NEW YORKERS thought they had seen the worst of the late-summer weather when Hurricane Irene struck the city two weekends ago, but they were given another drenching, forcing the cancellation of the entire day's play here at the US Open. With rain expected throughout the day, the decision to cancel was taken unusually early at lunchtime, which at least meant that the players would not have to wait for hours in the locker room and lounges.
The consequence, however, is that the likes of Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal may well have to play four best-of-five-set matches in the space of five days if they appear in the final of the year's last Grand Slam tournament. The scheduling of matches on the final weekend here always places big demands on players, with the men's semi-finals and final played on successive days, and yesterday's cancellation will make life even tougher for those in the bottom half of the draw. With the weather forecast also poor for today, there is every chance that the men's final will be delayed until the Monday for the fourth year in succession.
Considering that Murray did not play his first match until the third day of the tournament, the Scot, who faces Donald Young in the fourth round, would have particular reason to feel aggrieved. Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will be grateful that they completed their fourth-round matches on Monday night. Federer, in particular, was fortunate to complete his match just half an hour before the heavens opened.
Federer raced through his match against Argentina's Juan Monaco in just 82 minutes, winning 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 to reach his 30th consecutive Grand Slam quarter-final. In Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, nevertheless, he now faces an opponent who knocked him out at Wimbledon this summer and went on to beat him again in Montreal last month.
A late-finishing day programme and Caroline Wozniacki's three-sets win over Svetlana Kuznetsova in the first match of the evening session conspired to keep Federer and Monaco waiting in the locker room until just before midnight. After they got on court rain started to fall in the third set, but it held off enough for the Swiss to complete the job.
Federer won 20 of the first 25 points, was 5-0 up after 12 minutes and had taken the first set after 18. The Swiss opened the second set by playing the perfect game, hitting four successive aces. Monaco, who struck four winners to Federer's 42, restored some respectability in the second set, but it was not long before the two men were back in the locker room.
Although he had clearly been determined to complete his work quickly, Federer had no complaints about the late start. "I've often had to wait a long time," he said. "I had to wait maybe two hours more than usual. It wasn't eight hours. That can happen too. But it's true, it is extremely late. Other sports, like golf, start at 8am. It's crazy how our schedules change all the time. As tennis players, it makes it extremely difficult to be on your A game every single day.
"Something happens tonight, you see the women's match, you warm up several times, you wait, maybe have to eat something, you relax again. Your body is jumping out of your skin because you want to go, then you're held back again. It's tough. I'm extremely pleased with my reaction out there. I played really well."
Tsonga earned his third meeting with Federer in less than three months by beating Mardy Fish 6-4, 6-7, 3-6, 6-4, 6-2 in a high-quality match. Federer said he was looking forward to another encounter with the Frenchman, who recovered from two sets down to beat him in the Wimbledon quarter-finals.
Djokovic booked his place in the last eight with a 7-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory over Alexandr Dolgopolov. The world No 1, who won the tie-break 16-14 after saving three set points, now faces fellow Serb Janko Tipsarevic.
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