Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
NEW YORK — Rafael Nadal lashed out at U.S. Open officials because of the way he was treated during a rainy Wednesday at the U.S. Open.
“We don’t feel protected, the players,” the defending Open champion told ESPN’s Pam Shriver after play was suspended in his match with Gilles Muller.
“We don’t feel protected [by] the tournament. Grand Slams is lot of money, and we are part of the show — they are just working for that, not for us. They call us on court, cannot be possible. They dry the court for 45 minutes, but the rain never stops. The court was dry for 10 minutes but they know after 10 minutes we have to go out [of] the court another time and they still put us out on court, for the fans. I understand the fans are there, but, you know, health and the players are important. We are part of the show too, and we don’t feel protected.”
Earlier, ESPN reported that Nadal complained to tournament referee Brian Earley that “this tournament is all about the money,” implying that the Open cared more about getting the matches on court than with the safety of the players.
All men’s matches were cancelled later in the day for a second straight day.
The Open issued this statement in response to the concerns of Nadal and other players:
“We have experienced referees, and they decide if courts are fit for play. Conditions may be not ideal, but still can be safe. However, if a player or players feel that conditions are unsafe, we listen to them, as we have always done, and the referee uses that information as part of his/her assessment on whether to continue or halt play.”
Nadal, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray began their fourth-round matches at the Open on Wednesday after getting an extra day of rest because of rain. Then, about 15 minutes into the action, they stopped again.
A light mist turned into moderate rain and forced the suspension of play, sending second-seeded Nadal back to the locker room trailing Muller 3-0.
No. 21 Roddick led No. 5 David Ferrer 3-1 and Donald Young was up 2-1 against the fourth-seeded Murray.
“I would think Rafa is really struggling with the humidity that the ball picks up,” seven-time Grand Slam singles champion Mats Wilander told SNY.tv. “Plus, also when you can’t move. There’s a reason why he’s down 3-0 and Roddick is up 3-1.”
Another match, No. 28 John Isner against No. 12 Gilles Simon, was moved from one of the show courts onto Court 17, as tournament officials did everything they could to complete the fourth round as soon as possible.
After play was suspended, ESPN showed Nadal, Roddick and Murray coming out of Earley’s office, where they were ostensibly expressing their concern over the wet conditions.
“I certainly understand they need to put tennis on TV and I understand the business side of it as well,” Roddick, the 2003 Open champ, told ESPN.
“But first and foremost the players need to feel comfortable and safe.”
Earlier, ESPN’s John McEnroe suggested that the top players should unite to complain about being made to play in these conditions.
As SNY.tv reported Tuesday, Nadal would theoretically have to win four matches in five days to win the tournament, whereas Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic, already into the quarterfinals, need only win three matches in five days. If Wednesday is cancelled altogether, Nadal might have to play four times in four days to win the tournament.
“It is a huge, huge advantage for the players in the quarterfinals,” McEnroe said on air. “Djokovic-Tipsarevic play, Federer-Tsonga. whoever comes through there, it is a absolutely huge advantage.
“I think it’s time for the players to finally put their collective foot down. Get together, even potentially this year, for example if they didn’t play any tennis today [Wednesday].
“It is absolutely, insane, insane to even think that these players could even play close to their capabilities if they had to play four matches in a row. They should sit back and say ‘We’re not going to do it.’
“We’re going to have a Monday final. There shouldn’t be a Saturday/Sunday semi and final. We’ve been saying that for 30+years.
“The money is an issue, it’s always been an issue. We’ve got to rise to the occasion of the players. These guys should sit down and say, ‘This is not right, we’ve got to change this and they should change it now.’ You can’t play four days in a row and expect to play anywhere near your best.”
“I think four matches in five days is crazy,” he said. “Obviously, four in four is impossible.”
The Open has featured a Monday men’s final each of the last three years because of rain but Earley clearly wants to avoid a fourth straight.
“I think we’re a ways away from having that discussion,” he said on ESPN earlier Wednesday. “Let’s get through today. We certainly have tomorrow to avoid the Monday final.”
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.