Pete Sampras was the defending champion, and successfully defended his title, defeating Michael Chang 6–1, 6–4, 7–6(7–3) in the final to win the men's singles tennis title at the 1996 US Open.
In the draw for the tournament, there were accusations of American favouritism as world number 3, Michael Chang, and world number 8, Andre Agassi, were seeded above their world ranking at numbers 2 and 6 respectively. Other players seeded above their world ranking included world number 6, Goran Ivanišević, being seeded at number 4, Richard Krajicek, the world number 7, being seeded at number 5, and another American Jim Courier, the world number 9, being seeded at number 8.
Some other players were seeded below their world ranking, including world number 2, Thomas Muster, who was seeded at number 3, Boris Becker, the world number 5, seeded at number 6, and Yevgeny Kafelnikov, the world number 4, seeded at number 7. Becker pulled out of the tournament with an injury and Kafelnikov was so angry at his seeding demotion that he withdrew from the tournament in protest.
This was the last Grand Slam that Stefan Edberg competed in. He lost to Ivanišević in the quarterfinals.