If there was ever an indication that the United States have fallen behind—even in the world of tennis—this week has proven it.
Rain in New York City has constantly frustrated fans, players and most especially ESPN and the Tennis Channel.
Commentators who promised live coverage continued to try to fill dead air with often tedious analysis of what is, what was and what might be happening “if” it ever stopped raining.
The Australian Open held in Melbourne, of course, has a retractable roof over its two main courts which have been in place for a very long time.
Wimbledon launched its own new retractable roof over Centre Court in 2009, guaranteeing that the top-seeded players could continue to provide matches for vast television audiences even in downpours.
The French Open, of course, has no roof but you can play in the rain on clay as long as it is not a deluge and the lines do not become slick. The French do, however, continue to plan for a new venue that will include an arena with a retractable roof.
Apparently, there are no similar impending discussions by the USTA. The powers that be realize that simply adding a roof to Arthur Ashe is not a feasible solution for structural reasons.
To add a facility with a retractable roof may mean moving to a new location.
Still, something must be done. Watching two days of play rained out entirely was a painful reminder that we live in a media age where tennis revenue depends largely on televised coverage of these major tournaments.
Sponsors get anxious when their highly paid spots are not seen by the millions they had hoped would be watching during some highly competitive tennis matches.
In order to capitalize on the lucrative upcoming weekend semifinals and finals, as originally planned, it would have been necessary for some men to play four days in a row.
Face it, playing the best three out of five format for four consecutive days at the end of a major—brutal.
What was left of those men would have met for a final on Sunday.
But late on Thursday, realizing the unfairness of this impending situation, the US Open Tennis organizers decided to move the men’s final back a day. It will now be held on Monday.
There will be an extra day now between the men’s semifinals on Saturday and the final on Monday.
It would have been necessary for the women to play three days in a row with the quarterfinals on Thursday, the semifinals on Friday and the the finals Saturday night. The difference, however, is that the ladies only have to play the best two out of three sets.
Now, the ladies final has been moved back until Sunday, allowing the ladies a day of rest between the quarterfinals and the semifinals to be held Saturday night.
The new schedule, of course, depends on no further rain stoppages.
So ultimately, who has the legs left to win it all?
Because Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer completed their fourth-round encounters last Monday, they played their quarterfinal matches on Thursday. Federer, playing the night match, suffered through another two-hour rain delay before dispatching Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets.
Both Djokovic and Federer advanced to the semifinals, perhaps giving the No. 1 seed and the No. 3 seed a distinct advantage because they will have an extra day off before the Monday finals.
Friday, world No. 2 Rafael Nadal must face Andy Roddick in their quarterfinal contest. In their head-to-head, Nadal leads 6-3 with all of Roddick’s wins coming on hard courts. The last time they met was during the Barclays World Tour Finals in London last November on very fast hard courts.
The odds would favor Nadal in this match, but the real question is just how easily will the world No. 2 put away the American? The longer the match, the worse for Nadal who must turn around and play a reinvigorated Andy Murray on Saturday should the Scot survive.
Murray, who got past American Donald Young on Thursday, must face another American on Friday—big-serving John Isner, who surprisingly outdid Frenchman Gilles Simon to advance.
Isner will encounter a similar player across the net when battling Murray, but with this main difference—Murray is much better and more capable of neutralizing the big guy’s game, especially while playing in back-to-back five-set matches.
Murray just needs to avoid tiebreaks with Isner.
For the ladies, Thursday was quarterfinal day. Serena Williams was not playing her most powerful best in the first set, but finally prevailed over the Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova in straight sets 7-5, 6-1.
In the meantime, Samantha Stosur dismantled another Russian, the No. 2 seed Vera Zvonareva 6-3, 6-3.
That means that Serena Williams will meet the world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki in one women’s semifinal while Samantha Stosur will meet one of the in-form Germans, unseeded Angelique Kerber, who has played one whale of a tournament to get herself into the semifinals.
Williams leads Wozniacki in their head-to-head 2-0, but the last time the two met was in 2009. Wozniacki’s game has improved considerably in two years, though it may not yet equal the power of Serena on the hard courts.
Stosur has never before played the German lefty who has a ranking of No. 92 in the world. There was no indication that Kerber would have this kind of result at the 2011 US Open, except for the fact that she did very well at the tournament in Dallas just prior to the start of the US Open, making it to the semifinals where she lost to Frenchwoman Aravane Rezai 6-2, 3-6, 7-5.
For the men on Friday, Nadal faces Roddick in one quarterfinal match while Murray will try to overrun Isner to advance to the semifinals.
Tournament officials will be watching the skies, praying for cessation of all rain in the forecast for the New York City area.
In the meantime, everyone will be dreaming of the day when, with a push of a button, a roof will close out the rain. Finally, weather would no longer be able to stop play on the main court at the US Open.
Tennis balls would be able to stay dry and bounce high...forever.