US Open bows to player pressure for final on Monday

AFP and Reuters, NEW YORK

Sun, Dec 16, 2012 - Page 19

Bowing to pressure from players, the US Open will provide a rest day between next year’s singles semi-finals and finals with the men’s final moving to a Monday, the US Tennis Association (USTA) said on Friday.

While saying the new schedule is for next year’s event only, organizers have set a new program that meets the goal they set last year of providing a full rest day for the men, who before had Saturday semi-finals and Sunday finals.

Rain delays, however, have forced the men’s final to be played on a Monday for the past five tournaments, including this year, when Britain’s Andy Murray won his first major title by beating Serbia’s Novak Djokovic.

Organizers also announced a boost of US$4 million in prize money for next year’s event, twice the increase made for this year’s tournament. Total prize money will be US$29.5 million, with a 34 percent jump since last year.

“I’m pleased that the USTA has modified the US Open schedule to include a day of rest between the semi-finals and final,” Murray said. “Together with the prize money increase, it’s good that they’ve taken on board the players’ concerns.”

This year’s women’s singles champion, Serena Williams, also voiced her support.

“Both the prize money increase and the addition of a day of rest are great for the players,” Williams said in a statement. “These moves make the tournament stronger than it’s ever been for all players.”

Next year’s men’s semi-finals will be staged as in prior years on a Saturday, Sep. 7, with the final on Monday afternoon. The women’s semis will remain a Friday fixture with that final moving from Saturday night to Sunday afternoon, taking the slot previously held by the men’s final.

“Both the prize money increase and the addition of a day of rest are great for the players,” said reigning women’s champion Serena Williams. “These moves make the tournament stronger than it’s ever been for all players.”

Men’s players had been vocal about needing a rest day between the semis and final after rain caused chaos in scheduling over the final days in the past few years.

“We recognize the increased physicality required to compete at the highest level of the sport, and we have responded to the players’ request for a scheduled day of rest between the singles semi-finals and finals,” USTA president Jon Vegosen said.

“The record increase in US Open prize money and the changes in the next year’s schedule are aimed at rewarding the players’ talents and accommodating the rigors of the modern professional game,” he said.