Monday, Monday Athletes gain extra day at U.S. Open
By Earle Cornelius, Staff Writer firstname.lastname@example.org
Tennis tournaments -- be they Grand Slams or satellite events -- typically conclude on a Sunday. The Australian Open -- the first Grand Slam tournament of the year -- concludes today.
But this year's U.S. Open men's singles championship -- the final Grand Slam of 2013 -- is scheduled to be played on a Monday.
That's not altogether new. Inclement weather has forced the last five U.S. Open men's singles finals to be played on a Monday, and tennis fans contend that is all the more reason to build a roof atop Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The irony is that had there been a roof, there might not have been a final.
The reason? Players were too exhausted to compete the following day.
"Players said they didn't think that they could play a final," said Delaine Mast, longtime McCaskey tennis coach and former USTA Middle States president, who just completed her two-year term on the USTA's national board of directors.
The U.S. Open is the only major championship that plays the semifinals and finals on back-to-back days.
Mast said that semifinalists in the recent past have required IVs as well as post-match massages to try to recover.
"The players have asked us for a day of rest," Mast said. "If we can't take care of the players, we don't have a tournament."
And the feeling among board members and players alike is that without a day of rest, the quality of tennis is not up to the standards of the other Grand Slams, she said.
This year, the U.S. Open will hold the women's semifinals on Friday and the final on Sunday, Sept. 8, and the men's semis on Saturday and the final on Monday, Sept. 9. For the moment, at least, there will not be a "Super Saturday" -- the moniker given to the final Saturday of the tournament when both men's semifinals and the women's final used to be held.
The move to Monday was done for another reason -- TV revenue. The USTA is negotiating a new television contract for 2014 and beyond.
College football produces huge revenues for the networks, so the USTA has to see how a scheduled Monday men's final shapes up.
"If [the networks] have college football," Mast said, "they do not want Super Saturday. That could change the schedule of the Open in the future."
Mast said the board also is considering starting the tournament a day earlier to conclude on a Sunday. That, too, is predicated on TV coverage.
"For 2013, this makes the most sense," she said.
Defending U.S. Open champion Andy Murray welcomed the decision.
"I'm pleased that the USTA has modified the U.S. Open schedule to include a day of rest between the semifinals and final," Murray said the day the change was announced. "Together with the prize money increase, it's good that they've taken on board the players' concerns.n