Equal­ity up­roar as men get top billing in New York semi-fi­nals

Wil­liams’ coach de­mands an ex­pla­na­tion for or­der of play Konta drawn against Wat­son in bat­tle of Brits at US Open

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Si­mon Briggs ten­nis cor­re­spon­dent

Hav­ing post­poned yes­ter­day’s matches as a ges­ture of protest against Amer­i­can po­lice bru­tal­ity, the or­gan­is­ers of the Western & South­ern Open in New York rode straight into an equal­ity row when they gave to­day’s men’s semi-fi­nals pref­er­en­tial billing on Louis Arm­strong Sta­dium.

Fore­casts of af­ter­noon thun­der­storms led the women’s semi-fi­nals to be sched­uled in par­al­lel at 11am. But the men are to go on later, in the higher-pro­file tele­vi­sion slots, and also to play on a big­ger court.

When the WTA ac­tion be­gins this morn­ing, Amer­i­can time, the Grand­stand court will host 2018 US Open cham­pion Naomi Osaka (who prompted the 24-hour sus­pen­sion of play with her own con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tion). Mean­while, Jo­hanna Konta and her lat­est op­po­nent – for­mer world No1 Vic­to­ria Azarenka – have been shunted out to Court 10.

Both those matches may well be over by 1pm, at which point the men are sched­uled to ar­rive at the Louis Arm­strong Sta­dium. The first semi-fi­nal pits Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas, the fourth seed, against Andy Mur­ray’s con­queror, Mi­los Raonic. Then No­vak Djokovic – who has looked more flu­ent with each pass­ing round – has been pen­cilled into the head­line slot. Cru­cially, Arm­strong has a re­tractable roof.

The ap­par­ent pri­ori­ti­sa­tion of the men – who earn more from this tournament than their fe­male coun­ter­parts – prompted screeds of crit­i­cal posts on so­cial me­dia last night. “I be­lieve that this or­der of play de­serves an ex­pla­na­tion,” wrote Pa­trick Mouratoglo­u, Ser­ena Wil­liams’s coach, on Twit­ter.

Mouratoglo­u later seemed to ac­cept the or­gan­is­ers’ ex­pla­na­tion – which was that the women needed to go on ear­lier in or­der to have suf­fi­cient rest be­fore their fi­nal to­mor­row. But oth­ers pointed out that the whole ar­range­ment is set up on the ba­sis that the men must take top billing. The up­shot is that, as at last year’s French Open, Konta finds her semi-fi­nal ban­ished to the boon­docks.

Mean­while, the draw for Mon­day’s US Open was re­leased with­out fan­fare. On the men’s side, Andy Mur­ray will play Ja­panese left­hander Yoshi­hito Nish­ioka, the world No 48.

On the women’s, the com­puter threw up an early bat­tle of the Brits – a phrase that Jamie Mur­ray used to mar­ket two en­ter­tain­ing ex­hi­bi­tion events in July.

Heather Wat­son has never won a main-draw match at the US Open in eight at­tempts, and her lat­est firstround as­sign­ment – against Konta, iron­i­cally – is an­other daunt­ing one. These two Fed Cup team­mates have spent a fair bit of time hit­ting to­gether, but their three of­fi­cial en­coun­ters on the match court all went the way of Konta. In­deed, Wat­son has yet to win a set, al­though she did re­tire with an in­jury early in their first meet­ing – at a sec­ond-tier tournament in Barn­sta­ple seven years ago.

What is more, Konta has been in fe­ro­cious form at the Western & South­ern Open this week. Speak­ing af­ter her sparkling 6-4, 6-3 vic­tory over Maria Sakkari on Wed­nes­day night, Thomas Hog­st­edt, her new coach, sounded de­lighted by what he had seen to date.

“Jo­hanna is very well rounded,” Hog­st­edt said. “She doesn’t re­ally have any weak­ness. I like the kind of per­son­al­ity she is. She likes to work hard and im­prove,” he added. “So she re­minds me a lot of the play­ers that I had much suc­cess with, with Maria Shara­pova, Li Na, Caro­line Woz­ni­acki.”

Fi­nally, the most pro­lific dou­bles part­ner­ship in the mod­ern his­tory of men’s ten­nis has been dis­solved. Bob and Mike Bryan – the 42-yearold twins from Cal­i­for­nia – an­nounced yes­ter­day that they are re­tir­ing.

Open­ing match: Andy Mur­ray has been drawn to play Ja­panese left-han­der Yoshi­hito Nish­ioka, the world No 48, in the US Open next week

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.