Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

They don't like Mondays...

Still, Djoko and Nadal don't have say in the matter

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NEW YORK -- Vagabonds that they are, tennis pros are forever thinking a plane flight and tournament ahead. For that reason, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal would have preferred to play their U.S. Open championship final Sunday instead of 5 p.m. today.

But this time, weather is not to blame for the Monday finish. In effect, it was player pressure to build in a day off between the semifinal and final round that got everyone here.

Decades of TV-friendly packaging -- men's semis on Saturday, finals Sunday -- had players grousing that the event's most important match too often was contested by weary adversaries. (Each of the other three Grand Slam tournaments stages Friday semifinals and a Sunday final.)

With CBS opposed to giving up its double-semifinal "Super Saturday" programming, and forced by annual rains to postpone the final to Monday the last five years, Open officials finally locked the men's title match into the tournament's 15th day.

'... It's better to have Monday final now than a Saturday semifinal, then Sunday back-to-back five sets in two days, like before'

-- Novak Djokovic

Of this halfway measure, Djokovic said: "To be honest, I'm not in support of Monday final. But it's better to have Monday final now than a Saturday semifinal, then Sunday back-to-back five sets in two days, like before."

He is about to tangle with Nadal for a record 37th time in the longest-running men's rivalry of the open era, their third Open championship duel. Both previous matches went a tense four sets, with Nadal winning in 2010 and Djokovic in 2011.

Ten of their career battles have been in Grand Slam events -- Nadal leads 7-3 -- and Nadal concluded that he would "prefer to play against another (opponent). We have to be honest, no? I want to play against a player that I have more chances to win."

But he assured that "when you are involved in these kinds of matches, you feel special. It's good if both of us are playing at a very good level, so the match becomes great."

To facilitate that, and the endless tennis season, Djokovic said: "Hopefully, the next few years ... we can have Friday/Sunday like in every other Grand Slams because, you know, Monday final doesn't go in favour of the players playing Davis Cup."

The already brief turnaround from the Open to Davis Cup is even shorter now -- Djokovic and Serbia have a date in Belgrade against Canada beginning Friday, when Nadal's Spanish team plays Ukraine in Madrid.

"It's a different continent, time zone, it's clay indoors and all these things," Djokovic said. "I got injured already a few times like that; it's something that doesn't make me happy."

Nadal, too, said: "I like to finish tournaments on Sunday, not on Monday. But, talking about fair, for sure is more fair finish... having one day off between semifinals and final than play Saturday and Sunday.

"Because (if) it happens that one player has a very long match today, tomorrow you are in trouble."

Doubles champs. Leander Paes and Radek Stepanek, who upset the top-seeded Bryan twins in the semis, won the men's doubles final over Alexander Peya and Bruno Soares, 6-1, 6-3.

-- Newsday

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 9, 2013 C10

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