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
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