Rafael Nadal lashed out at US Open organisers on Wednesday, claiming players’ safety was being put at risk in a desperate effort to make up for lost time at the rain-ravaged Grand Slam tournament.
Defending champion Nadal, world No. 4 Andy Murray and 2003 winner Andy Roddick joined forces to complain to tournament referee Brian Earley after they were sent out to play on courts that had been battered by almost constant rain.
The start of play had already been delayed by 90 minutes but their fourth round matches lasted just 15 minutes before they were hauled off as more rain soaked Flushing Meadows.
“We don’t want to go on court if it is raining. If I have to go on court, I go on court, but I think it’s not fair,” said 10-time Grand Slam title winner Nadal, whose match had originally been slated for Tuesday before the whole day’s schedule was washed out.
The clearly unhappy Spaniard was 3-0 down to Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller on Arthur Ashe Stadium when they pair were taken off as conditions deteriorated.
“We are not protected. There is a lot of money at the Grand Slams but we are part of the show. They are just working for that and not for us,” added Nadal.
“It was still raining when they called us on court. The rain never really stopped, the courts were not dry. I know the fans are there but the health of the players is important.”
Murray, who was trailing 2-1 to America’s Donald Young on Grandstand, insisted it was too dangerous to play.
“The lines get really slippery. Players want to play more than anyone, but not when it’s dangerous,” said the Scot.
“The back of the court was soaking and the balls were wet too. Everyone mentioned it to the officials but they said it was fine. It didn’t make sense to go out on court for seven or eight minutes and then come back inside.
“It won’t happen again today.”
Roddick, who was 3-1 up on fifth-seeded David Ferrer on Louis Armstrong Stadium, joined forces with Nadal and Murray.
“I think if it’s up for discussion if the court’s playable or not, then it’s not playable. Walking out there it was still misting. The back of the courts were still wet,” said the American.
“We wanted to make it known we didn’t want to be put in that position. I certainly understand they need to put tennis on TV, I understand the business side of it as well, but players need to feel comfortable and safe.”
Tuesday’s wipeout was the first time both the day and night sessions had been cancelled at the tournament, which does not have covered courts or a stadium with a retractable roof, since 2006.
By the middle of the afternoon, the scheduled men’s quarterfinals between world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic, and five-time champion Roger Federer clashing against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga were cancelled.
But Nadal, Murray and Roddick could have to play four days in succession if the men’s final is to be played as planned on Sunday.
Worryingly, the men’s title match has been carried over to the following Monday for the past three years.
US Open officials said that their decision to send the players out was prompted by their belief that a two-hour window was available between the showers.
“All parties, including the players and tournament, want to get the US Open back on schedule,” said a US Tennis Association statement.
“As of noon today, the best information available to us indicated the chance of a two-hour window without rain.
“Unfortunately, not all light rain and mist shows up on radar. We have experienced referees, and they decide if courts are fit for play. Conditions may be not ideal, but still can be safe.
“However, if a player or players feel that conditions are unsafe, we listen to them, as we have always done, and the referee uses that information as part of his/her assessment on whether to continue or halt play.”
All four women’s quarterfinals, with top seed Caroline Wozniacki and three-time champion Serena Williams amongst the line-up, were also due to be played on Wednesday. — AFP