NEW YORK – Defending champion Rafael Nadal and world No. 4 Andy Murray hit out at the US Open schedule on Thursday, with the British star insisting commercial interests were trumping player welfare.
Two successive days at the last Grand Slam tournament of the season have been lost to rain, prompting criticism of Flushing Meadows’ policy of staging a ‘Super Saturday’ which features both men’s semi-finals along with the women’s final a day before the final.
“Having the semi-finals on Saturday is something crazy for the players,” said Nadal, who reached the last eight with a 7-6 (7/1), 6-1, 6-3 win over Gilles Muller of Luxembourg.
That match had been slated for Tuesday, but now Nadal faces the prospect of playing four days in succession if he is to defend his title on Sunday.
Rivals Novak Djokovic and five-time champion Roger Federer both completed their last-16 matches on Monday and were in quarter-final action Thursday.
“From our part of the draw it will be a very difficult situation for the player who will be in the final,” Nadal said. “The semi-finals too maybe because two days in a row playing tough matches is difficult.
“The matches, quarter-finals, semi-finals, four rounds of a Grand Slam normally are tough matches. If you don’t have rest, you have a big chance not be fit enough to play well in the next match.”
The men’s final at the US Open has been staged on a Monday for the last three years because of the weather and Nadal insists the players’ input into the scheduling is crucial.
Murray, who made the last eight with a 6-2, 6-3, 6-3 win over America’s Donald Young, also believes the players need more power at the Grand Slams where the ATP’s influence is under-powered.
When asked if commercial interests — with broadcasters ESPN holding the TV rights on weekdays and CBS leading the way at weekends — held more sway than the players, Murray said simply: ‘Yes’.”
He also believes that the scheduling, rather than controversy over the absence of a roof on the showcourts, is the main problem.
“It’s not the roof. It’s having a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday first round that doesn’t help. Having the semis on Saturday and (final) Sunday I don’t think helps.”
Like Nadal, Murray may also have to play four days in succession if the tournament is to finish on Sunday.
But he does not want to see the men’s draw reduced to best-of-three contests even if the potential quality of the showpiece final is drastically reduced.
“I’d rather just go for it now and try and get it done. If something happens to a player, and the final turns out to be an absolute dead match because someone’s so tired, I think it would show up,” said the Scot.
“A lot of flaws have shown up, but it would be time to say: ‘Look, this is meant to be the biggest match or one of the biggest matches in tennis, and it’s messed up because of the schedule.
“I think we should just try and play the best of five, try and get through it. Hopefully everyone will be OK, and then after the tournament sit down with whoever and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”