- Matt Wilansky, Tennis editor
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NEW YORK -- The major news kicking off this year's US Open was the announcement that by 2017, Arthur Ashe Stadium will have a retractable roof. And with it comes the elimination of all those hideous rain delays that have paralyzed the tournament for years.
You know what we're talking about: The fickle New York weather has pushed back the men's final to Monday for five straight seasons. In 2011, the soaked grounds created scheduling strife so severe that the likes of Andy Roddick, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal even staged a pretty poignant protest.
So after years of outrage from the players and unrelenting questions from the media, the Open finally foot the bill for the $100 million umbrella.
As it turns out, that was the worst decision the USTA has ever made.
On Monday, for 4½ rain-ravaged hours, and with the competitors safely ensconced in the players' lounge, clowning around on the foosball table and furiously updating their Twitter accounts, the rest of us got to watch tennis at its finest.
That's right. It was that time of year for CBS to queue up its obligatory tennis classics.
The network showed an arresting array of the greatest US Open tiebreakers of all time. Jimmy Connors versus John McEnroe in a 1980 five-set semifinal barn burner; Bjorn Borg against Connors in the 1976 final played on green Har-Tru, when the American won the fourth set, and the match, in a gripping 11-9 tiebreaker. And how about the day tennis turned into a full-contact sport in the 1997 tussle between Venus Williams and Irina Spirlea, when the two famously collided as they walked to their changeover chairs? That one ended with Venus winning 9-7 in the third-set 'breaker -- after saving two match points.
That's ulcer-inducing stuff, is it not?
When the grounds dried and the large green patches that had defaced the Doppler radar finally disappeared, so did some of the best matches we've ever seen -- and out came Alison Riske, Daniela Hantuchova, David Ferrer, Janko Tipsarevic and a few others.
Not that there was anything terribly wrong with any of those matches. Hantuchova belted 15 aces and played remarkably cleanly in ending the young American's run, while Ferrer and Tiprarevic wrestled for three minutes shy of four hours, with Ferrer pulling out the four-set win, 7-6 (2), 3-6, 7-5, 7-6 (3). There were some exhausting moments, with each scrapping and scrambling in rallies that lasted more than 20 shots.
But compared to the quality of matches we were watching during the delay, let's just say CBS doesn't need to store these in its rain-reserved archives.
Remember the 1996 quarterfinal between Pete Sampras and Alex Corretja, when the American hurled in the fifth-set tiebreaker? That was juicy stuff -- quite literally. How about the gladiatorial battle between Sampras and Andre Agassi in 2001, a match that went to four tiebreakers with not one single break of serve?
If you weren't bathing in the afterglow of that one, you simply can't be a fan of perfection.
In a few years, we might not get the chance to rewind and watch these epics again. And don't go blaming the rain for foiling hours of unfettered entertainment. It'll be the fault of nothing but that lousy roof.