- Associated Press - Thursday, September 8, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - Unhappy about being sent out to play at the rain-soaked U.S. Open, a trio of tennis stars _ Rafael Nadal, Andy Roddick and Andy Murray _ marched from their courts to the tournament referee’s office to voice their complaints.

A second consecutive morning-to-evening damp day at Flushing Meadows washed out all but about 15 minutes of action Wednesday, leaving nerves frayed and the schedule in disarray.

“If you know you’re going to go on court only for 10 minutes, you don’t have to lie to the fans at that point, and you don’t have to lie to the players, too,” Nadal told The Associated Press. “The players knew when we (went) on court that it was still raining, so it was a very strange decision, and we were upset about that.”

Added Nadal, the defending champion, who trailed unseeded Gilles Muller 3-0 when they were ushered out of Arthur Ashe Stadium: “The court is dangerous. I cannot imagine what happens if somebody gets injured from that. … We need to be more respected.”

The U.S. Tennis Association still was holding out hope of wrapping up the tournament on time with a men’s final Sunday, something that, because of rain in the past, last happened in 2007. But tournament director Jim Curley acknowledged that a Monday finish is possible only if the four incomplete men’s fourth-round matches _ including Nadal’s _ get done Thursday, when play was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., despite a forecast predicting more rain.

And Friday and Saturday could be wet, too.

As it is, even if the weather is actually good enough to permit play the rest of the week, this would be a highly unusual Grand Slam tournament. Instead of getting days off, a man on the bottom half of the draw _ Nadal, Roddick or Murray, for example _ would need to win four best-of-five-set matches in a span of four days to take the title.

Nadal called that a “big disadvantage.”

“Thursday-Friday-Saturday-Sunday would seem like a tall ask. It’s tough,” 2003 U.S. Open champion Roddick said. “It almost puts it into who finishes a match quicker and is fresher.”

Not everyone was all that sympathetic.

Jimmy Connors, a five-time U.S. Open champion, said playing back-to-back-to-back-to-back certainly would be a physical and mental test. But he also said that’s the sort of thing that makes the U.S. Open special.

“That’s why this is the toughest tennis in town, right here. You have to put up with not only the playing of the tennis but … the waiting to play and everything else,” Connors said. “If they play four matches in four days, they’re going to like getting that check for $1.8 million at the end of the tournament, so it’s still worth fighting for, I would think.”

Curley said there is no chance of shortening men’s matches to best-of-three-sets, but he wouldn’t rule out asking players to compete twice in one day.

All in all, there was far more drama off the courts than on them Wednesday, including renewed debate about whether the players need to form a union to advocate for them, and the annual discussion about why the U.S. Open is the only Grand Slam tournament without at least one roof in place or definitive plans to build one.

The Australian Open already has two courts with covers and a third on the way; Wimbledon put a retractable roof on Centre Court in 2009; and the French Open announced it will have one by 2016.

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