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Guest Blog

Reflections from the Rain Intermissions

Ruckus reveals player personalities, USTA problems


September 08, 2011 | 01:32 PM

With the rare looks behind the scenes at the Open where the weather and the handling of the weather conditions have been the story, what have we learned about the players and, a favorite whipping boy, the USTA?

The Top Players Reactions to Wednesday's Situation

In case you haven't been following it, the ruckus started with the men who were supposed to play first yesterday, the 8 players still in the 4th round who were given last minute notice to take to the courts during a let-up in the steady rain (Rafa showed up 8 minutes after his opponent Muller because his fingers and toes and feet couldn't be taped fast enough to prepare him). Blowers had done their work on 3 of the 4 courts needed, but the misty conditions continued to leave moisture on the lines and in the backs of the courts. Roddick and others, according to the players, questioned their chair umpires about the court readiness, but agreed to start. Fifteen minutes later, play was suspended, but not cancelled in spite of a forecast for more of the same - with worse to come. Play the previous day had been cancelled by mid-afternoon. After returning to the locker room, an unhappy Rafa spoke with Murray and others, and after gaining support from Roddick, the three went to see the tournament referee about the decision-making and to share their concerns about player safety which they felt was not being considered enough.

After their conference, they each spoke with Pam Shriver outside the locker room to share their concern, but it was Rafa who spoke most candidly and criticized the tournament management (the USTA) in the bluntest of terms. Clearly upset, he accused them of lying to the players and the spectators about the possibilities of play. Underneath this concern lay his belief that the players need to have formal input with the four Grand Slam owner/organizers overseen by the ITF, a basic right which they have at all other tour events overseen by the ATP (Rafa is vice president of the ATP player council). No surprise that Rafa would have a passionate concern for his fellow players and his own health, or that he would pull no punches for the sake of sounding as nice as he is when his values feel threatened. His book, Rafa, My Story, reveals his willingness to be seen for what he is: though a brilliant actor on the tennis stage, where he assumes a role very different from his off court identity, off court there is no acting to disguise his weaknesses and many peculiarities/neuroses.

Roddick spoke candidly but surprisingly - given his fiery temperament - in a less impatient and confrontational way than Rafa. Andy reverted to his usual self today after snafu #2: he and Ferrer were returned to Armstrong to resume, only to play 2 games before agreeing that a bubble in the surface right behind a baseline was cracked and leeching water on the surface. After a long, fruitless discussion on court with the chair and the referee (some of which was broadcast while the other three matches were in progress), the discussions resumed outside the locker room where it was clear that Andy was out of patience. He said he didn't care what court they played on as long as they got right on. He was in no mood to wait for a stadium court to allow more spectators to see him. The result was they went to court 13, which has a seating capacity of 550 people. So, the old Andy is alive and well, and not going corporate, yet.

Andy Murray showed the least emotion of the three, seeming rather casual about the matter with Pam, sounding more like a young member of the Scottish National Parliament. If he wins Wimbledon, winning a seat to Parliament out to be a cinch. Since that's a part-time job at best in the current devolved of the SNP, Andy would have plenty of time to continue his video gaming with Rafa.

The USTA Dilemma: How to cover the courts?

As Rafa pointed out yesterday, the USTA hasn't been pro-active in covering any court with a roof, as the other majors have done or are doing. The challenge of covering Ashe - the largest tennis arena in the world - is daunting and expensive. But after seeing 3 straight men's finals delayed until Mondays, it is past time for the USTA to come up with a solution.

Does the solution to the kinds of problems they've had this week have to be a roof?

(obviously, if they want to play a final on time Sunday for tv and it rains then, only a roof will help)

The roofs on Centre Court at Wimbledon and in Australia are useful to entertain CC ticket holders and keep the schedule moving along late in the tournament, but it is the tarps brought out on all the other courts which keep All England's action from falling hopelessly behind during the first 10 days of the fortnight. A key to using tarps is of course having someplace for the water to drain from the tarps. Keep in mind that I am someone who mangles every set of mechanical instructions, but I don't see why a drainage system couldn't be relatively inexpensive to install around courts so that a tarps could be brought on as they are at Wimbledon. The tarps themselves are inexpensive and in use in every outdoor major league stadium in the country, which cover much bigger areas than a tennis court.

Rick

Wet Wed. at The Open 9.7.11


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