US Open water torture continues

US Open tournament referee Brian Earley said he expects the year's final Grand Slam tennis event to finish on Sunday as scheduled despite a third consecutive day of rain halting play.

india Updated: Sep 03, 2003 09:37 IST

US Open tournament referee Brian Earley said he expects the year's final Grand Slam tennis event to finish Sunday as scheduled despite a third consecutive day of rain halting play at Flushing Meadows.

Forecasts are bleak, but Earley said Tuesday that players could be asked to play three or four days in a row or twice in one day if necessary, hopefully only if the first match was the completion of a rain-interrupted match.

"We are confident we will finish all the events on time," Earley said. "Would players play every day as opposed to every other day? The answer is yes. The players understand that."

US Tennis Association (USTA) officials want to avoid having players face two singles matches in a day to stay on schedule, but as USTA chief executive Arlen Kantarian said, "in a situation like this, we would never say never."

Men were hopeful of starting their fourth round Tuesday while two women's fourth-round matches remained incomplete, halted Monday by showers. Doubling up might be needed to complete the women's final Saturday and men's on Sunday.

"The rule of thumb is that you don't play more than one singles match in a day," Earley said. "That doesn't mean we wouldn't. We've played pieces of matches and then gone on to play a second match in a day.

"The rule of thumb is one thing. What really happens is another. I don't really think we can go there yet. Hard for me to inagine that, but I have never been in this situation."

Women's world number one Kim Clijsters had her quarter-final against French fifth seed Amelie Mauresmo postponed because of the showers. Eight men's round of 16 matches and three women's matches were still on the Tuesday schedule.

"We're going to do everything we can do get them in," Kantarian said. "As bad as it looks now, one day with no rain and we will be able to catch up.

"There's disappointment that this is happening. The forecast is not that optimistic. But we fully intend to complete the tournament Sunday."

A veritable water torture kept the world's top tennis talent relaxing inside lounges within Arthur Ashe Stadium while workers occassionally mopped and wiped the Flushing Meadows hardcourts during the brief moments when showers stopped.

Bleak forecasts into the weekend for little more than scattered clearing provided a grim backdrop as weather radar and replays of past year's matches became the dominant images on television screens across the complex.

A storm system following along the jet stream is sending storms through the area one after another. It could fade by Friday but a hurricane from the Caribbean is expected to approach New York for the weekend.

Consideration has been given to wiping out some senior, junior or doubles events, but only in more dire straits than expected.

"We're not at that point yet," Earley said. "We have had very preliminary discussions on that kind of thing."

No discussion has been made of cutting best-of-five-set matches to best-of-three, Early saying, "a Grand Slam men's title deserves best-of-five matches all the way through."

The men's final would be played Monday afternoon if washed out Sunday. Two Open-era US men's finals have been pushed to Monday, most recently in 1987 when Ivan Lendl beat Mats Wilander 6-7, 6-0, 7-6, 6-4 in four hours and 47 minutes.

The other came in 1969 when Australia's Rod Laver completed his second Grand Slam before just 3,708 at the West Side Tennis Club. The final was delayed 95 minutes by rain and a rented helicopter was used to dry the grass court.

Bill Tilden's 1924 US finals triumph came a day later than planned after the second day of matches was wiped out by showers.

The event's worst rain delay came in 1938, when Don Budge completed the first Grand Slam in men's tennis history after six days of rain pushed the final to September 24, the latest date in tournament history.

First Published: Sep 03, 2003 09:37 IST