Serena Williams waits under the cover of an umbrella after warming up for… (Shannon Stapleton / Reuters )
Reporting from New York -- Tennis became a peek show Wednesday at the U.S. Open.
Serena Williams and Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova waved to the few hundred fans at Arthur Ashe Stadium who were huddling in wet seats. They hit some warmup ground strokes, then packed up their bags and left. It was raining.
Earlier, Rafael Nadal played 16 cranky minutes, falling behind Gilles Muller 3-0 and then, off the court, letting loose a scathing critique of U.S. Tennis Assn. decision-making.
The result at the end was the same as it had been the day before. No tennis matches were finished.
In the hours leading up to that conclusion, there was a mini-mutiny among the men when three matches were started in the midst of a mist.
Nadal, most vociferously, didn't want to play at Arthur Ashe Stadium when there was enough moisture that the surface felt more appropriate for figure skaters performing double axels than for tennis players trying to stop and hit a tennis ball.
"We're part of the show," Nadal said on television. "They know it's still raining and call us onto the court. That's not possible. I understand the fans are there. But the players are important … we didn't feel protected."
Fourth-seeded Andy Murray, who was 1-2 and on serve in his match against Donald Young, also complained about the conditions. So did 21st-seeded Andy Roddick, who was ahead of fifth-seeded David Ferrer, 3-1, when they were summoned off the court.
The three players had a closed-door meeting with tournament referee Brian Earley.
"It was still misting when we walked out to the courts," Roddick said. "It was not our choice. It's important for us to make it known we don't want to be in that position again. I think we're all on the same page."
The tournament is perilously close to requiring a delayed-to-Monday final for the fourth consecutive year.
In order to finish Sunday, four men's fourth-round matches must be completed Thursday. Or, the men would have to play twice in one day, something tournament director Jim Curley didn't rule out but said was "highly unlikely."
After Nadal, Roddick and Murray expressed their unhappiness, the USTA, which runs the Open, released a statement explaining the decision to start play.
"Unfortunately, not all light rain and mist shows up on radar," the statement said. "We have experienced referees and they decide if courts are fit for play. Conditions may not be ideal but still can be safe. However, if a player or players feel that conditions are unsafe, we listen to them, as we have always done, and the referee uses that information as part of his/her assessment on whether to continue or halt play."
There is an 80% chance of rain predicted for Thursday and 40% chance of thunderstorms Friday.
"If, for argument's sake, we had good weather from here on out, which is still a question mark given the forecast, then it's our intention to finish on time," Curley said. "Do we have contingency plans if that is not the case? Yes. If we're not able to finish on time, we won't finish on time."