This is expected to be Serena Williams last tournament, and the men's final is set for September 11th
NEW YORK (WABC) -- The U.S. Open, the final Grand Slam tennis tournament of 2022, is officially underway in Queens Monday, and with Serena Williams playing the opening match of what is expected to be her final pro singles event, security is tight.
While there are no specific or credible threats to this year's event, a new NYPD threat assessment obtained by ABC News called the annual tennis tournament attended by hundreds of thousands of spectators "an opportunistic target for malicious actors that seek to inflict mass casualties."
The NYPD promised an extensive presence throughout the tournament.
"There will be screening checkpoints throughout the venue, uniformed officers on post and bike teams on mobile patrol, as well as aviation, canine, transit and other specialized units covering every aspect of this event," Police Commissioner Keechant Sewell said during a Monday morning news conference.
More than 750,000 spectators are expected along with 650 tennis players.
"We will have round-the-clock security to ensure the safety of our players, all the attendees and our venue as well," NYPD Chief of Patrol Jeff Maddrey said.
Despite the absence of specific threats, the police promised a large counterterrorism presence outside and inside the Billy Jean King National Tennis Center.
Spectators must be screened, drones are not allowed, and explosive-sniffing dogs roam the area.
"As demonstrated by prior attacks at similar events, targeting large crowds in a confined area, such as a stadium, not only presents the risk of mass casualties from the initial attack, but also the threat of injuries due to stampeding spectators," the NYPD threat assessment said.
The document also noted the final day of the US Open falls on the 21st anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, a date that coincides with an uptick in violent extremist propaganda from al-Qaeda and its affiliates.
"The recent death of al-Qaida's leader Ayman al-Zawahiri by a targeted US counterterrorism airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan on 31 July 2022 will likely be similarly leveraged in near-term propaganda from that foreign terrorist organization," the assessment read.
Williams will play the first night match of the tournament in Arthur Ashe Stadium when she faces Danka Kovinic. of Montenegro. It will be the first match for six-time U.S. Open champion Williams at Flushing Meadows since losing to Victoria Azarenka in the 2020 semifinals.
The 23-time Grand Slam singles champion has a record 106 victories at the U.S. Open, her most at any tournament, and has reached the semifinals or better in her last 11 appearances.
"Just to be here again, the energy the people in New York couldn't be a better place to be," said attendee Patrick Johnson, from Delaware. "And it's just the first round. I know. Absolutely. It's a lot of people here too. So a lot of exciting tennis. So looking forward to it."
She will be followed in Ashe by Wimbledon runner-up Nick Kyrgios against Thanasi Kokkinakis, his friend and doubles partner. They won the Australian Open together.
Defending men's champion and No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev plays the opening match on Ashe against American Stefan Kozlov, with 18-year-old American Coco Gauff set to follow in the afternoon.
Dominic Thiem, the 2020 champion who missed the tournament last year, faces Pablo Carreño Busta, while the schedule also includes past U.S. Open champs Andy Murray, Stan Wawrinka and Bianca Andreescu.
The tournament is an economic engine for New York, and it is expected to generate nearly $1 billion for the regional economy in just 14 days, much of it in New York City.
Tickets are more expensive this year, as some prices have doubled, that is, if you can get them.
Food prices have increased by roughly 10%, as has the Open's signature vodka drink -- now selling for $22.
"It's worth it," said Sam Feldman, of the Upper East Side. "It tastes good, and it's good to get out of work and just enjoy the nice weather and watch some good games."
None of it seems to have affected enthusiasm or attendance, and watching over the record crowds will be a huge deployment of New York City police officers.
"We constantly monitor and assess the threat stream 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Sewell said. "And we have flexibility to adapt to any situation and respond."
The women's singles final is Saturday, September 10, while the men's singles final is Sunday, September 11.