Players low key about plan for retractable roof at U.S. Open
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MASON, Ohio - Yesterday's U.S. Tennis Association announcement that it will construct a retractable roof over massive Arthur Ashe Stadium won't necessarily put a lid on all player grumbling about U.S. Open scheduling.
"The players weren't complaining about it raining outside," defending Open champion Andy Murray said after yesterday's match in the Open tune-up event here. "The players were complaining about being made to go on the court when it's still wet. So that doesn't change for 99 percent of the players in the draw just because there's a roof" over 23-000-seat Ashe.
Long-standing player gripes about the Open programming its semifinals and finals on back-to-back days had been exacerbated by weather postponements that forced the two-week tournament to a 15th day the last five years. But Open officially recently addressed that by building in a rest day after both semis, locking this year's women's championship into a Sunday date and the men's title match on Monday.
Beginning in 2015, the Open will replicate the other three Slams-Australian Open, French Open and Wimbledon -- with Thursday-Saturday semis and final play for the women and Friday-Sunday for the men.
"From a players' perspective, [a roof] is not a huge deal," said Mike Bryan, half of the doubles team that will be going for a Grand Slam sweep in their discipline this year, "because those matches with rain are going to be delayed, anyway."
Bryan's doubles partner and twin, Bob, called a roof "a good idea from an entertainment standpoint. It'll give fans something to do during rain delays, keeps the TV coverage rolling. And it will definitely ensure there won't be too many Louis Armstrong doubles finals, that we have our spot on the big show."
Murray agreed that, "for TV and stuff, it's fantastic." But he admitted, "I don't particularly like going from indoors to outdoors to indoors."
And he noted that, for the players, the challenge of dealing with weather delays "used to be a part of Slams that's kind of going away gradually."
The Australian Open has retractable roofs on two show courts and plans a third, Wimbledon installed a retractable cover over its center court in 2009 and expects to do the same on Court 1 by 2019 and the French Open is awaiting approval to erect a new main stadium with a retractable roof.
When a roof would be completed at Flushing Meadows, and how the Open would maneuver around construction interruptions, will be addressed at today's formal USTA conference in Manhattan.
Just 14 months ago, Open officials declared no intention of including an Ashe Stadium roof when releasing plans for what they called a six-to-eight-year, $500-million expansion project that was to be set in motion after this year's tournament. In that vision was an expansion of Louis Armstrong Stadium from 10,000 to 15,000 seats, a new Grandstand on the opposite side of the grounds, bumping its capacity from 6,000 to 8,000, and a relocation of seven outside courts to accommodate larger walkways.
Wednesday, reigning Open women's champion Serena Williams' reaction to the roof news was, "I'm on the player council, so we get that information way ahead of you guys. That's old news. You guys got to get with it."
Williams did say that, while a roof "is going to be great . . . it's going to take a really long time. They have a long-term plan, super long-term, and it's not going to happen next year or the year after. It's going to be a while."