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Flushing facts: 10 things you didn't know about the U.S. Open

By Paul Gittings, CNN
  • U.S. Open tennis tournament starts at Flushing Meadows next week
  • Players from the United States have dominated their home grand slam
  • U.S. Open is the second oldest tennis grand slam behind Wimbledon
  • It offers the richest prize in tennis with $2.8 million given to the men's champ in 2010

(CNN) -- The final grand slam of the tennis year gets underway at Flushing Meadows in New York Monday, with the world's top players bidding for their place in the record books.

The U.S. Open is the second oldest of the four grand slams, only Wimbledon has been running for longer, and during its time has been party to a myriad of incredible achievements as well as unusual facts and sporting oddities.

CNN has ransacked the archives to compile the top 10 things you didn't, but should, know about the U.S. Open. Feel free to add your own unusual facts in the comment box below.

1. Home domination

Playing on home soil always seems to bring out the best in most sportsmen and women, but the tale of the U.S. Open is one of almost total domination for the United States.

Since it was first staged in 1881, there have only been six years when an American player has not appeared in either the men's or women's singles final. Two of those six have been the last two years.

Home domination reached its peak in 2002 when Pete Sampras beat Andre Agassi for his 14th and final grand slam title and fifth U.S. Open crown while in the women's singles Serena Williams beat her elder sister Venus.

2. Champions for equality

While the other grand slams prevaricated, or were firmly against the idea, the U.S. Open was the first of the four majors to introduce equal prize money for men and women, both in terms of the prize purse and the winning checks for the men's and women's champions.

The 1973 decision to enforce equality followed a long campaign by women's tennis legend Billie Jean King, a champion of women's rights in sport.

Flushing Meadows, the home of the U.S. Open, is now named "The Billie Jean King Tennis Center" after her in recognition of her achievements, on and off the court.

3. Same prize money, same trophy

Not only has the U.S. Open had the same prize money for winners of the men's and women's singles since 1973, they also pick up exactly the same trophy. Designed by Tiffany and Co. the newly-crowned champions are able to keep replicas.

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4. A tale of three surfaces

The U.S. Open has been held on hard courts since its move to Flushing Meadows in 1978, but it is the only grand slam to have been played on all three surfaces used in tennis.

Formerly staged at Forest Hills, like all the grand slams bar the French Open, grass was the favored surface until a switch to clay in 1975.

It leaves Jimmy Connors with the unique distinction of being the only man to win the same grand slam on three different surfaces: grass at Forest Hills in 1974, clay at Forest Hills in 1976, and hard court in 1978 at Flushing Meadows.

5. Noisiest grand slam

The bear-pit atmosphere of a night session at the U.S. Open is renowned as the noisiest crowd in tennis, but perhaps there is another reason. The raucous crowds are battling to be heard above the roar of the jet airplanes which fly out of La Guardia airport, a short distance away.

They take off every five minutes and a previous New York City major got the authorities to alter the flight path so as not to affect the tennis too much.

6. Richest sporting event

It is small wonder the winners of the U.S. Open look so delighted. Not only have they battled their way to tennis immortality, they have also picked up the richest single prize in the sport. Rafael Nadal pocketed $2.8 million for clinching his title last year.

7. Biggest but not the best?

The Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadow is the biggest tennis stadia in the world, with 20 outdoor courts and a 245, 000 square foot indoor facility. Not only that, the Arthur Ashe Stadium Court (renamed in 1997) is the biggest stand-alone stadium court in the world with a capacity of 23,200.

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But unlike its counterparts at Wimbledon, the Australian Open and soon to be at the French Open, the main court does not have a roof and with Hurricane Irene threatening this year's tournament organizers may be regretting the decision to go for capacity rather than all-year-round conditions when they extended the arena in 1995.

8. Gunshot holds up play

The U.S. Open holds the dubious distinction of being the only grand slam to be held up by a shooting incident. The legendary John McEnroe was playing countryman Eddie Dibbs in a third-round match at Forest Hills in 1977 when play was halted by a commotion in the crowd.

According to McEnroe's biography, word quickly spread that someone had been shot, but the chair umpire told the players that was not the case and ordered them to carry on.

McEnroe won the match 6-2 4-6 6-4 but it later emerged that 33-year-old spectator James Reilly, had indeed been hit in the leg by a stray bullet from the streets of Queen's.

9. New neighbors

The Flushing Meadows-Corona Park area of New York is famously home to the U.S. Open, but is barely a home run hit away from the stadium of the New York Mets Major League baseball team.

The Mets moved to their new Citi Field home from their famous Shea Stadium in 2009.

10. The basketball connection

The Arthur Ashe Stadium Court forged its own place in basketball history back in 2008. It played host to a Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) match between the Indiana Fever and New York Liberty.

It was the first time a professional regular season basketball game had been played outdoors before a sizeable crowd and it resulted in a win for the Fever.

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