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USTA says no American bias at US Open

Denying any notion at American bias in their re-scheduling, the US Tennis Association said popularity was a bigger factor than nationality in helping US players Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.

india Updated: Sep 05, 2003 20:34 IST

Denying any notion at American bias in their re-scheduling decisions, the US Tennis Association said popularity was a bigger factor than nationality in helping US players Andre Agassi and Andy Roddick.

Non-Americans spoke out, mostly in Spanish, after Thursday's start of a four-match in four-day endurance fight to the final for the US Open men's title while Roddick and Agassi were enjoying rest days.

"It's frustrating, but at least it's the same for everybody. At least it's the same for all the non-Americans," Spain's Carlos Moya said after being ousted by Morocco's Younes El Aynaoui.

Agassi and Roddick were the only men able to finish fourth-round matches during three days of rain that allowed only bits and pieces of matches to be finished, mainly because they were on Arthur Ashe Stadium, the top drying priority to show off stars for US television.

Other courts did not receive such special attention and as a result, the men who are not backed by the host nation are squirming in an unprecedented grind for best-of-five matches.

"Everyone was upset," said Argentina's fifth-seeded Guillermo Coria, who gets to play a rested Agassi next.

Spanish third seed Juan Carlos Ferrero, who outlasted 33-year-old American Todd Martin, called the scheduling break for the US players a "remarkable coincidence".

But Alan Schwartz, the USTA president, told the New York Times that conspiracy theories were ridiculous.

"This is a wonderful theme to play, a contagious thing one whispers around," Schwartz said. "Andy and Andre were placed on Arthur Ashe because they are the hottest things were have with the (US) fans.

"I can understand when people say 'My goodness, they are the only ones who don't have to play four straight matches (to win the title).' But if there is a conspiracy, it's our conspiracy to get our most popular players on court to be seen by the greatest number of fans."

With American media focused mainly on US talent, top talent from around the world that is not backed with a Madison Avenue publicity blitz will have to handle disadvantages in order to overcome the on-court benefits of US fame.

Schwartz said non-American players need to become more popular with US fans and viewers before they will receive the scheduling breaks that lead to better treatment, not seeing the lack of same as part of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

"The minute you become Pat Rafter, you will make the Ashe court also," Schwartz said.

Too bad not everyone can be a pony-tailed Australian heart-throb.

First Published: Sep 05, 2003 20:34 IST