It happened again.
For the fifth consecutive year the fickle late summer New York weather has disrupted the final weekend of the U.S. Open and the men's final will be played on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. ET. There hasn't been a Sunday conclusion to the tournament since 2007.
The USTA is likely to come under fierce criticism for deciding not to have played both semifinals (Andy Murray vs. Tomas Berdych and Novak Djokovic vs. David Ferrer) at the same time. If they had done so, which many were suggesting, both matches would have concluded before the onset of the disruptive weather.
The USTA will likely claim that fans deserved to see both matches because they paid for it. But by having both semifinals contested at once, it would have allowed some fans to view one of the matches in a far more intimate setting than cavernous Arthur Ashe Stadium, something most spectators would have welcomed.
As it was, Andy Murray won his wind-affected encounter 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (7), and must feel very good as he'll have a full day of rest before the final on Monday.
After a severe line of storms - which included a tornado, a rarity in these parts - delayed the start of play by nearly two hours at the beginning of the day, it became obvious to almost everyone on the grounds of the National Tennis Center that there would be no way to fit in both semifinal matches before the next line of storms were due to sweep through in the late day (the rain came, as forecasted, around 5:30 p.m.).
And it was a nonsensical, unpopular, and unnecessary decision by the USTA to start the Djokovic-Ferrer match, especially if officials knew that they didn't have a large enough window to play uninterrupted. And with Ferrer about to serve for the first set at 5-2, the match will resume at a crucial juncture on Sunday morning. As it stands now the winner of this match will have to take the court three consecutive days.
Additionally, if the reason for stopping play with the sun still out was to give fans enough time to leave and escape harm's way, that was another reason not to have started the match in the first place.
There was tennis played for a few hours under abundant sunshine, albeit with brutal wind conditions. Murray managed the relentless and gusty wind better than Berdych and that is the main reason the Scot is into his second straight Slam final. After surrendering the first set, Murray dominated the next two stanzas by brilliantly mixing up his shots, taking full advantage of the tricky wind by consistently hitting low slicing groundstrokes to the ankles of Berdych.
It was obvious that the wind was more irritating to Berydch. Unlike Murray, Berdych doesn't have a full arsenal of finesse shots to complement his powerful groundstrokes. If Berydch is out of rhythm it's a far more difficult task for him to regain control of his shots in windy weather.
Further, Murray executed several lobs to perfection early on. And this strategy worked brilliantly as Berdych hesitated just ever so slightly on future forays into the forecourt, worried that Murray would lob again.
The conditions were so bad at times that chairs, towels and other objects were blown around the court. On at least 20 occasions both players had to stop their service motion as the ball toss became a tricky task.
Credit must be given to Berdych for making a ferocious comeback in the fourth set. After Murray raced to a 3-0 lead, Berdych suddenly rediscovered the form that was in evidence on Wednesday evening when he defeated Roger Federer. With his thunderous groundstrokes landing just inches from the baseline, Berdych started to move Murray around the court and quickly tied up the set. And in the tiebreak, Berdych had a 5-3 advantage. But Murray executed superbly on the last few points, deftly utilizing his full arsenal of shots and ended the match before it entered a dangerous fifth set.
When Djokovic and Ferrer took the court immediately after the Murray victory, it was obvious from the start that Djokovic was preoccupied with the weather, likely knowing full well that the match would be halted. For his part, Ferrer looked relaxed and it showed as he raced to a 5-2 lead, aided by a couple of perfectly placed lobs and pinpoint groundstrokes.
Ferrer will serve for the first set at about 11:05 Sunday morning and is one small step closer to pulling off a monumental upset. But look for Djokovic to emerge from the locker room on Sunday with greater resolve than he showed on this miserable Saturday, setting the stage for a more compelling match than most had anticipated.
WILL LACK OF REST HURT FERRER OR DJOKOVIC?
Whether or not the extra day of rest will be a crucial advantage for Murray on Monday is impossible to say. On the face of it, it seems obvious that it’s at least somewhat of a plus for him. But there have been several instances at the U.S. Open in which the more exhausted player came back to win on the following day.
Two examples come immediately to mind: in 1984 John McEnroe finished his semifinal after 11 p.m. and went on to obliterate Ivan Lendl the next day for his last major championship; and in 1992 Stefan Edberg played a 5-hour, 26-minute epic semifinal against Michael Chang and the next day beat Pete Sampras for his last major title.
And at the Australian Open this past January, Djokovic had one fewer day of rest than Rafael Nadal before their match in the final - after Djokovic played a 5-hour semifinal against Murray. Djokovic went on to defeat Nadal in one of the greatest matches every played, a contest that lasted nearly six hours.