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Rain-altered U.S. Open schedule takes players out of comfort zone

The entire schedule is canceled Tuesday, and further interruptions are possible based on forecasts. Days get crowded, Rafael Nadal gets an early call, and Andy Roddick will play at smaller court.

September 06, 2011|By Diane Pucin
  • Rain falls on the court to delay -- and eventually cancel -- Day 9 of the 2011 US Open on Tuesday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
Rain falls on the court to delay -- and eventually cancel -- Day 9 of the 2011… (Patrick McDermott / Getty…)

Reporting from New York —

Rafael Nadal likes to play tennis later rather than earlier.

"I'm from Spain," the defending U.S. Open champion said. "I like the night."

Roger Federer is 30 years old, an elder statesman. He likes the normal rhythm of a major tournament, having at least one day off between matches. "It's better when I get that extra time," Federer said.

The U.S. Open already configures its schedule differently than the other three major tournaments, without a full day off between the final matches. The women play semifinals on Friday and the final on Saturday night. The men play semifinals on Saturday with a Sunday final. And now the schedule leading up to those matches could get even more crowded.

The U.S. Open canceled its entire schedule Tuesday because of rain, and the forecast through Friday isn't good — a 70% chance of rain Wednesday and Thursday and possibly part of Hurricane Katia arriving Friday.

At recent U.S. Opens, bad weather has been par for the course. For the last three years, rain has caused the tournament to finish Monday instead of Sunday, and already some players are dealing with unsettling changes.

Nadal, who wasn't scheduled Tuesday, is now up first at 8 a.m. PDT Wednesday. If that doesn't sound early to the normal working man, consider that Nadal will have to arrive at the United States Tennis Center about three hours earlier than his starting time so he can warm up, be massaged and eat at just the right time.

The Spaniard struggled Saturday in the first set of this third-round match against David Nalbandian, which he ended up winning, 7-6 (5), 6-1, 7-5.

"I usually go to bed very late," Nadal said. "I tried to go to sleep early before this match and it didn't work. I was in bed earlier, but I still can't sleep until late."

Andy Roddick, who won his only major here in 2003, has played his last 39 U.S. Open matches on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court, but the schedule shakeup now has him on the smaller Louis Armstrong Stadium to play against fifth-seeded David Ferrer in the fourth round.

"Louis Armstrong, it's been too long," Roddick said on Twitter. "I'll see you tomorrow."

One of the rewards of becoming a big-name, ticket-selling player, Roddick said, was always playing on the same showcase court. Roddick said he's gained knowledge about the tricks of playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, both during the day and at night.

"Some things are always the same and things that appear to be one way are definitely the other way," Roddick said. "I would sit here and go through them all, but that would pretty much waste all of the experience you are asking me about right now."

The men in Nadal's part of the draw will be most severely affected by Tuesday's cancellations.

Nadal, fourth-seeded Andy Murray, Roddick and 28th-seeded John Isner — whom fellow American Mardy Fish tabbed as a title contender based on his play into the fourth round — may need to play four matches in five days. And that's if they get to play Wednesday.

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic and Federer are already into the quarterfinals.

"It's a huge advantage for the top half," U.S. Davis Cup captain Jim Courier said. "It's truly luck of the draw."

The women are all into the quarterfinals, and for someone such as ninth-seeded Samantha Stosur, who already played a record-setting 3-hour, 16-minute match in fourth round, or for top-seeded Caroline Wozniacki, who needed almost that long Monday night to survive Svetlana Kuznetsova, extra rest now helps.

But for Serena Williams, who is the heavy favorite to win the women's title, a rainout probably doesn't matter. As Williams pointed out, she didn't play a tournament until the week before Wimbledon after recovering from a series of injuries.

"I'm probably fresher than everybody," she said.

diane.pucin@latimes.com

twitter.com/mepucin

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