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US Open - Final ReportThe US Open is now over and we have two champions, Samantha Stosur making her debut at that level and Novak Djokovic, who is now making a habit of being top dog.
But there is one other champion who should be recognised namely umpire Eva Asderaki of Greece who was brave enough to implement the rules of the sport during the women’s singles US Open final.
And extra congratulations to Stosur for winning the title under what must have been a very intimidating atmosphere with over 20,000 fans baying for blood.
Williams’s action were not acceptable and her subsequent tirade at the umpire which included a veiled threat – ‘If you ever see me coming down the hall, look the other way’ - plus various other insults, were a disgrace.
Even more disgraceful was the fact that she was fined just $2000 having just received £1.4 m as runner-up! You wouldn’t think she would notice that shortfall in her winnings but then she is Serena Williams and all-powerful.
More importantly she was also playing under a suspended ban for abusing a linesperson in her match against Kim Clijsters two years ago. This latest offence should have triggered that ban but the authorities did not deem it grave enough and allowed her suspension to end.
Miss Asderaki must have been disheartened at not having the support of the authorities who have simply, once again, shown how weak they are in dealing with these matters in a balanced an fair manner.
This incident was the latest in a series of disasters as far as this year’s US Open is concerned for the organisers seem to have bounced from one catastrophe to another throughout the fortnight.
US Open - Final Report Continued
Their reluctance to act when rain forced two days of inactivity is one of them, highlighted by the farcical crocodile line of people led by Andy Roddick, streaming out to Court 13 when the players were forced off Armstrong because water was seeping through to the surface from the high water table below.
The decision to move the court was taken by Roddick, not Brian Earle the referee, who was seen dithering in the corridor having unsuccessfully attempted to lure the players back on court before the organisers declared Armstrong, Flushing Meadows equivalent of No1 Court, unfit for further play.
A major embarrassment for the USTA who have always believed they are the biggest and the best of all the Grand Slams and followed their bizarre scheduling which stretches first round matches over three days.
That also caught up with them when that rain interrupted the programme leaving some players with the prospect of playing best-of-five matches on four consecutive days. Common sense finally prevailed when they succumbed to player pressure and, for a fourth year running, switched the men’s final to a third Monday.
They still insisted on playing their Super Saturday schedule for the benefit of TV, namely both the men’s semis on Ashe followed by a women’s semi, the women’s final having also been postponed to Sunday. In the process they downgraded the second women’s semi to the Grandstand court thereby not providing the winner with an opportunity to play on the main stadium court.
Stosur therefore arrived in the final without having set foot on Ashe during the previous fortnight so her eventual triumph will have been even sweeter as everything had been seemingly done to favour her American opponent.
But there is more. The question of tournament scheduling came to the fore as, within four days the number of withdrawals and retirements hit record proportions. As Andy Murray tweeted at the time: "is the 18th pull out in the us open telling the tennis authorities anything?? No?? Thought not....", is a very valid point. Are they being forced to play too much?
Rafael Nadal believes that there is more concern for money than the players’ health, a point he made quite firmly when players were called to court and played for some 15 minutes before scuttling back inside. They had been forced to play in a steady drizzle which was quite dangerous.
Nadal, Murray and Roddick immediately made their views known to the referee, Brian Earle, by marching into his office and delivering their concerns.
It has now come to the point where many of the players, including Andy Murray, are calling for a more effective union to represent the players.
Murray puts the case well: "I don't think it needs a player to be at the heart of it. The players need to employ someone that they trust and will be looking out for their best interests, maybe an ex-player. But I would support it and I know a lot of the other guys would as well. So I think that's what we should try to do. From the guys I've spoken to, everyone wants to do it – but there will definitely be a few guys who will say the right things to the press and not want to get involved."
He added: "It's the right thing to do. A few people might be scared that it looks bad or it looks like the players are being greedy, but we aren't. In so many other sports [they have unions]. For example, footballers, if they're injured, they still get paid. For us, if we get injured and aren't going to play any tournaments, our ranking drops and we don't get paid.
"It's just frustrating for everyone and if the players made a union I think we'd get a lot of stuff done way quicker, because right now it seems like changes take so long."
And its not just the players who are flexing their muscles. The umpires are also taking a stand with four of them filing a ‘class and collective action lawsuit’ against the USTA for wage and hour violations! The case has been filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (Case No. 11-Civ-6268).
The umpires claim that, in the years 2005 through 2011, the USTA violated federal and/or state wage and hour laws by failing to pay the umpires all wages due including overtime.
The lawyers claim: "The umpires, who are integral to the success of the US Open, have been treated unfairly for years. They work long hours for low pay at the centre of a Grand Slam that generates huge revenues for the USTA. This suit has been brought to enable them to collectively assert their statutory rights."
By all accounts, umpires at the US Open are the worst paid of all the Grand Slams which resulted this year in a number of the better known ones, not putting their names forward for selection.
This was confirmed by a second lawyer: "It was frankly surprising to learn how woefully little the umpires are paid when viewed against the high ticket prices, level of prize money and the very generous compensation USTA executives take for themselves. Hopefully, this class action will force the USTA to at least abide by federal and state labour laws in the manner it compensates umpires."
The lawsuit seeks collective and class action status, and monetary damages.
So, all in all, a very exciting US Open off court, one that could well prove to be a watershed in years to come.
We all hoped Andy Murray would be able to claim his first Grand Slam title at this year’s US Open. Unfortunately he ran into a fast improving Rafael Nadal who brought his campaign to a dramatic end at the semi-final stage.
However, Murray showed some excellent form especially when he recovered from two sets down to defeat Robin Haase in round three. He should also be congratulated for becoming only the seventh player to make the semi-finals of all Grand Slams in the same year of the Open era.
There was no other British male representative in the men’s draw but perhaps it won’t be too long before Murray is joined by some of the younger generation who are really proving their worth in the junior game.
Kyle Edmund, George Morgan and Ollie Golding all made the semi-finals with Golding going on to claim the US Open Boy’s title with a three set victory over the top seeded Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic. A great performance as he emulates Murray’s achievement of 2004.
Congratulations also to Laura Robson who came through the Qualifying tournament to join Heather Watson, Anne Keothavong and Elena Baltacha in the women’s main draw. Keothavong and Watson both fell at the first round but went down fighting, especially Watson who gave Maria Sharapova a real fright by claiming the opening set.
Robson and Baltacha cleared their first hurdles but the found their second round opponents too strong, Baltacha losing out to the former US Open champion and 15th seed, Svetlana Kuznetsova.
Next up for the Brits is the Davis Cup in Glasgow against Hungary this coming weekend. Success will mean promotion to the Euro / Africa Zone Group I. One can only wish them the best.