No one wins when play is suspended due to the weather. But CBS, the USTA’s network broadcast partner, is responding to the rain a bit differently this year than last, perhaps frustrated that this is the first time in the Open era that the tournament has pushed into Monday on two consecutive years.
Unlike last year, CBS won’t broadcast a rescheduled women’s final in primetime on Sunday. (ESPN2, the Open’s cable partner, will.) And the network will show the rescheduled men’s final on Monday, but at 4 p.m. instead of last year’s 5 p.m., with little chance of edging into primetime but also little chance of being seen by anyone.
This year’s women’s final could very well feature Serena Williams, as it did last year when the broadcast was the highest-rated U.S. Open women’s final since Williams vs. Williams in 2002. But CBS seemingly wasn’t willing to sacrifice its primetime lineup for the second year in a row. It’s been a tough weekend for the network, after all, and it may have to dig into the vintage-match archives yet again tonight if Williams-Clijsters gets rained out.
The USTA, for its part, is acting like it’s pulled off some kind of coup in getting the women’s final in primetime at all. “In cooperation with our television partners, CBS and ESPN, we’ve been able to reach an arrangement whereby the women’s singles final is now going to be on ESPN2 at 9:00 Sunday night, primetime programming on the most-watched night of the week,” tournament director Jim Curley told reporters, ignoring the fact that the same match had been shown in primetime on CBS just last year.
At the same press conference, Curley and USTA Executive Director Gordon Smith said that rough plans for a retractable roof on Arthur Ashe Stadium have been drawn up for a long-term planning committee to evaluate. The broadcasters have made their views clear: “[CBS would] love to have a roof,” Smith said. He added that the USTA was a nonprofit, and that the justification was uncertain at best for the $100 million (or higher) cost of a feature that would be used so rarely. “We’re trying to figure out the best ways to utilize the revenues to promote our sport,” Curley said. “That’s a tough decision for us to make that, you know, nine-figure investment in a roof.” Tell that to CBS.