Roof it? Tarps? Would a 26 Day Major Mean More 4 for players?
September 18, 2011 | 08:11 PM
It's not over when it's over: the sides are not kissing and making up, and even Serena - who should have no spare political capital with anyone after her latest rant and virtual pardon from the USTA - weighed in on the players' behalf decrying the long-time Super Saturday match formula that has the women and the men playing on the same day (it's scheduled to be both men's semis in the afternoon and the women's final in a separate session - requiring the stadium be emptied and re-filled - to start at 8pm for television):
I definitely think that is not the best way to plan for the final, said Serena (her use of the singular leaves it open to interpretation which final she was considering - her semi-final match with Wozniacki was delayed from their 8pm start by the length of the Federer-Djokovic semi, and, unless the USTA had moved their match out of Ashe as Stosur's was, it could have been seriously delayed had Murray battled harder or longer than 3 sets with Rafa).
Federer was even more blunt: Forget about Super Saturday, even though it's been good. Without the roof, I just don't think Super Saturday is feasible any longer at this point.
Roddick provided a rationale to change: From a pure qualit-of-tennis-player standpoint, it's obviously not the way to go.
And champion Djokovic proposed what seemed to him a better way to go: I just don't understand why, if you don't have a roof, you don't have covers on the court, you know?
I posed the same question last week in a post. The dismissal from the USTA came quickly:
Covers might be fine for grass or clay, but tests have shown that they can damage hard courts by trapping moisture and causing surfaces to bubble.
Open tournament director and Wimbledon umpire, consultant Jay Snyder seemed to leave the door slightly ajar to change, though adding indirectly to more bubble fears:
Perhaps a system like Wimbledon where the tarps are inflated and kept that way by pumped air would work, but would take a while to get going and the court would get wet while tarps were being deployed. Tournament Referee Brian Earley added that Blowers would still be necessary to remove moisture, and covering and uncovering courts with tarps would take about the same time as the current system of using blowers.
But USTA board member, Franklin Johnson, slammed the door immediately shut:
I hated to see the tournament cave in to the players and not finish on Sunday. His bone to toss in: that the tournament begin on Sunday, noting that it would be a great day for ticket sales to families and hinting there might even be a discount.
It didn't take long for Andy Murray to snap back that If they want to put an extra day in then they better increase the prize money substantially.
USTA executive director Gordon Smith tried to sound a more sensitive note: We clearly get the message, and I think in the long term we will be looking and considering scheduling changes.
Brian Earley (who was the man on the firing line with the quarterfinalists trying to re-start matches on Friday) was prepared with his own version of scheduling changes, handing a reporter his 26 day version of a schedule which may well become the next ball in contention between the opponents.
As for the roof?
Legend Stan Smith, another man with a voice for the board, addressed the roof question:
A roof over Ashe stadium is technologically extremely difficult to do. And even if you could do it, it is prohibitively expensive. A roof over a re-built stadium is in the equation, he said, but he felt like that solution might be more than 5 years down the road. He hated to put a number on it.
All this no doubt leaves the players frustrated enough to push the cause behind the problem: the fact that their association, the ATP, has no voice in how the 4 majors are conducted (each is a separate entity, with only the ITF having a voice in any matters of their conduct).
The players will remain rankled that the three other majors found the hundred of millions they needed to fund a roof over a stadium, while the USTA - which nets in the vicinity of a hundred million a year - says it can't afford a roof. Cost isn't going to cut it with the stars of the game, and - in the end - as Roddick pointed out 10 days ago during the fracas with Brian Earley, the top players hold the leverage with the tournament.
One way or the other, the USTA's problem is going to cost them. The next fine levied against Serena may be a whole lot bigger.
2011 Open follow-up