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Liguori: More Drama At US Open; Does Tennis Need A Players’ Union?

If So, Who Would Run It And Who Would Pay For It?
US Open referee Brian Earley (2nd R) helps dry the Armstrong court. It was deemed unplayable due to water damage. (credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

US Open referee Brian Earley (2nd R) helps dry the Armstrong court. It was deemed unplayable due to water damage. (credit: STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images)

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By Ann Liguori
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Players want more voice in the operation of the Slams. Some of the issues they are concerned about include earning a bigger return on revenue generated in the majors, having more say in scheduling and how tournaments are run.

In 1990, the players formed a fifty-percent partnership with the tournaments to form the new ATP Tour. However, the Grand Slams are not part of the ATP Tour; therefore, the players have less say in the four biggest tournaments in the game. The players talked about forming a union about eight years ago but it did not happen.

Sources say the players could not agree amongst themselves on exactly what their goals were. Questions linger, such as who would fund the union and who would organize it?

It’s been a few tough days for both US Open tournament officials and the players. Bad weather was behind two controversies which shed light on an issue that is gaining momentum here at Flushing Meadows: tennis professionals need a voice at the majors!

After Andy Roddick joined Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray in a meeting with tournament officials on Wednesday to complain about playing on a slippery court due to continuing mist, Roddick was in the middle of another mini-drama.

Thursday morning, under sunny skies, Roddick and his opponent David Ferrer finally resumed their Round of 16 match on the Louis Armstrong court. Shortly after they started, Roddick noticed a crack in the surface on the court, beyond the baseline.

“I looked down at one point and I saw kind of like a little crack and it had seven or eight nickel-sized water drops on it,” explained Roddick, after his straight set win. “So I dried it off, played the next game, went back to play the point, and saw it was there again. That’s when I realized that we had a problem.”

So Roddick told the umpire. They suspended play but about 30 minutes later they were called back out to the court to resume their match.

“I was surprised the second time we got called out (to the court),” Roddick continued. “We walked back there and it was wet, so I couldn’t quite figure out why we were called out. I even said the water is coming from under. It’s not something you can dab a towel on and make it go away. I watched the monitors, and they were dabbing towels on it the entire time. Then they called us back out, and we walked right over it and it was wet. I could not believe what I was looking at. I mean, it puts us in a little bit of an uncomfortable position, too, because obviously, you know, we want to play and stuff. But it’s still there, dude!”

When Roddick realized they had not fixed the problem, and yet they were asked to resume playing, Roddick got visibly angry and directed his words to tournament referee Brian Early, yelling: “why are we out here right now? …You’re killing these people! (meaning the fans)…this is baffling!”

The cameras followed the players and the referee off the court and Roddick continued to vent, becoming more impatient with the situation. Soon after, the referee sent them to court 13, an outside court with a seating capacity of 584. Compare that to the Armstrong Court’s 10,000 seats! Once it was announced that the match was moved to court 13, there was a massive sprint over to court 13 for a limited number of fans to grab seats.

Nadal accused the tournament on Wednesday of being more interested in money than the players. His anger subsided on Thursday when he got through to the quarter-finals in straight sets. But there have been enough issues – length of the tournament calendar, scheduling of matches, shape of courts, etc., that have warranted someone taking charge and being the ‘voice’ for the players during these Major Championships.

During Roddick’s interview session after his match, he said, “ At this point in my career, I would jump at the chance to leave the sport in a better position for the players moving forward.”

Roddick said organizing a union is something that interests him because it’s a glaring hole. He says he does not have negotiating experience but he would like to be involved in the process, that he may have time to do it as he thinks he has some good results left in him but “I don’t think I’m in the prime of my career.”

That’s a strong statement from Roddick, who has always been articulate and out-spoken when he needs to be.

Andy Roddick – you’re nominated to lead the way! Now get busy!

Does tennis need a players’ union? Let Ann know in the comments below!