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Rain angst: Nadal & Co. perturbed, Federer and Djokovic postponed at US Open
NEW YORK (AP) ' With a mist hanging in the sky and the back of the court still wet, Rafael Nadal thought it was dangerous to head into Arthur Ashe Stadium to start his U.S. Open match Wednesday. Andy Roddick and Andy Murray weren't thrilled about starting their matches, either.
Too bad, tournament officials said. The show must go on.
It did. For about 15 minutes.
Then, the rain picked up, and as soon as Nadal, Murray and Roddick came off the court, they were in the tournament director's office to discuss the decision to start the matches in the first place.
Nadal's take: It's all about the money.
"We're part of the show," the defending champion said in an interview on ESPN after falling behind 3-0 to unseeded Gilles Muller. "They're just working for that, not for us. 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 in this part of the show, too, and we didn't feel protected."
Aware of the criticism, the U.S. Tennis Association released a statement, saying there appeared to be a two-hour window without rain and because of that, officials decided to start play.
"Unfortunately, not all light rain and mist shows up on radar," the USTA said. "We have experienced referees, and they decide if courts are fit for play. Conditions may be not 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."
Shortly after that, the USTA sent Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic home, postponing their matches from Wednesday night to Thursday.
With rain showers lingering over the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center for the second straight day, this debate about safety, money, weather and scheduling had to suffice for the afternoon's, and maybe the evening's, entertainment.
Murray and Roddick also weighed in.
"It didn't really make a whole lot of sense in the end to go out for nine or 10 minutes when it's still raining," Murray told The Associated Press.
Nadal conceded he let his reluctance get to him, which played into a pair of double-faults in his opening service game and his early 3-0 deficit.
No. 4 Murray was trailing 2-1 to American Donald Young, but on serve. No. 21 Roddick got an early break and was up 3-1 on No. 5 David Ferrer. Roddick was playing in front of a few hundred fans in Louis Armstrong Stadium, the first time in 40 matches ' a string dating to 2002 ' that he hasn't been on the feature court in Ashe.
Roddick said he spoke to the chair umpire before play began.
"I was just wondering if he saw the same mist in the air that I saw," Roddick told the AP. "The back was still a little wet. I understand everyone wants to see it on TV and certainly, at the end of the day, we're a sport, but this whole thing is a business. Everyone here is kind of in the same boat, so they need a product on the court."
The match between No. 28 John Isner and No. 12 Gilles Simon was moved from one of the three show courts over to Court 17 in an attempt to complete the fourth round as soon as possible. But the rain started before they hit a single ball.
Because of the rain, which washed out the entire day of play Tuesday, all players in the bottom half of the draw were faced with the possibility of having to win four matches in five days to win the U.S. Open. And as the day wore on with nobody back on the courts, a Monday finish was looking more probable. The Wednesday night forecast called for a 100 percent chance of rain.
"The players, I think, more than anyone, want to play and that's what we were kind of saying," Murray said. "With each day that passes, for the guys that are on me and Rafa's side, it reduces our chances. So for us, we want to play. Four best-of-five matches in four days is a huge task physically, so that would be really tough. We want to play, but if it's dangerous, we're not going to go out there."
AP Tennis Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.