Three roofs in Australia, one in France, and two each at Wimbledon and the US Open. Every Grand Slam tournament has one. Although we have yet to see the Court One roof at Wimbledon in use, as well as Philippe Chatrier in Paris, there’s no doubt they’re great additions to the sport. And with luck we’ll get to see the Philippe Chatrier roof in use in just a few weeks time!
It’s obvious why roofs are great. Remember that first complete Wimbledon match under the Centre Court roof? If not I’ll remind you: a five set epic between Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka under the lights with the crowd going absolutely insane. Or how about just going back two years to the Novak Djokovic vs Rafael Nadal semifinal at Wimbledon? The only reason they could even get started so late on the Friday night was because of the roof. No doubt one of the highest quality matches of all time and a treat for tennis fans.
Even forgetting the great matches of the past, there are simply days in Grand Slam eventss where rain just comes along and us tennis fans want something to watch. With a roof we always get something; sure, it might not be the match we want but it’s still tennis. Thursday night is a great example with fans being able to watch the talented 20-year-old Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime beat 2012 champion Andy Murray. It wasn’t anywhere near a great match but it’s something.
But here’s the issue: so far I’ve mentioned three matches which have occurred during rain or darkness needing a roof and as you can guess, all three feature at least one big name superstar of the game. Before the US Open had a roof, both Murray and Nadal got hard done in 2008 with having to play a semifinal over two days, resulting in a lackluste performance the very next day from the Brit against Roger Federer in the final. The year before that, the Spaniard needed five days to beat Robin Soderling at Wimbledon, an event which saw one half of the gentlemen’s draw fall severely behind the other.
As you can see before roofs came into play at the Grand Slams, it was down to luck more than anything if you benefitted or not; perhaps you got hard done with being scheduled last on court or perhaps your side of the draw just happened to get the rain, nothing in the control of mankind. With all four of the Majors in tennis having at least one roof now, this is hardly the same case as before. Whilst a roof is amazing to have for the latter rounds of events where it more or less benefits all, there’s a lot less to desire during the opening week at Grand Slam tournaments.
That’s what happened Thursday between 23rd seed Dan Evans and Frenchman Coretin Moutet. Being the last scheduled singles match on Court 5, rain hit Flushing Meadows just before the conclusion of their third set with both men finely poised at one set each. Of course the rain coming is no one’s fault, but we have to also realize that it comes at a point where last year’s finalist Daniil Medvedev is only a set up in his encounter while the match mentioned before between Auger-Aliassime and Murray is still hours from beginning.
You can see where I’m going with this being unfair. With the Russian being on a court with a roof he was able to finish his second-round match efficiently without the need of coming back the very next day. In the case of the Canadian and Brit, nothing changed for them on Arthur Ashe Stadium–they simply had to wait their turn and just play under the lights. Regardless of how good you are or what you have achieved in the sport, what should entitle players to be able to start and finish a complete match after other men in the same round are being held until the next day before that match even begins?
It’s simply unfair. Now the likes of Evans and Moutet had to come out Friday for at least a set and a bit more play, while the winner will have to take on Auger-Aliassime the very next day playing three days in a row. In fact, it’s even worse when you consider the match is not first on court . There will be other men in round four of the event before we get Evans or Moutet in the third round, giving them even less rest; it’s a joke. Not to say it will affect the result of the Round 3 match or the outcome of the tournament, but how are we at a stage where this keeps happening constantly in Grand Slams?
It’s more understandable when many players are impacted with the rain, but in this case three women’s matches and one men’s got suspended. Given play finished relatively early on both Arthur Ashe and Louis Armstrong, the organizers could have offered to move these matches onto those courts at night to finish. Or at the very least the men’s match, given it’s a best of five encounter and the only Round 2 match in that event which has yet to conclude.
I’m all for having roofs in Grand Slam stadiumss, who isn’t? But even despite all the good they bring, it further just entitles the top players to have an advantage over their peers when rain (and darkness in some cases) strikes. We’re at a time in tennis where regardless who you are, strides need to be made for fairness throughout and evidently from the Moutet and Evans situation, it’s obvious we are far away from that. It could have very easily been avoided but sadly if you’re not a top player it more likely won’t be.
Main Photo from Getty.