Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The rain, the drama and the need for a union.

Neutral Omes:

On day 10 of the US Open, Rafael Nadal and the two Andys (Murray and Roddick) were the big names to start off rain-delayed play on Ashe. Seven minutes in and the rain returned. The players had to go off - but not without getting visibly irate about their having to go on court in the first place in the misty and damp conditions. Rafa was supposedly heard saying to tournament referee Brian Early: "It's the same old story, all you think about is money." And so it began. 

Rafa went off to complain to Early further behind closed doors, with Roddick and Murray close by. A little later all three players were interviewed by Pam Shriver on ESPN:
“Everyone’s relaxed about it now, but when we went out on court, it was still wet, and the balls too. It doesn’t make sense to get out there for seven or eight minutes and I don’t think that will happen again. I knew that Rafa was going to see [Brian Earley]. I spoke to David Ferrer, and he was saying: ‘It was still raining when we went on there.’ The lines are slippy and very dangerous. I said I will go in and mention it as well, then Andy [Roddick] came.”- Murray
“They need to put tennis on television, I understand the business side of it, but they need to make sure the players are safe. If I were by myself I’d feel uncomfortable going in there, as an American. We said if conditions are similar to that again, it might be uncomfortable. To Brian Earley’s credit, he listened to what we had to say. He was very nice in the conversation.” - Roddick

“It was a tough day. We don’t feel protected here. The tournament grand slams, they are [getting] a lot of money and they are working for that, but not [for] us.“The rain really never stopped. The court was dry for 10 minutes and they know we have to go out there. The health of the players is important. This is part of the show – and we don’t feel protected. We are here working hard and we want to feel good when were playing a tournament.“Things happened today and at [other] slams and for sure we cannot accept these things. We have to be together and not accept situations. We have to fight to change that, so we don’t go on court when it’s raining. If I have to, I go on court, but it’s not fair.” - Nadal
Roddick however did give Brian Early credit saying that he did in fact lend an ear to their concerns. While the USTA responded: "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."

It's not the only time the Nadals have voiced their opinions with regards to the tennis governing bodies and their attitude towards the players' wellbeing:
"[The ATP] has to keep in mind the health of the players' future. They don't care about the health. All they care about is the show and the money." - Toni Nadal

"When you finish your tour career, you should be a normal person. The people who play the most [tennis] are the people who win the most," he added, citing former World No. 1 Gustavo Kuerten, who was injured for much of his career, as an example.
- Rafa
Veteran tennis players like Chris Evert, John McEnroe and Jimmy Conors also sided with the players over the rain delay debacle. John McEnroe even had a good rant on ESPN, displaying his impressive knowledge of the history of the ATP and implying that the problem for both the ATP and WTA was lack of a union. (Oh and it would be unfair of me to leave out what Serena said):
It'd also be appropriate to highlight the injury issue this year's US Open has been subjected to, with 18 retirements/walkovers further cementing the increasing gruelling nature of the tour, not to mention the "Super Saturday" scheduling at the tournament that demands so much of the players. Murray remarked on the tennis authorities willingness to do nothing about the scheduling:
It seems the rain, aside from misery, has brought with it the underlying tension between those in charge and the players themselves. And even though the 'a' in ATP stands for association, perhaps the lads should really think about forming themselves an actual players' union; fast.

(Pic: Getty; Interview transcripts:

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