NEW YORK, USA, September 8 – Rafael Nadal claimed players’ safety was being put at risk by cash-conscious US Open chiefs trying to rescue the rain-hit event which suffered a virtual washout for the second successive day.
Only 15 minutes of play was possible after all of Tuesday was lost to torrential downpours, the first such full-day wipeout since 2006.
The deluge left defending champion Nadal stuck at the fourth round stage and facing having to play four days in succession if he was to win Sunday’s final.
Nadal was furious that he was forced to start his last-16 match against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller on a damp Arthur Ashe Stadium and, along with Andy Murray and Andy Roddick, complained to tournament referee Brian Earley.
Their fourth round matches lasted just 15 minutes in early afternoon before they were hauled off as more downpours soaked Flushing Meadows.
Five hours later, all four remaining last-16 matches and two scheduled quarter-finals were cancelled and moved to Thursday as the prospect of a Monday men’s final for a fourth successive year edged closer.
Officials then had to cancel their ambitious plans to complete the four women’s quarter-finals when more rain appeared just after three-time champion Serena Williams and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova had finished warming-up on Ashe.
“We don’t want to go on court if it is raining. I think it’s not fair,” said 10-time Grand Slam title winner Nadal, whose match had originally been slated for Tuesday.
The clearly unhappy Spaniard was 3-0 down to Muller when the pair were taken off as conditions deteriorated.
As he passed Earley on the court, he was overheard to say: “It’s the same old story, all you ever care about is money.”
Nadal added in an interview with ESPN: “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.
“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 2-1 behind America’s Donald Young on Grandstand, insisted it was too dangerous to play.
“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.”
Roddick, who was 3-1 up on fifth-seeded David Ferrer on Louis Armstrong Stadium, joined forced with Nadal and Murray.
Tournament director Jim Curley said it was still planned to finish the tournament on Sunday.
“It is our intention at this point to finish the tournament on time on Sunday,” Curley told ESPN.
“We feel that we’re dealing with some of the best conditioned athletes in the world.”
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.
“As of 12 noon today, the best information available to us indicated the chance of a two-hour window without rain,” said a US Tennis Association statement.
“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.”
Men’s world number one Novak Djokovic, whose quarter-final with fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic was switched to Thursday, said the US Open should build a roof on its showcase court.
“This is a Grand Slam tournament event with huge revenues, so maybe they should consider a roof in future,” said Djokovic.
Five-time champion Roger Federer’s match with France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga was also switched to Thursday.
In all 54 matches were cancelled on Tuesday while 64 had been scheduled for Wednesday.
“I’d love to have a roof, absolutely,” said Curley. “When the decision was made to build Arthur Ashe Stadium in the mid-90s, the decision was made not to put a roof on. It was cost prohibitive.”
It has been estimated that it would cost around $200 million to build a retractable roof.