Five time champion Roger Federer demanded sweeping changes to the US Open schedule after the rain-plagued Grand Slam tournament headed for a fourth successive Monday finish – while world number one Novak Djokovic was not particularly delighted either.
After two days were washed out this week, and with no roof on any of the show courts at Flushing Meadows, organisers were forced to go into a third week after a raft of complaints from the likes of defending champion Rafael Nadal that players were facing having to play four days on the trot to finish in time.
Federer, who reached the semi-finals by demolishing Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-4, 6-3, 6-3, said a Monday final was the best option, but there were deeper problems with the organisation of the four Grand Slam events.
“Playing a Monday final would not matter much to me as I have played my quarter-final, but out of fairness to the other half of the draw, it was the right thing to do,” said Federer.
“The problems lie elsewhere. Three early days for the first round and Super Saturday and Sunday are not feasible.”
To satisfy television demands at the US Open, the men’s first round is played over the first Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while the second Saturday traditionally sees the men’s semi-finals and women’s final.
“TV should not dictate. But the players at the Grand Slams have less leverage and sometimes the system is abused,” added Federer.
“We were not happy about the Sunday start to the French Open but we started on a Sunday. We don’t want to play Saturday and Sunday here, but we still do it. There are a whole lot of issues to be sorted out with the Grand Slams and the ITF.”
Top seed and world number one Novak Djokovic said he was not happy to have a Monday final as it would eat into travel plans to reach Belgrade next week for the Davis Cup semi-final with Argentina.
But Federer said that should not be an issue out of fairness to the other players in New York.
“I have to fly to Australia to get there by Friday for the Davis Cup. Is that good? No.”
But Djokovic, who is already in the semi-finals after defeating Serb compatriot Janko Tipsarevic, is against a Monday final.
“I’m not really happy about that, to be honest. I’m not, because there is always Davis Cup the weekend after,” said Djokovic.
“Last year I played finals and finished very late on Monday. Took off Tuesday, arrived Wednesday, and had to play on Friday already, Saturday. How that is possible? It’s just too much.”
Djokovic, who will have Friday off and also Sunday should he make the final, admitted that he did have a slight advantage over rivals like Nadal and Andy Murray who will play their last-eight matches on Friday.
“For the top half it has to be an advantage because we finished our fourth round a couple days ago, and then today I finished my quarter-final and I have a day off until my semi, where the other guys have to play day after day,” he said.
“That’s the way it is. You can’t fight it. You can’t complain. It’s Mother Nature that doesn’t allow us.”
Earlier Thursday, the US Tennis Association released a revised schedule for the remainder of the tournament.
The men’s final is now scheduled to start at 4pm (2000 GMT) on Monday, with the women’s final pushed back from Saturday to Sunday.
Players in the bottom half of the men’s draw, led by defending champion and second seed Nadal, had complained bitterly after their fourth-round matches were postponed from Tuesday to Thursday.
They claimed they had faced a huge disadvantage in having to potentially play four best-of-five-set matches in four days to lift the trophy.
Before the Monday finish was announced both Nadal and Murray had attacked the scheduling of the tournament.
“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.
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’.”