The US Open was in danger of spilling into a third week after play was suspended for the second day in a row Wednesday due to rain and Rafa Nadal led a player revolt against the "dangerous" conditions.
Water collects on a sign at Louis Armstrong Stadium after competition was delayed for rain at the US Open tennis tournament in New York, September 7, 2011 Photo: Reuters
Attempts by organizers to clear the backlog of matches from Tuesday's washout were thwarted when New York's fickle weather turned foul and play was suspended after just 16 minutes because of light rain and mist that made the Flushing Meadows courts slippery.
US Tennis Association (USTA) officials hoped to push ahead with the matches but leading players, including defending men's champion Nadal, joined forces to tell them they would only go back on when the courts were completely safe.
"We have to fight to change that, to have enough power to say we don't want go on court when it's raining," Nadal, who was trailing Gilles Muller 3-0 in the fourth round match when play was suspended, told ESPN.
"I am sorry for the fans, but the health of the players is important."
Britain's Andy Murray and American Andy Roddick, who were also in action when play was suspended, joined Nadal to confront officials about the state of the courts.
"It was still raining and the back of the court was soaked... it was really, really slippery," said Murray, who was down 2-1 to American wildcard Donald Young with games on serve.
"Obviously, the players want to play more than anyone but it's kind of dangerous.
"When I heard Rafa was going, I said 'I'll go and just mention it as well' and see what they say."
Roddick, who was leading Spanish fifth seed David Ferrer 3-1 with an early break, said the players were right to voice their concerns.
"If it's up for discussion whether the courts are playable, then they're not playable," Roddick said. "We just wanted to make sure we weren't put in that position again, and I think we're all clear now."
The USTA defended their actions, saying they believed the courts were fit to play on but had agreed to take the players' concerns into account when they suspended play.
"Conditions may be not ideal, but still can be safe," the USTA said in a statement.
"However, if a player or players feel that conditions are unsafe, we listen to them, as we have always done, and the referee uses that information as part of his/her assessment on whether to continue or halt play."
A patron wears rain gear as he sits in the stands at Arthur Ashe Stadium after play was delayed for rain at the US Open tennis tournament in New York, September 7, 2011 (Photo: Reuters)
The US Open has become a regular victim of rain in recent years with each of the past three men's finals being rescheduled from Sunday to Monday because of weather delays, a scenario that could happen again this year.
Tuesday's entire schedule was washed out and two men's quarterfinal matches that were supposed to be played on Wednesday, featuring Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic, were postponed until Thursday.
The disruptions have also reignited the annual debate over why there is no roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium.
The center courts at both the Australian Open and Wimbledon have retractable roofs while organizers of the French Open plan to cover up their main court by 2014.
However, US Tennis Association officials have continually balked at the idea because of the enormous cost of covering Arthur Ashe Stadium, the largest tennis stadium in the world.
Officials estimate the cost would be in excess of $150 million and say the money would be better spent on grassroots tennis programs.
John and Patrick McEnroe, commenting on ESPN, said the players should be applauded for their actions.
"This could be a watershed moment for men's tennis, women's tennis as well. Players can get together and effect real change," said Patrick, the former US Davis Cup captain.
John, a four-time US Open winner, added: "Major events are more powerful than they've ever been and they continue to push around the top players. There should be a commissioner of tennis."
A patron sits under an umbrella as court workers remove water from the playing surface of Arthur Ashe Stadium after play was delayed in the US Open tennis tournament in New York (Photo: Reuters)