SBJ/August 27-September 2, 2012/In Depth

Event to build in a day of rest for men prior to final

The U.S. Open will ensure that male players have a day of rest between their semifinals and final starting next year, said Gordon Smith, the U.S. Tennis Association’s executive director, which could mean the end of the decades-long “Super Saturday” format.

The U.S. Open has staged the men’s semifinals and women’s final on the second Saturday of the fortnight, but that means the men have to play their final the next day. It is a larger issue for the men because they play best-of-five sets, instead of the best-of-three for the women players, whose semifinals are the second Friday.

Playing in the men’s final could get a little less exhausting starting in 2013.
Photo by: Getty Images
“Inside the business, it is puzzling the semifinal issue with the men,” said Paul McNamee, the former Australian Open tournament director. “It is the standout issue we all should think would have been addressed by now.”

The USTA is examining what economic model works best, having the men play their semifinals on Friday, or keep the Saturday semifinals and play the final Monday, Smith said. He conceded that the players, some of whom could have Davis Cup commitments that week, far prefer to keep the final on Sunday. “We have told players we understand the game has changed and there needs to be a day of rest,” he said.

Whatever the USTA decides will significantly change the TV schedule. For example, the USTA could choose to move the women’s final into the scheduled men’s slot on Sunday afternoon on CBS Sports (it is currently in prime time on the second Saturday). Or it could stage all of the semifinals on Friday, but in two different sessions.

McNamee said whatever the Open chooses to do, it is likely to hurt ratings and revenue having either the men’s semifinals or final on a weekday.

The U.S. Open is the only one of the four Slams not to offer a day of rest between the semis and the final. Ironically, the last four years the men’s final has occurred on Monday anyway because of rain interruptions.
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