The first raindrops of each U.S. Open barely have time to hit the court before the discussion begins: Should the USTA put a roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium?
It's one of those questions that has become so tiresome to debate that I almost wish the USTA would do it just so we don't have to hear about it at the first sign of cloud cover. But the debate about whether the U.S. Open needs a retractable roof stadium is once again making the rounds today after a day of rain washed out Friday play.
The two womens' semifinals were postponed because of the weather but, as of 5:45 p.m. ET, the USTA is still blindly holding out of hope that Rafael Nadal and Fernando Gonzalez will be able to finish their match tonight.
Having a day of tennis cancelled is a huge nuisance for players, fans and television executives. But is it enough of a nuisance to make the USTA to spend $200 million on a retractable roof?
It looks like it is. Last year USTA Chief Executive Arlen Kantarian said of a roof, "I would say at this point it's a question of when as opposed to if." Once Wimbledon put up a roof, it was only natural that the USTA would soon follow suit. No plans are in the works yet, but it's coming.
The traditionalist in me abhors the idea of playing a Grand Slam event indoors even if the practicality of not having to disappoint CBS and ticket holders (in that order) makes sense for the USTA to outlay those costs. It was cool to watch the indoor Murray match at Wimbledon, but baseball in a dome was neat for the first few years too before people realized that some sports are meant to be played outside. Tennis is one of them.
When the pros of building the roof are discussed nobody ever seems to mention the huge and obvious con: The only time the roof would completely prevent matches from being delayed are during the final four days of the tournament, when all the key games are played at Ashe. If it rains on the first Tuesday of the tournament, there are 50 other matches played on the other courts. And there's no roof out there.
Last year was the first time since 1987 that a men's final had to be delayed because of rain, so it's not like weekend postponements have been a huge problem. (Yeah, the men's final was on Monday last year. Didn't remember? Neither did I. Nor did Roger Federer, and he played in it.)
The roof is an inevitability and today's cancellations will only hasten that process. By 2013, all the other Grand Slams will have a retractable roof stadium. It won't be long before the U.S. Open joins the club.