Posted: Tuesday September 6, 2011 6:37PM ; Updated: Tuesday September 6, 2011 7:15PM
Jon Wertheim
Jon Wertheim>TENNIS MAILBAG

U.S. Open roof? Don't bet on it

Story Highlights

The USTA has looked into covering a U.S. Open court, but it's not easy

The land is an issue, as is the prospect of getting more public funding

Credit Caroline Wozniacki for her comeback victory against Svetlana Kuznetsova

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Day 9 of the U.S. Open was washed out.
Day 9 of the U.S. Open was washed out.
Mike Groll/AP
2011 U.S. Open
Day 15
Day 14
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Day 12
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Previous Coverage

Simple question: Will the USTA ever build a roof? Along with 50,000 other people, I got rained out today and I'm not happy about it!
-- Salil, Long Island, N.Y.

• Yes, after eight days of unimpeachable weather (notwithstanding some windy conditions) at the U.S. Open, it's now coming down in sheets, leading to the inevitable complaints about the absence of a roof. When it starts raining at the National Tennis Center, conversation turns into an amateur disquisition on both meteorology and architecture.

Will the USTA cover a court? Lord knows it's looked into it. But, as of now, the answer is "no." Apart from the prohibitive costs, putting a roof over the mammoth Arthur Ashe Stadium is virtually structurally impossible, I've been told. Putting a cheaper roof on a smaller court is possible. It would a) satisfy the television partners who surely aren't happy having to reheat matches, and b) unclog the schedule. But the ground beneath Armstrong and the Grandstand is too soggy to accommodate a major construction project. Plus, there's concern that this will alienate fans, especially the high rollers who have purchased luxury suites. Imagine paying for your chamber, replete with catering, and then learning that the matches are being played elsewhere.

A third suggestion I've heard batted around: Tear down Armstrong and the Grandstand and build a new co-stadium, a complement to Ashe, but this one equipped with a covering. (Getting any public funding for this -- less than 15 years after Ashe's opening -- is a big ask.)

We're within our right to gripe about Ashe. The combination of its excessive size and the absence of a roof makes it an easy target, especially when the other Grand Slams have a main court that is both more intimate and covered. But as things stand now, all the gripes and dime-store solutions about combating the elements at the U.S. Open ... you'd be more effective doing a rain dance.

How about kudos to Caroline Wozniacki for a solid game Monday night and for looking like she could have played for hours without hitting the wall? Speaking of, it's sad to see Svetlana Kuznetsova lose again on grounds of poorer fitness, something she should have taken care of after having fitness issues in that long match against Francesca Schiavone at the Australian Open. However, both ladies showed great fighting spirit and ought to be applauded for their efforts.
-- Karam Singh, San Jose, Calif.

• Kudos are in order. Wozniacki is that tennis contradiction, the player who has little in the way of power but is nevertheless strong. That was some quality fighting Monday night, helped by supreme confidence in her fitness level. The cynic will say (and has said), "How pathetic it is that the top seed staves off the 15th seed and it's celebrated so dramatically"? But I think Wozniacki showed an awful lot of herself.

With all the talk of American girls Sloane Stephens, Christina McHale, Irina Falconi and Madison Keys doing well at the U.S. Open, how come the press has failed to mentioned Vania King, who made it to the third round before losing to Caroline Wozniacki? Why no love for her?
-- Jade, Miami

• Fair enough. I would say that King -- who turns 23 early next year and is playing her (gulp) seventh U.S. Open -- is in a different position than, say, Keys, who's 16. But your point is well-taken. (Here is Bruce Jenkins' Tuesday column on the U.S. women.)

I've got data to prove that the 2011 U.S. Open will be Serena Williams' last Grand Slam victory. The gap between Chris Evert's first and last Grand Slams was 12 years and they were at the same event -- French Open in '74 and '86. Ditto for Martina Navratilova ('78 and '90 Wimbledon) and Steffi Graf ('87 and '99 French). Serena's first Grand Slam was the '99 US Open -- do the math. You heard it here first!
-- Richard, Miami

• I think you're short a few data points. (One of my favorite quotes: "The plural of anecdote is not data.") But that's interesting nonetheless. Thanks.

I noticed many empty seats during the first week of the U.S. Open. Is that normal? If not, what gives?
-- Omar, Weslaco, Texas

• You likely noticed the empty seats on the monstrosity that is Ashe. A lot of fans buy cheap seats to the big stadium and never use them, instead wandering the grounds and watching matches on other courts. If the choice is watching Roger Federer or Serena from the ozone layer or watching a tight match a few rows from courtside, well, that's an easy choice to a lot of fans. Everyone -- rightfully -- beats up on Ashe. But the USTA really did itself proud with that Court 17. It not only is an intimate court but it also has the effect of diverting fans from the smaller courts nearby.

Does anyone else walk up to the new Court 17 and half expect to see dolphins dive up through hoops? The sunken circular setup makes me think I'm at Sea World. Not slamming it, though. Really like to see a new show court that coincidentally draws you toward other courts you might not normally walk by in passing.
-- Greg Smiley, Washington, D.C.

• Very nice. The French Open has the Bullring Court. We have Court Sea World. (Insert Mardy Fish joke here.)

This. Is. Bad. Journalism. Stop. Doing. It.
-- Richard Pennington, Seoul, South Korea

Agree. This. Conceit. Has. Quickly. Gotten. Old. Hasn't. It?

Why don't most players wear sunglasses when playing during the day in bright sun? Given the sponsorship opportunities alone, you'd think more would try it.
-- Charles Wiley, Louisville, Ky.

• Player after player say it just doesn't feel right. Gael Monfils and Fish both have endorsements with a sunglasses manufacturer and play "bare-eyed." Sam Stosur and Janko Tipsarevic are exceptions. The latter, in fact, discussed it a bit Monday. "I tried contacts but it wasn't working for me because my eyes get red within five seconds," Tipsarevic said. "I tried to push through that phase, but it didn't work. I'm not a fan of laser eye surgery. I'm going to keep wearing the glasses."

You wrote: "I can't think of a single Grand Slam champ in the modern era -- much less one as decorated as Venus -- who has forsaken singles to be a doubles specialist." Martina Navratilova.
-- Doyle Srader, Eugene, Ore.

• A few of you noted that. But you're talking about Navratilova in her 40s (and 50s). Hit that age, and all bets are off. I'm talking about a major champ who could still conceivably compete for Slams (remember: Venus came within a few points of the U.S. Open final last year) saying, "Nah, I'll be a doubles specialist."

Shots, miscellany

• Cliff Andrus of Atlanta: "In regard to chopping off the upper few rows of Ashe Stadium, in the early-to-mid 2000s when I was living in Chicago, the White Sox did exactly that to their ballpark. They chopped off the top eight rows around the entire stadium and ended up removing 6,600 seats. It made the stadium experience a lot better and it looked better aesthetically. It seems like the same could be done at Ashe -- not sure the cost, though."

• RZ of Los Angeles: "On the theme of tennis nostalgia, did you notice the CBS opening montage to the U.S. Open coverage? The final run-up shows the champions of old, with only Serena Williams (from her win 12 years ago!) and Rafael Nadal as current players. No love for five-time champion Roger Federer or even recent champs Juan Martin del Potro and Kim Clijsters. Just a shame because those few seconds are an excellent marketing opportunity for today's tennis."

• Between John Isner, Irina Falconi, James Blake and Steve Johnson, it's been a nice event for college tennis.

• The Hall of Fame will review sexual-abuse allegations against Bob Hewitt.

• Romain Jemma of Paris has a quiz for you.

 
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