Could Wet Courts Be Watershed for Tennis Players


The waterlogged U.S. Open Tennis Championships on ESPN2 Wednesday actually made for some compelling TV in spite of the rain that kept players off the courts for all but about 15 minutes.

Those 15 minutes or so, when some players felt they were pushed onto courts too slick for safe play, prompted complaints from some top players, including Rafael Nadal and Andy Roddick, that tournament pressure to perform for the stadium crowd and TV audience had put them in that situation. Roddick and Nadal both said they understood they were part of the show.

John McEnroe used the delay and the player mini-revolt to call for players to band together to demand more say in the big tournaments, and argue that tennis players are in the worst position vis-a-vis revenue sharing. He talked about an effort by the players when he was on the tour back in the 1980’s be bigger players in the major tournaments, to be “partners” with the tournament organizers, share some of those revenues and, in turn share it with players and charities. He said that effort went nowhere and that, now, the major tournaments are more powerful than ever and “push around” the top players.

There was also some grumbling about matches being scheduled back to back for some players given the rain delays to make sure that the marquee names played in TV prime time and the finals could be played on the weekend.

A number of ESPN2 announcers, including Patrick McEnroe and Cliff Drysdale, said the collective complaint by Nadal, Roddick, and Andy Murray about the court conditions could be a “watershed” moment, no pun apparently intended, if, as Patrick McEnroe said, it led to a concerted effort by players to affect “real” change.

At press time, the ladies quarterfinals matches, planned for Wednesday night, were on hold after misty conditions caused another delay and ESPN2 was replaying the Tsonga/Fish match.