Day 11: Tarps, player gripes and a Kardashian
Andy Roddick and David Ferrer didn't last long on Armstrong Stadium on Thursday. (AP)
There is so much tennis happening Thursday that my head is spinning. It's been on a swivel trying to track all the different matches and storylines on a fantastic day for fans. Along with simply enjoying the bevy of quality tennis around the grounds, it's also been a day of education. Here are some things I've learned so far, with Novak Djokovic-Janko Tipsarevic and Angelique Kerber-Flavia Pennetta still in progress:
• Evaporation = More water.
Science and I get along like Andy Murray and a comb. So I found myself scratching my head when the USTA released a statement about the closure of Louis Armstrong Stadium because of "saturated conditions," prompting a court change for Andy Roddick's fourth-round match against David Ferrer.
"We have faced an inordinate amount of rain in August and through the early part of September, which has saturated the court surfaces at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center," the statement read. "All courts were completely dried prior to play on Thursday, September 8. However, as the sun began to warm, or 'bake' the courts, evaporation of these saturated conditions began to surface on Louis Armstrong Stadium. Until this situation is rectified, no further play will occur on Louis Armstrong Stadium."
So the sun caused the water under the court to evaporate, which created bubbles on the surface and ... more water? It's all very confusing, but it's highlighted an issue that's been echoed by fans and players over the past two days: Why not just put a tarp on the courts?
I don't mean just pull a blue tarp over the top. If there are concerns that it takes just as long if not longer to remove the tarps as it does getting the squeegees and blowers out (which ... really?), then fine, you don't have to run the covers out every time a drop of water falls from the sky. But the issue here isn't so much about keeping the courts dry but controlling and containing the water that seeps into the court, which we now know can cause problems. If Wimbledon can figure out how to use inflatable tarps to keep the grass courts dry and usable after it rains, surely we can figure out how to cover the courts in Flushing Meadows to avoid these saturation issues.
• Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray: Unionizers
Nadal and Murray cruised through their rain-interrupted matches quickly. Afterward, the two spent a significant portion of their press conferences discussing Wednesday's events and highlighting their concerns about not only the U.S. Open but also how tennis is run in general.
"I think because we have the ATP and the ITF, and they don't like each other very much, that there's always going to be some issues with Davis Cup, the schedule, the Grand Slams, and things like what happened yesterday," Murray said. "The difference is that at the ATP tournaments, we have ATP representatives, we have an ATP Tour manager, ATP referees, so they're sort of there looking out for the players.
"Here we have an ATP Tour manager who was in the locker room with us beforehand yesterday, and he was saying, 'It's still raining out there, guys. You shouldn't go out there and play.' And then the referees here, it's different. You know, it's the ITF. They want us to go out on the court. If it was at an ATP tournament, we wouldn't have been on the court. But because it's not -- the ATP doesn't run the Grand Slams -- then it's not always up to us."
Murray also said he favors the formation of a players' union. Asked if players would push for changes at the U.S. Open, Murray said: "It isn't just about this tournament. It's about all of the Slams and just tennis in general. There is a lot of things that need to be changed aside from just maybe some of the scheduling here."
Nadal kept his rant from Wednesday going, too.
"The problem is we need to have the right representation in these tournaments," Nadal said. "I don't know how, but things like this cannot happen. Having the semifinals on Saturday is something crazy for the players. Last year it was the final on Monday. So [this] is something that cannot happen, and the players are an important part of the show.
"The problem is not the organization of the U.S. Open. The problem is we don't have enough power in these kind of tournaments. That's what has to change very soon."
• Serena Williams can be broken.
If you were paying attention this week, you'd be surprised by that statement. Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova broke Williams three straight times to start the match -- Serena had dropped serve only twice in her first four matches -- and things were actually looking interesting. Of course, Williams got every single break back and Pavlyuchenkova never broke her again after that. But since beating Victoria Azarenka in the third round, Serena has looked slightly off.
Williams moves on to a semifinal against No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki, who beat Andrea Petkovic in straight sets Thursday. The Serena/Caro match is one I've been looking forward to since the draw was released. Put your money where your ranking is, Caroline. A win for the Dane would pretty much shut everyone up, regardless if she goes on to win the title here for her first Grand Slam trophy.
• Sam Stosur can win matches quickly.
Stosur had spent her previous two matches breaking records for the longest anything (match, tiebreaker, prolonged angst from her fans). But she was clinical in her dismantling of No. 2 Vera Zvonareva on Thursday, blowing her off the court in 67 minutes. This was Stosur's eighth consecutive victory against Zvonareva.
"It's always nicer to finish them off in less than three hours," Stosur said.
Stosur is the only woman left in the draw who has the potential to match Williams' power, and Serena's had problems with her in the past. The women's draw -- with Stosur awaiting the Kerber-Pennetta winner -- is shaping up to be an intriguing shootout to the end.
• I can't pick Kim Kardashian out of a lineup. She was in Serena's box (alongside Carmelo Anthony's wife, LaLa Vazquez -- I didn't recognize her either). I wouldn't have realized that Kardashian was there until the commentators pointed it out. I take this is as a small personal victory.