Court scheduling at a tennis tournament is a tricky process of assuaging multiple and conflicting interests, especially when there are television rights involving various countries.
And so American John Isner, the No. 5 seed at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. this week and ranked No. 12 in the world, found himself on the more intimate Grandstand1 court for his second-round match against countryman Steve Johnson.
Isner lost, 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-6 (6). And afterward he told reporters that he "didn't like playing out there."
"Speaking to reporters moments after losing his opening match at the Citi Open, John Isner swore, gave clipped answers and complained that he and fellow American Steve Johnson played on a secondary court instead of in the main stadium," the Associated Press's Howard Fendrich wrote.
On Isner's side was the fact that he's a defending finalist in D.C., and the top-ranked American by a long shot. And that he was playing another American.
On the minus side, he is only the No. 5 seed in the tournament. Coming in straight from the smaller Atlanta event, where he was the No. 1 seed, defending champion and an all-around big deal, it likely was quite a contrast.
"I just didn't think I deserved to play on that court," Isner told the D.C. media. "Simple as that."
Fendrich reported the tournament had four potential slots available for the men on Centre Court Wednesday. The three matches selected involved No. 1 seed Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic (playing American Robby Ginepri), No. 2 seed Milos Raonic of Canada (playing rising American Jack Sock in a match that was broadcast live on the Sportsnet network back in his homeland) and No. 4 Kei Nishikori of Japan (also playing an American, Sam Querrey).
In the big picture, then, Isner didn't really have an argument; Fendrich reported Isner had two options: the final night match on centre court with a very late start time, or the Grandstand1 court assignment with an opportunity to finish at a far more reasonable hour.
The No. 1 seeds in doubles, Bob and Mike Bryan, ended up as the final match of the night on the Stadium court as they played against a pair of American teenagers, Stefan Kozlov and Jared Donaldson.
In a statement relayed to the media at the tournament via a spokesperson, tournament director Jeff Newman basically told him to suck it up.
"Many factors are at play in scheduling decisions, including domestic and international television, and many more. As a player who has played so well here in the past, we can appreciate it's a tough loss (for Isner), but credit to Steve Johnson for the win," the statement read.
You would think that at age 29 with all his experience, this sort of thing wouldn't bother a player like Isner. Generally, he's a rather easy-going sort, not prone to complain about too much. No doubt he'd have had less to say about it, had he won the match.
And you certainly hope he wasn't thinking about the unfairness of it all when he double-faulted at 6-6 in the third-set tiebreaker.
The Citi Open is a joint event, with the women playing an International-tier tournament at the same time. As is often the case with joint events, but especially here, they are being treated as a complete afterthought when it comes to the scheduling.
Most days this week, they have had exactly ONE match scheduled on the Stadium and Grandstand1 courts, always the first match of the day when the crowds haven't even begun to arrive on the site. The rest of the days and nights have been taken up with the men's matches.
As an example, an appealing match between two young Americans, No. 4 seed Sloane Stephens and Christina Mchale, was relegated to the third court earlier in the week.
That probably doesn't make Isner feel any better. But there you have it.
His next event will be the Rogers Cup in Toronto, a Masters 1000 event where he likely will be the No. 10 seed.
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