August 31, 2011
It was 10:30 p.m. by the time Serena Williams took the court Tuesday night at the U.S. Open. She was waiting for Rafael Nadal to finish his three-hour, first-round match thanks to a 2010 rule change that moved some women's matches to the second slot of the night session.
Serena did not like the waiting. She explained so after the match in her typical deadpan manner:
Q. You're cool with the guys and the women switching?
SERENA WILLIAMS: No, I think the guys should play second. They're guys. We're ladies. We're ladies. They should totally play second all the time. Ladies, you open the door for ladies. They should go second. It's ridiculous.
Issues of chivalry notwithstanding, Serena is exactly right. This has nothing to do with fairness or respect or equality, it's all about common sense. The longest women's match in the history of the U.S. Open was three hours, five minutes. There were four men's matches that went that long on Tuesday alone.
Last year was the first year the USTA occasionally moved women's matches to the second primetime slot and it backfired almost immediately. Sam Stosur and Elena Dementieva didn't start a fourth-round match on Ashe until 11 p.m. and by the time they finished it was past 1:30 a.m. in New York.
Matches are going to go late no matter the order. At least when the women go first, the men won't go on too late. If they want to play a four-hour match after that, it should be their problem.
Serena should be thankful, though. For as long as it was, Nadal's match only went three sets.