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tennis anyone?

How You — Yes, You — Can Play in the U.S. Open

This could be you.

If you've ever thought to yourself, "Hey, that could be me out there getting smoked by Roger Federer or Serena Williams in the first round of the U.S. Open," this is your big chance. The USTA will introduce the U.S. Open National Playoffs this year, in which anyone 14 and over (well, anyone 14 and over who's an active member of the USTA and forks over a $125 entry fee) can play for a shot at a wild-card berth in the U.S. Open qualifying tournament, at which they can play for a spot in the main draw of the U.S. Open. See, easy.

The USTA will stage sixteen open-to-anyone sectional tournaments around the country this spring, with the winners of each advancing to a championship round. (The New York matches take place April 20 through April 26 at Flushing Meadows. Each tournament is limited to 256 players; registration for New York opens March 1.) Basically, it's like American Idol for tennis players, only instead of worldwide fame and a huge record contract, the winner gets an audition to maybe become one of Kelly Clarkson's backup singers.

And yes, this sucks for the man and woman who would have otherwise been the last person to qualify for their respective qualifying tournaments, but there's something undeniably cool about the idea that some random person could go on a hot streak and make it all the way to Flushing Meadows. (This, by the way, is the same concept that makes low-level NCAA conference basketball tournaments so much fun.) To hammer home the idea that literally anyone with a pulse can enter this tournament, the press release announcing the playoffs mentions that Bode Miller (the skier who, to be fair, has a tennis background) will be competing in one of the tournaments. So even if you don't go all the way, there's always the chance you'd get to beat Bode Miller at something, which is fun in its own right.

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Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images