The official slogan may be “It Must Be Love”, but the U.S. Open, the USTA and everyone involved in the decision making process behind this weekend’s schedule are feeling and hearing anything but love as players and fans continue to openly criticize the revised order of play that has once again put the Men’s Singles Final on a Monday while at the same apparently discriminating against Women’s Semifinalists Angelique Kerber and Sam Stosur simply because they are not American.
With non-stop rain canceling two straight days of play plus being a contributing cause to cracks on the court at Louie Armstrong Stadium that has rendered that arena unplayable, U.S. Open officials decided to stagger the remaining matches so that the Women’s Final will be played on Sunday afternoon and the Men’s Final on Monday afternoon. And though the men’s semifinalists will be a given a day off in-between their matches tomorrow and Sunday, the women’s semifinalists will have to play back to back days. But what has really earned the ire of the tennis world is today’s decision to schedule the Angelique Kerber/Sam Stosur semi on the Grandstand court at 6pm EST and not on Arthur Ashe Stadium as are the two Men’s Semifinals and the second Women’s Semi between Serena Williams and Caroline Wozniacki for 8pm EST that will fall into the CBS broadcast timeslot previously scheduled for the Women’s Final. Fans worldwide expressed their disgust on Twitter while Stosur herself posted a rather blunt message on her Facebook page saying, “I think my Semi Final is at 6pm on Grandstand, if anyone wants to watch the ONLY SEMI FINAL not on Arthur Ashe Stadium, come out tomorrow.”
Rain and court issues aside, the USTA and U.S. Open organizers have suffered a major blow to their credibility by today’s decision on the Kerber/Stosur match, since clearly it was dictated by the USTA’s continuing television contract with CBS. It was no big surprise Williams and Wozniacki would be the 8pm night match for the broadcast window, but to not put Kerber/Stosur either on Ashe before the Men’s Semis or after the first Women’s Semis, is ludicrous and only because neither player is an American. The USTA released a rushed press release citing their decision was based on giving all four semifinalists an equal amount of time, more or less, to recover for Sunday’s Women’s Final. But even with the precedent of 2009 when rain forced Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer to play their semifinal on Armstrong at the same time Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters played theirs on Ashe, you know that if another American or someone like Maria Sharapova were in the second semi, they probably would not have ended up on a smaller court. Unlike 2009 with Wickmayer/ Wozniacki, U.S. Open officials were not forced today by an opening during a rain-drenched day to make a last-minute decision to put players on an available court. Today, they had plenty of time to make up their minds. And they decided with their eye on the bottom line and not for the players who earned the right to play on the biggest court the U.S. Open has.
Not only do Kerber and Stosur deserve better, but the entire sport itself. If you are hoping that the controversy surrounding today’s decision will make the U.S. Open change its antiquated “Super Saturday” schedule, think again. The USTA back in January of this year agreed in principal to a three year renewal with CBS to broadcast the U.S. Open through 2014 which means the “Super Saturday” schedule along with the Women’s Final being played in primetime on Saturday night will stay in place. Arthur Ashe Stadium may have its issues, but it is still the “Center Court” of America’s Major and thus should be the showcase for all of the worthy semifinalists. But today’s decision just proves how handcuffed the USTA and the U.S. Open are to the demands of CBS and the other networks who, let’s face it, pay the majority of the bills for the two weeks of the event. The U.S. Open may learn from today’s reaction that perhaps it really is time for an overhaul in not only their facilities but their scheduling procedure, but for now the U.S. Open has renewed its rather unfortunate reputation as being the most controversial and least player-friendly Major for another year.