active players on the ATP tour to have triumphed in a Grand Slam have found success at the US Open. Rodger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka have all added a US Open title to their collection on their path to become this era's Fab Five. In Murray's case, that title was his first Slam trophy and inspired him to future success at Wimbledon.

The other two players are Juan Martin Del Potro and Marin Cilic, triumphing in 2009 and 2014 respectively. The US Open represents their sole Slam title, making them two of the most surprising victors across all the Slams in recent years.

Del Potro took down five-time defending champion Federer in the final, as the 6th seed prevailed in a five-set epic. The Argentine would probably have added to that title if injuries had not been cruel to the affable and supremely talented player.

Cilic faced another man in the final looking to win his first Slam in Kei Nishikori, and claimed glory in straight sets in an appropriate culmination of a fortnight for a man who was truly in the zone. Cilic certainly has the ability to beat anyone on his day, and took down Federer in the semi-finals. Beating the Swiss legend is usually a decent barometer of a player's form. 

Cilic will be hoping that he can rediscover the spirit of 2014, as it is likely that only Federer and Nadal will represent the Fab Five at Flushing Meadows. Djokovic and Wawrinka have already declared their absence, whilst there are persistent concerns over Murray's fitness that could result in either a withdrawal or a performance short of the Scot's indefatigable best.

Wawrinka is backable in the US Open tennis betting markets

As defending champion, Wawrinka will be particularly disappointed at not being able to attempt to protect his title. If only the rule still existed that would have parachuted him straight into the final; perhaps he could have played through the pain barrier for one match.

Federer arrives as heavy favourite at 6/4, with his form this year suggesting that Swiss domination will continue. But there will always be lingering concerns over his fitness at this age, no matter how effortless he makes everything look. That could open the door for Nadal, although the Spaniard is never as comfortable outside of the clay-court swing.

Or it could open the door for a newcomer to join the pantheon of greats who have triumphed at the US Open. Maybe the stars will align for a more established player who has fallen just short of a Slam title; Milos Raonic at 16/1 and Kei Nishikori at 33/1 have been defeated in Grand Slam finals, and will judge this comparatively open field as a chance for redemption.

Or could it be the time that a youngster makes their mark on the biggest of stages? Look no further than Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev. Thiem looks destined to have more success at Roland Garros as heir to Nadal's throne as King of Clay.

Zverev has had a stellar year, from a title earlier in the year at the Rome Masters marking his credentials to his recent victory in Washington showing that his form is not wavering. 

The young German has struggled to make his mark at previous Slams, but he will take heart from those who have come to the US Open before him and left with a legacy.

Maybe it is time for one of tennis' young stars to write their names in the history books at the US Open, following in the footsteps of so many of tennis' superstars...

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