By Stuart Lieberman | March 06, 2017, 12:59 p.m. (ET)
Serena Williams serves at the 2017 Australian Open at Melbourne Park on Jan. 28, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia.

 

World Tennis Day embraces nations from all over the globe in an effort to encourage people to try the game and grow the sport.

In the United States, the 10th annual BNP Paribas Showdown will feature a handful of tennis stars at Madison Square Garden in New York, including seven-time Grand Slam singles champion and five-time Olympic medalist Venus Williams, two-time Rio 2016 Olympic medalist Jack Sock and former world No. 1 and 2003 U.S. Open champion Andy Roddick.

The showdown will be a team tennis format, pitting the Americas vs. the World, with each team comprised of four players going head-to-head throughout the night, in addition to a doubles match.

In honor of World Tennis Day, here are 10 storylines you should be following in the sport in the United States this year.

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1. By beating her sister in the Australian Open final, Serena Williams already won her 23rd Grand Slam singles title this year, more than any other player in Open Era history. The win also helped her regain the world No. 1 ranking, and she’s now being billed as the greatest tennis player in history. Without a doubt, she’ll be the top U.S. player to watch throughout the remainder of 2017.

2. For Venus Williams, the Australian Open marked her first trip back to a major final in more than seven years. Having resurged, the 36-year-old said she doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon and even could see herself playing at another Olympics. How she fares this year could determine the direction of the remainder of her career.

3. Coco Vandeweghe has been the surprise American on the court recently, having made it to the semifinals of the Australian Open, in addition to winning her first round Fed Cup matches. The 25-year-old is poised to have a breakout 2017, and with a mother who was a U.S. Olympic swimmer and a grandfather who played for the New York Knicks, a winning mentality is certainly in her blood.

4. Jack Sock has been on a tear so far in 2017, having already won titles in Auckland, New Zealand, and Delray Beach, Florida, in order to crack the top 20 in the world. Often seen cruising around the court with his hat perched high and backwards, he looks as if he’ll be the No. 1 U.S. men’s player for the foreseeable future. The next step for Sock is to make it to the quarterfinals at a Grand Slam for the first time, and he might just be on track to do that at May’s French Open. “He’s committed and he’s super talented, but as well as he’s playing now, I think the best is still in front of him,” Roddick said of Sock at Sunday’s BNP Paribas Showdown press conference.

5. In his 10th year as a professional, 6-foot-10 John Isner is still insistent on becoming the first U.S. man to win a Grand Slam title since Roddick did so in 2003. But in April, he will turn 32 — which is considered old by elite tennis standards — and has recently conceded the No. 1 American ranking to Sock. Isner will spend the year trying to keep up with the next crop of American talent.

6. David Wagner, an eight-time Paralympic medalist in wheelchair tennis, is the No. 2-ranked quads player in the world behind Australia’s Dylan Alcott. He’s won more than a dozen Grand Slam titles in his career and has consistently been ranked in the top three in the world the last 14 years, but having just turned 43 on Saturday, age will also play a factor in his career this year.

7. Just like their American teammates, Olympic gold medalists and 16-time Grand Slam doubles champions Bob and Mike Bryan are facing a challenge with age. Now 38, the California twins announced they would retired from Davis Cup play in order to open up weeks on their calendars and be more energized for Grand Slam events. They’ve also gone back to their roots by bringing back coach Philip Farmer, who guided them to their first Grand Slam title in 2003.

8. In the major team tournaments, Team USA will be looking to win the Davis Cup for the first time since 2007 and the Fed Cup for the first time since 2000. The U.S. men swept Switzerland 5-0 in February in the first round of the Davis Cup and will now face Australia in the quarterfinals in April. The U.S. women will host the Czech Republic in April’s Fed Cup semifinal after Vandeweghe rallied the team past Germany in a toughly contested quarterfinal match.

9. The USTA Foundation brings tennis and education together to change lives and has raised more than $500,000 for youth tennis programs throughout the 10 years of the BNP Paribas Showdown on World Tennis Day. Throughout the year, some of the sport’s best — including Sock at Madison Square Garden on Monday — will take time to hit on the court with America’s future tennis stars.

10. The next U.S. Open will begin on Aug. 28 and wrap up on Sept. 10, and will be the most-hyped 14 days of tennis on American soil this year. A temporary stadium will be erected in place of the Louis Armstrong Stadium and adjacent grandstand, which were razed last winter and will be rebuilt with a retractable roof and ready for the 2018 U.S. Open. This is part of the ongoing transformation of the U.S. Open grounds, which began with renovating Arthur Ashe Stadium in 2016.

Stuart Lieberman covered Paralympic sports for three years at the International Paralympic Committee, including at the London 2012 and Sochi 2014 Games. He is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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