- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 12, 2009

NEW YORK | Rafael Nadal stepped out of the players cafeteria at the U.S. Open a little before 3 p.m. Friday and pressed his face against a window, cupping his hands around his eyes as he scanned the soaked tournament grounds.

Yep, it was still pouring.

And he, like everyone else, was still waiting.

Rain threw the U.S. Open into disarray for the second consecutive year, meaning both singles finals will be pushed back again, and the tournament will end Monday at the earliest.

“There are some unknowns here,” U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said.

A mix of showers and mist forced postponement of Friday’s three scheduled singles matches. That included six-time major champion Nadal’s quarterfinal against 11th-seeded Fernando Gonzalez, a match suspended Thursday night because of showers after Nadal won the first set in a tiebreaker and led 3-2 in the second-set tiebreaker.

Also delayed: the two women’s semifinals, one between defending champion Serena Williams and 2005 champion Kim Clijsters, the other between a pair of 19-year-olds never before this far at a Grand Slam tournament, Caroline Wozniacki and Yanina Wickmayer.

Those three matches were all rescheduled for Saturday, when the forecast again calls for rain. Saturday’s new schedule was set to have Nadal-Gonzalez begin at noon, followed by Wozniacki-Wickmayer, with Williams-Clijsters slated to start after 8 p.m.

Assuming the women’s semifinals can be completed Saturday, that final will be moved to Sunday. If Nadal-Gonzalez finishes Saturday, the men’s semifinals will be Sunday. The Nadal-Gonzalez winner meets No. 6 Juan Martin del Potro, and five-time defending champion Roger Federer faces No. 4 Novak Djokovic.

The men’s final then would be moved from Sunday to Monday. Last year, the U.S. Open men’s final was played on a Monday for the first time since 1987.

The players dealt with Friday’s delays in various ways. Wozniacki spent some time practicing indoors, then stopped by the cafeteria, then wandered the hallways of Arthur Ashe Stadium.

Clijsters plunked herself down on the arm of a couch in the players’ lounge, chatting with pals.

“That’s tennis. That’s life,” said Clijsters, who returned to the tour last month after a 2 1/2-year retirement. “It’s nothing new. I’d rather be waiting here than sitting at home.”

Williams knows a thing or two about this sort of situation: Her victory over Jelena Jankovic in the 2008 U.S. Open final came on Sunday. What was her father, who also serves as her coach, saying Friday?

“Telling her to just make sure she stays relaxed. Stay calm. Don’t get anxious. Just remember the things we worked on. Take a nap. Try to eat something. Do a little stretching where you don’t get too stiff,” Richard Williams said. “And keep your mind on when the time comes for you to go out and play, so you’re ready to go.”

One indication of Friday’s general state of disorder: At 12:30 p.m., with a drizzle falling, a message on the main video screen outside the main arena alerted ticket-holders: “First match in Arthur Ashe Stadium scheduled for 1:00 p.m. Thank you for your patience.” Yet a smaller board to the side said: “First match in Arthur Ashe Stadium scheduled for 2:00 p.m.”

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