Tennis-Roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium too costly, says USTA
By Steve Ginsburg
NEW YORK, Sept 12 (Reuters) - The cost of building a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium is too expensive and may not be practical for the U.S. Open, the head of the U.S. Tennis Association said Saturday.
A persistent drizzle over the last few days has created a scheduling nightmare for the Open, but USTA executive director Gordon Smith said a roof was not the answer.
"Would I love to have a roof? Absolutely," he said. "But it is certainly one of those situations where you have to really look at the practical aspects.
"In '07 we didn't have a single session rained out. In '08 we had one, and thus far, knock on wood, hopefully we'll only have one rained out in '09."
However, this is the second straight year the U.S. Open has been forced into a Monday finish because the rain came late in the tournament and gave organizers no wiggle room.
"Had they been earlier in the tournament, we wouldn't be in the position where we have to end on Monday," he said.
"So you weigh that against the potential costs of a roof on Ashe of $100 million or more, and it's a tough decision, especially when we're trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the revenues to promote our sport."
The decision not to follow the leads of Wimbledon and the Australian Open and construct a roof has come under attack from the tennis community, though the non-profit USTA believes it has actually come through the rain with an unexpected bonus.
Normally, the women's final is on Saturday night and the men's championship Sunday afternoon. But since this week's rain caused the scheduling to be shuffled, an enticing women's semi-final between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters will fill the Saturday night slot.
The women's final will be on Sunday night -- the most watched evening for U.S. TV viewership -- so the Open will have two marquee matches televised during weekend prime time.
"From the standpoint of promoting our sport, this is a coup," boasted tournament director Jim Curley.
Gordon said the USTA is looking into the cost of a roof but added: "You've got to remember that Arthur Ashe Stadium roof is essentially putting a roof over something about as big as a modern day major league baseball park.
"It's a very complex thing."
Curley defended the U.S. Open's policy of having the men play their semi-finals on Saturday and the final on Sunday, unlike other grand slams that have a day of rest in between.
"We have a particular finals scenario that we've had in place for several decades, and we're comfortable ... that it is, in fact, fair.
"If you were to ask a player, would they say it's ideal? No, they would not say it's ideal. A player would like to get a day in between the semis and the finals. We all know that."
Rafael Nadal, who has been affected by rain suspensions the last two years at the Open, said playing a five-hour marathon semi-final like he had at this year's Australian Open would leave a player with no gas in the tank for the next day.
"It's impossible to win the final, believe me," he said.
Curley said the so-called Super Saturday format, that also normally features the women's final, is fine the way it is.
"It's important from our USTA perspective to promote and develop the growth of the game," he said. "It gets to a much larger audience, and that's one of the reasons why we do it."