U.S. Open Final Delayed for Third Straight Year

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NEW YORK — A Monday men's
final is becoming a U.S. Open tradition.

The championship match between
Rafael Nadal
and Novak Djokovic was postponed a day because of
persistent rain Sunday, the third consecutive year that the season's
last major tournament won't finish on schedule.

The No. 1-seeded Nadal, bidding
to complete a career Grand Slam, and No. 3 Djokovic were supposed to
begin playing at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, but showers began more than 1 1/2
hours earlier and hadn't stopped by 6:15 p.m., when tournament officials
decided to call it a night.

The final was rescheduled for 4
p.m. Monday, when the forecast calls for a 20 percent chance of
thunderstorms.

Before 2008, the U.S. Open men's
final hadn't been pushed to Monday since 1987. But Roger Federer beat
Andy Murray on a Monday two years ago, then lost to Juan Martin del
Potro
on a Monday last year. This marks the first three-year string of
delayed finishes at the tournament since the men's and women's singles
competitions were combined and played at the same site in 1935.

"It was a very uncertain
forecast, and had been shifting over the course of the day. We are in a
band of showers that potentially could stretch until 1 (a.m.)," U.S.
Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier said. "There may be breaks
in there, but it was such an uncertain forecast that we felt the right
thing to do for the players – and certainly for the fans – was to
postpone the remaining matches until tomorrow."

Nadal and Djokovic were told a
little before 6:30 p.m. that they wouldn't be playing Sunday, Widmaier
said.

At 3 p.m., Djokovic was warming
up on a practice court right outside Arthur Ashe Stadium as scattered
drops fell. A few dozen fans – some holding aloft umbrellas – gathered
outside the fence, catching a glimpse of the 2008 Australian Open
champion.

He probably doesn't mind having
to wait until Monday to play for real. That's because he reached the
final with a grueling, five-set victory over Federer that lasted about 1
1/2 hours more than Nadal's straightforward, three-set win against
Mikhail Youzhny
in Saturday's first semifinal.

The U.S. Open is the only Grand
Slam tournament that schedules its men's singles semifinals and finals
on back-to-back days, which could have proved to be a disadvantage for
Djokovic. Indeed, after upsetting Federer on Saturday to reach his third
Grand Slam final, Djokovic opened his eyes wide and rubbed his hands
together when he was told about the possibility of rain affecting the
final.

"I don't know the rituals; how
to invite the rain," he said. "An extra day would be great."

Well, now he got it.

Nadal, meanwhile, will have to
wait at least a day for his shot at history. Playing in his first U.S.
Open final, the Spaniard is seeking to become the seventh man to own at
least one singles title for each of tennis' four more prestigious
tournaments.

He takes a 20-match Grand Slam
winning streak into Monday, having won the French Open and Wimbledon to
raise his major title total to eight. A victory over Djokovic also would
make the 24-year-old Nadal the first man since Rod Laver's true,
calendar-year Grand Slam in 1969 to win at Paris, London and New York in
the same season. And it would send Nadal to the Australian Open in
January with a chance to pull off a Rafa Slam of four major titles in a
row, something no man has done since Laver.

There was only one interruption
of play because of rain during the first 13 days of the tournament, a
delay of about 25 minutes on the first Friday, when the outer bands of
Hurricane Earl passed through the area. Otherwise, Week 1 was all about
the heat, with the temperature reaching into the mid-90s, and Week 2 was
all about the wind, with gusts topping 30 mph.

While Djokovic was training
Sunday afternoon, the women's doubles final was halted in progress, with
Liezel Huber and Nadia Petrova three points from victory at 5-4 in the
third set against Vania King and Yaroslava Shvedova. Tournament referee
Brian Earley and tournament director Brian Curley went on the Arthur
Ashe Stadium court to check the conditions, and eventually, the players
were sent to the locker room.

About 45 minutes later, heavier
rain began falling, and the doubles final was scheduled to resume Monday
at 3 p.m. – weather permitting.

There were some matches
completed before the rain set in Sunday, including the first
all-American U.S. Open boys' final in a decade. Jack Sock, a 17-year-old
high school senior who grew up in Lincoln, Neb., beat Denis Kudla 3-6,
6-2, 6-2 to become the first player representing the United States to
win the title since Andy Roddick in 2000.

Top-seeded Daria Gavrilova beat
Yulia Putintseva
6-3, 6-2 in an all-Russian girls' final, while Esther
Vergeer
won her 396th consecutive match by defeating Daniela di Toro
6-0, 6-0 in the women's wheelchair final.

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