The 2021 US Open is set to be a fitting coda to an exciting and unpredictable Slam season. In a year that has already seen the majors produce 12 different semifinalists, it's another deep and dangerous field in New York. 

Here's what you need to know:

When does the tournament start?

First held in 1887, this is the 135th staging of the US Open women’s singles championship. The US Open takes place at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York. The tournament is played on outdoor hardcourts, with a roof available on Arthur Ashe Stadium and Louis Armstrong Stadium. Wilson US Open Regular Duty balls are used. 

Qualifying is underway this week, with singles main-draw play set to begin Monday, Aug. 30, starting with the bottom half of the draw. The top half will play on Tuesday. Doubles main draw is scheduled to get underway on Wednesday, Sept. 1. 

Singles quarterfinals will be played across Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week, with both women's semifinals as well as doubles semifinals, to be played Thursday, Sept. 9. 

When are the finals?

The singles final is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 11, at 4:00 p.m. ET. The mixed doubles final will take place earlier in the day.

The doubles final will be played the following day Sunday.

Who are the top seeds?

No.1 Ashleigh Barty
No.2 Aryna Sabalenka
No.3 Naomi Osaka
No.4 Karolina Pliskova
No.5 Elina Svitolina
No.6.Bianca Andreescu
No.7 Iga Swiatek
No.8 Garbiñe Muguruza

For a full breakdown of the Top 32 seeds, click here

US Open Preview: Martina Navratilova on Barty's variety, Osaka's composure, and Gauff's potential

Who are the defending champions?

Last summer, No.3 Naomi Osaka followed up her run to the final of the Western & Southern Open to win her second US Open title and third major overall. After defeating Jennifer Brady in a hotly contested three-set battle of servers, Osaka came back from a set down to defeat Victoria Azarenka 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final.

In the doubles, Laura Siegemend and Vera Zvonareva defeated top seeds Elise Mertens and Aryna Sabalenka in the quarterfinals and went on to defeat Nicole Melichar and Xu Yifan 6-4, 6-4 in the final.

What does the draw look like?

Before the draw was made, seven players withdrew from the tournament: Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams, Wang Qiang, Laura Siegemund, Patricia Maria Tig, Kirsten Flipkens, and Venus Williams.

Main draw wildcards were given to Hailey Baptiste, Ashlyn Krueger, Caty McNally, Emma Navarro, Alycia Parks, CoCo Vandeweghe and Katie Volynets. Storm Sanders received a reciprocal wild card in agreement with Tennis Australia.

Qualifying Round-up: Raducanu, Konjuh book main draw slots

There are 11 teenagers in the draw: Coco Gauff (17), Ashlyn Krueger (17), Clara Tauson (18), Emma Raducanu (18), Leylah Fernandez (18), Marta Kostyuk (19), Maria Camila Osorio Serrano (19), Amanda Anisimova (19, will turn 20 on August 31), Hailey Baptiste (19), Caty McNally (19) and Katie Volynets (19).

Much of the top-line pre-draw intrigue concerned whether defending champion Osaka, seeded No.3, would fall in Barty's half or Sabalenka's. When the draw was revealed Thursday, Osaka was in the bottom half, in a section that includes 2016 champion Angelique Kerber, Coco Gauff, Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys.

READ: Is No.1 Barty the favorite at this year's US Open? 

On the whole, the well-balanced draw is set up for a blockbuster first week of play, as a slew of intriguing matchups, could play out over the first three rounds. 

For a full quarter-by-quarter breakdown of the draw, click here

What is the prize money and ranking points on offer?

The US Open will offer $57.5 million in total player compensation in 2021. Prize money was increased for each competition within the US Open including the singles, doubles, mixed doubles and wheelchair competitions.

Singles prize money and points:

Champion: $2,500,000/2,000 points
Runner-up: $1,250,000/1,300 points
Semifinalist: $675,000/780 points
Quarterfinalist: $425,000/430 points
Round of 16: $265,000/240 points 
Round of 32: $180,000/130 points
Round of 64: $115,000/70 points
Round of 128: $75,000/ 10 points

READ: Introducing the 2021 US Open debutantes

"The 2021 US Open Qualifying Tournament will now offer nearly $6 million in prize money, a 66-percent increase over 2019 [the last time US Open Qualifying was held]," the USTA said in a press release. "Additionally, the first-round main-draw prize money is now $75,000, a 23-percent increase over last year." 

"To achieve these numbers, the players and tour management agreed to decrease the singles champion’s prize from its previous $3 million to $2.5 million. The runner-up prize money also is being reduced accordingly, to $1.25 million. As has been the case since 1973 when the US Open was the first of the four majors to institute the policy, the tournament provides equal prize money for both women and men."

With regard to ranking points, the No.1 ranking is not in play in New York. No.1 Barty will continue her current reign atop the WTA Rankings after the US Open. This fortnight will mark her 91st and 92nd weeks at No.1 overall. After the US Open, the week of September 13, will be Barty’s 86th consecutive week at No.1 (and 93rd overall). 

Key Storylines

Naomi Osaka, Barbora Krejcikova and Ashleigh Barty bid to double up: No.1 Barty comes into the final Slam of the season with a 2021 Player of the Year resume - possible wire-to-wire No.1, most match wins, and five titles including Wimbledon - but Osaka and Krejcikova could have something to say about that if they dominate the fortnight. Don't count out Krejcikova. The French Open champion has won 25 of her past 28 matches and could also leave New York as the Doubles No.1.

Danielle Collins and Jessica Pegula in form and dangerous: Sofia Kenin, Serena Williams and Venus Williams withdrew ahead of the tournament, which leaves a prime opportunity for another American to grab the stage on home soil. Collins and Pegula have been incredibly sharp during the summer season, while Gauff is having an outstanding season and loves the energy on Arthur Ashe Stadium. 

Karolina Pliskova, Aryna Sabalenka eye an elusive major title: Back up to No.4 in the rankings after making the Wimbledon final, Montreal final and Cincinnati semifinals, Pliskova has rediscovered her confidence and consistency. The 2016 finalist looks in good form to break through in New York. As for No.2 Sabalenka, New York is where she made her first Round of 16 at a major in 2018. Having finally made her first Slam quarterfinal and semifinal at Wimbledon, can she put together a bulldozing set of seven matches?

Belinda Bencic riding gold medal momentum: The Tokyo 2020 gold medalist looked good in Cincinnati before she ran into the Jil Teichmann buzzsaw. The US Open, where she made the semifinals in 2019, is her most successful Slam. A possible fourth-round rematch of the Adelaide final against Swiatek would be enticing.

Carla Suárez Navarro says goodbye: The Spaniard said the US Open will be her final tournament. She opens up against Collins.