Roof over Ashe stadium is not practical: Smith


RAINY DAYS: Rain delays in US Open have raised debate over the need of having a retractable roof over Arthur Ashe  stadium in New York. AP

A persistent drizzle over the last few days has created a scheduling nightmare for the Open, but USTA executive director Gordon Smith said a roof was not the answer.

"Would I love to have a roof? Absolutely," he said. "But it is certainly one of those situations where you have to really look at the practical aspects.

"In '07 we didn't have a single session rained out. In '08 we had one, and thus far, knock on wood, hopefully we'll only have one rained out in '09."

However, this is the second straight year the US Open has been forced into a Monday finish because the rain came late in the tournament and gave organizers no wiggle room.
"Had they been earlier in the tournament, we wouldn't be in the position where we have to end on Monday," he said.

"So you weigh that against the potential costs of a roof on Ashe of $100 million or more, and it's a tough decision, especially when we're trying to figure out the best ways to utilise the revenues to promote our sport."

The decision not to follow the leads of Wimbledon and the Australian Open and construct a roof has come under attack from the tennis community, though the non-profit USTA believes it has actually come through the rain with an unexpected bonus.

Normally, the women's final is on Saturday night and the men's championship Sunday afternoon. But since this week's rain caused the scheduling to be shuffled, an enticing women's semifinal between Serena Williams and Kim Clijsters filled the Saturday night slot.

The women's final will be on Sunday night -- the most watched evening for US TV viewership -- so the Open will have two marquee matches televised during weekend prime time.

"From the standpoint of promoting our sport, this is a coup," boasted tournament director Jim Curley.

Gordon said the USTA is looking into the cost of a roof but added: "You've got to remember that Arthur Ashe Stadium roof is essentially putting a roof over something about as big as a modern day major league baseball park.  "It's a very complex thing."
Curley defended the US Open's policy of having the men play their semifinals on Saturday and the final on Sunday, unlike other grand slams that have a day of rest in between.

"We have a particular finals scenario that we've had in place for several decades, and we're comfortable ... that it is, in fact, fair.  "If you were to ask a player, would they say it's ideal? No, they would not say it's ideal. A player would like to get a day in between the semis.”

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