MASON, Ohio — The USTA’s announcement of plans to install a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium has the unanimous thumbs-up from the game’s top players. While details have yet to be released regarding the design, logistics, and time-frame for the construction, when asked about their reaction to the news, defending U.S. Open champions Serena Williams and Andy Murray were happy to hear it.
“Obviously it’s going to be great,” Williams said after winning her opening match at the Western & Southern Open on Wednesday, defeating Genie Bouchard 4-6, 6-2, 6-2. As a member of the WTA Player Council, Williams has known about the plans for a while. “They have a long-term plan, super long-term, and it’s not going to happen next year or the year after. It’s going to be a while. It’s good to know that they’re going for it.
“When I first started playing the Open back in the ’90s, it didn’t rain, and now it rains only on the final weekend. Last four US Opens I’ve played, they’ve had to change completely the schedule. Yeah, you just got to keep moving with the times. Yeah, it will be good.”
Murray’s enthusiasm for the news was tempered by his belief that a player’s ability to deal with unexpected rain delays and inclement weather is part of what makes Slams so difficult to win. “I do feel like sometimes it is kind of part of the slams a little bit,” he said after beating Mikhail Youzhny 6-2, 6-3. “I don’t necessarily miss being rained off, but rain delays and stuff, it used to be part of it, whereas now that’s kind of going away gradually. I don’t particularly like going from indoors to outdoors to indoors. It’s also tough. But it’s good for TV. It’s good for fans that are watching. For the players that are scheduled on that court, it’s great.”
John Isner just wants to get the chance to play under the new roof. “Hope maybe I can still be playing when that roof is up,” the 28-year-old said after scoring a good win over No. 11 Richard Gasquet, 7-6 (6), 6-2. “That would be pretty neat. I can’t imagine the expense of it and how they’re going to do it, but it will be really cool.
“Over a two-week period in the summer, end of summer, beginning of fall, chances are it’s going to rain at least a little bit. It has pushed the final back the last three years or something. I remember two years ago the rain was brutal, and it was three straight days or something.”
Rain has pushed the men’s final at the U.S. Open to Monday for the last five years. Two years ago, Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick, and Murray grew frustrated at being forced to play on courts that were still wet and slippery. They took it upon themselves to go directly to the tournament referee for a closed-door meeting to discuss the dangerous conditions. Murray made it a point to hammer home the fact that the roof won’t necessarily placate the players’ concerns about their own safety, particularly for those who won’t get the benefit of playing on a roofed Ashe Stadium.
“The players weren’t complaining about it raining outside,” Murray said. “The players were complaining about being made to go on the court when it’s still wet. So that doesn’t change for 99 percent of the players in the draw just because there’s a roof. Maybe the committee, the ones that do the schedule and stuff, will be a little bit more relaxed knowing that they will have some tennis on so they won’t try and rush the players out.
“But that’s what all the players were complaining about a few years ago when some of the courts were clearly unplayable, still wet: Getting us to go back on the court when it’s still raining. It’s dangerous. It isn’t like other sports. You can’t play tennis on hard courts when it’s raining, and that was really what that discussion was about and all. It wasn’t about anything else. So long as the court’s safe, players are happy to go on.”