Wow, here I was thankful that the US Open’s two day long rain delay coincided with some blackout-busy times at my day job. But it appears that nothing gets pro players riled like bad weather. Suddenly, I turn on ESPN and Serbia Open tournament owner Novak Djokovic is waxing poetic about a players’ union. The helpless feelings inspired by weather-imposed inactivity obviously rouse quite a bit of brotherly love from habitually self-interested pro tennis players.
Allow me a brief interruption/fan-girl indulgence: Gosh, I love Tsonga! I got chills watching him hit those single handed backhand passes and that 139 mile-per-hour ace in his third set vs. Roger Federer. But I love Roger Federer more. The Swiss guy played some fantastic tennis in his 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 win over his 2011 nemesis in Thursday evening’s quarterfinal. Amazingly this was Roger’s THIRTIETH STRAIGHT MAJOR QUARTERFINAL. That’s just sick. His reward for winning is the biggest challenge in the game: World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in what will be Roger’s 29th Major semifinal appearance (just a couple behind Connors’s all-time record of 31). Last year, Fed and Nole played an epic semifinal in Arthur Ashe stadium – I’d say it was the match that really kickstarted Nole’s rise to the top/invincibility – made all the more remarkable considering Roger had multiple match points in that match. Whatever happens on Saturday, how can anyone question this Roger’s talent and ability? ESPN’s Cliff Drysale compared him favorably – and accurately – to a caged lion. Well. . .ROARRRRR!
Novak progressed on Thursday after losing the second set of his quarterfinal against friend and countryman Janko Tipsarevic in a tiebreak. Janko ended up retiring in the fourth set with an injured left hamstring and an eye on next week’s Davis Cup semi vs. Argentina.
But the real story the past couple days is the scheduling. Roger and Novak enjoy the luxury of a day off before their semi. The rest of the guys have to play their quarters and semis back to back. The upside is that both finalists get Sunday off before the rescheduled Monday final. The women’s championship singles match has been bumped to Sunday.
A recap of the weather-related changes via USOpen.org:
Match (Session #) New Date Gates Open
Men’s Singles Quarterfinals (Session #20) Friday, Sept. 9 – 10 a.m. ET
Men’s Singles Semifinals (Session #24) Saturday, Sept. 10 – 10 a.m. ET
Women’s Singles Semifinals (Session #23) Saturday, Sept. 10 – 6 p.m. ET
Women’s Singles Final (Session #25) Sunday, Sept. 11 – 11 a.m. ET
Men’s Singles Final (Session #26) Monday, Sept. 12 – 11 a.m. ET
Despite the revised schedule, the non-roof-having, rain-plagued 2011 US Open may still go down in history as the hot bed of a players’ revolt. The top men in particular have been vocal against the administrators who manage the Major tournaments independent of the Association of Tennis Professionals, or ATP.
It says a lot about the scheduling – and the hot house atmosphere rain delays create in the locker rooms – that two days of thumb twiddling at a Major can inspire understandably self-interested pro tennis players to rally together like so many bright eyed revolutionaries around a dogeared copy of The Communist Manifesto. The players – particularly Rafael Nadal – were furious about being expected to play in the rain on Wednesday. Eventually, Nadal, Roddick and Murray went in together to tournament referee Brian Earley’s office to complain about it. Nadal expressed the group’s sentiments later (via The Guardian):
“The rain really never stopped. The court was dry for 10 minutes and they know we have to go out there. The health of the players is important. Things happened today and at [other] slams and for sure we cannot accept these things. We have to be together and not accept situations. We have to fight to change that, so we don’t go on court when it’s raining. If I have to, I go on court but it’s not fair.”
Rafael Nadal was more pointed in this angry quip to Earley after being forced onto a damp court on Wednesday: “It’s the same old story, all you think about is money.”
He said later: “It was a tough day. We don’t feel protected here. The tournament grand slams, they are [getting] a lot of money and they are working for that, but not [for] us.”
When play finally resumed on Thursday the marquee David Ferrer vs. Andy Roddick match ended up on Court 13, capacity 584, due to a wanton water bubble on Louis Armstrong.21 seeded Roddick not only won the match, he also got to flex his Alpha Dog muscles in his televised debate with Brian Earley, who seemed more baffled by the bubble than the players were.
Some great writing came out of Roddick’s magical adventure vs. No. 5 seed David Ferrer on Court 13. A seemingly reinvigorated Roddick won the match Click here and here for some contenders for best sports writing of 2011.
A few great quotes from Roddick on Thursday’s atmosphere:
“I know it sounds simple, but I’m just going out and playing. I’m having fun.”
“It was a little bit of everything (on Court 13. ) We had some Van Morrison wannabe playing music. There was a guy scaling a fence. A couple people wanted to do commentary on the service line. There was screaming from the courtyard. It sounded like someone was getting hurt.”
“I didn’t think Court 13 was in my future. I probably could have promised you if it ever came to that I was just going to call it quits – but extenuating circumstances, I guess.”
Similar to my feelings about Roger, I’m already getting a bit nostalgic over over-the-hill Andy Roddick. You gotta admire the way the guy speaks his mind and plays his heart out. Here’s hoping we get as good a performance once he gets back on the not-so-intimate Arthur Ashe stadium. He’ll need all the good vibes he can get in his quarterfinal vs. Rafael Nadal.
DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images via Daylife.com
Here’s a look at what’s left on the men’s side:
Federer vs. Djokovic in the top-half semifinal. Andy Murray vs. John Isner (in the first major quarterfinal of the American’s career) and Rafael Nadal vs. Andy Roddick in the bottom half quarters.
On the women’s side, we’re getting what’s being called the “de-facto final” on Saturday evening – though it’s realy only the semi. Serena Williams will take on World no. 1 Caroline Wozniacki for a spot in Sunday’s championship match. Either way, this match promises some closure. Sam Stosur, who continues to be a strong outside choice for the title, will face unseeded, world No. 92, Angelique Kerber in the other semi.
Has everyone had some time to get their bearings yet? Or are you feeling as discombobulated as I am?