When it comes to the late stages of the typical U.S. Open tennis tournament, there are generally just two things you really need to do. First, clear your work schedule to watch (or better yet for those of you in the New York area, attend) the inevitable Monday men’s final. For the fourth consecutive year, it will be played a day late due to rain.
Second, procure ear plugs for women’s final, lest your senses be assaulted by grunts and squeals. Sports Illustrated’s Jon Werthheim memorably described second-ranked Victoria Azarenka screams as, “the sound of someone giving birth while being waterboarded.”
But on Wednesday the screams, grunts, and groans were coming not from the stars of the women’sgame, but from Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Andy Murray. All of them chose to use their post-match press conferences to blast the USTA’s scheduling and management of the matches.
The Open has long been the Grand Slam tournament most subservient to its TV masters, with “innovations” such as forcing the men to play the semis and finals on successive days, moving matches to different times and locations at the last moment to showcase stars, and extending the first round of play to three days to spread out the stars for television.
This time the Open went a bridge too far, according to the players, bringing them out on courts that were still wet and calling a rain-inspired audible that would have had some players finishing the tournament by play on four successive days. That’s unheard of with a best-of-five set tournament format.
The silver lining in all of this for the players? This week crystallized years of growing disenchantment with the major tournaments and how they are run, and the top players are planning to meet soon after the Open to discuss forming a union. As Nadal said, “Right now we don’t feel protected.”
Sort of like our ears during a women’s match.
Below, see Venus Williams and Maria Sharapova grunting and squealing with the best of ‘em in 2010.