U.S. Open could make Monday finish a permanent solution
Rain has postponed the conclusion of the U.S. Open for four consecutive years
Top players have expressed frustrations with the back-heavy tournament format
Organizers are exploring new options to fix the schedule, including a Monday finish
After four consecutive years of rain-postponed men's finals, the U.S. Open is looking into changing its schedule as soon as next year and could become the first Grand Slam tennis tournament to switch permanently to a Monday finish.
Tournament director Jim Curley told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Wednesday that the U.S. Tennis Association started discussions last month with broadcaster CBS about finding a way to heed top players' calls for a day off between the men's semifinals and final.
Currently, the U.S. Open is the only major tournament that schedules those matches on consecutive days, Saturday and Sunday.
Roger Federer, whose record 16 Grand Slam titles include five at the U.S. Open, was among those who said during this year's tournament that it's time to rethink the schedule. He called Wednesday's word of possible changes "the right move for our sport.''
One proposal under consideration would add a 15th day to the tournament, shifting the men's final from Sunday to Monday, and the women's final from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon. That also would give the women a day to rest between their semifinals and final.
The USTA also is considering keeping the men's title match in its traditional Sunday afternoon spot, but moving their semifinals to Friday.
The USTA board of directors has approved exploring various scheduling options.
"We're just getting into this process,'' Curley said, "and right now, everything is on the table.''
The U.S. Open, played at Flushing Meadows in New York, has boasted what it calls "Super Saturday'' since 1984, with two men's semifinals and the women's final all played on that day, followed by the men's final Sunday. Wimbledon, the French Open and Australian Open follow another pattern: women's semifinals Thursday, men's semifinals Friday, women's final Saturday, men's final Sunday.
"The sport has become much more physical over the years, to the point where players feel very strongly that they need to have a day between the semis and the final,'' Curley said. "While the players are an integral part of the U.S. Open, it's one aspect we need to take into consideration, along with onsite fans, TV viewers, corporate sponsors, television partners, both domestic and international. It's a Rubik's Cube, since so many variables need to be taken into consideration.''
Changes might result in the loss of one or two sessions during the U.S. Open - under the present format, tickets are sold for 26 sessions, some during the day, some at night - and a change in TV rights fees received by the USTA.
"It's fair to say that this type of change would have a negative financial impact on the USTA, and that's another reason why we're being very thoughtful in this process. We're talking about millions of dollars,'' Curley said.
He acknowledged such losses "would have to have an impact'' on any future plans to add a roof to the tournament facility.
CBS has aired the U.S. Open since 1968, and its current contract runs through 2014. CBS Sports spokeswoman Jen Sabatelle confirmed the network has been approached about a change.
"We have an ongoing dialogue with the USTA. They have been great partners, and we will work with them to come up with a schedule that makes sense for all parties,'' she said.
Curley said he hasn't talked about a potential schedule switch with the International Tennis Federation, which oversees the Grand Slam tournaments, because "the USTA, not the ITF, runs the U.S. Open.''
While calling the scheduling issue a priority for the U.S. Open, Curley said he doesn't know when there will be a final decision. It would need to come by April, at the latest, if there's going to be a change in 2012, when the tournament is supposed to run from Monday, Aug. 27, to Sunday, Sept. 9.
"It might not happen in '12. It might happen in '13. I just want to be clear that the goal is to get this done,'' Curley said.
In a statement emailed to the AP by his agent, Federer said: "It's good news that they're reviewing the U.S. Open schedule. It's the right move for our sport. I am pleased that the USTA is listening to the players, and I am very encouraged with these developments.''
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