September 2, 2003
NEW YORK CITY
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Okay, welcome, everybody. Thanks for coming. Obviously, we want to first thank you for your patience throughout the past couple of days. Once again, welcome to New York and the summer that never was. I'm told we are up to roughly an inch of rain in the past couple of days. The forecast right now is not all that optimistic, as I'm sure you've been hearing. All of us here are working hard with one top priority, and that is to finish this tournament this weekend on Sunday, as scheduled. We thought it would be helpful to pull everybody together with the folks up here that could answer any questions you might have with regards to the challenges that this group faces, in particular our referee, Brian Earley, who you'll hear from shortly. I think the last time -- I'm told the last time we extended the US Open beyond the final weekend was in 1987 when we had a wash-out on Sunday with the Wilander-Lendl match. I believe prior to that, I'm told, the longest we've ever extended this tournament was back in 1938 when we saw - or when they saw - a hurricane hit the tournament. I believe that it was completed on Wednesday of that week. As you all know, rain affects every part of this tournament. Certainly, our focus and our priority is with the players and is with the fans. We'll address both of those issues and how we're handling that through your questions, we hope. As I mentioned, from a scheduling standpoint, we do fully intend at this point to complete the tournament Sunday. There will, I'm sure, be a lot of unanswered questions today. We're going to take this one day at a time and have a number of constituencies that we have talked to, that we will continue to talk to over the next couple of days. With regards to our fans, the inclement weather policy that we did adjust last year has been in effect, including yesterday; will be in effect today. I believe the time in which that weather policy comes into effect is 5 p.m.; is that correct?
JIM CURLEY: Correct.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: So if we do not start play by 5 p.m. today, the inclement weather policy will be in effect, meaning they will be able to exchange the tickets they purchased at Ticketmaster or the box office for the same session, comparable location next year. We have added a benefit to that as well, as we did yesterday, which is we will also give them the option to attend any of the day matches tomorrow and/or Thursday. With that in mind, I think you all know Jim Curley, our tournament director; Brian Earley, our referee; David Newman, who runs not only press operations but also is in charge of marketing and communications, also really heads up what we do with the fans under situations like this. So what I'd like to do is just turn it over to Brian for a couple opening comments on scheduling, then open it up to any questions you might have.
BRIAN EARLEY: Arlen, you covered all the scheduling issues, you've kind of stolen my thunder, no pun intended. Really, when Arlen says we intend to finish these particular events on the days that they're scheduled, that goes to the heart of what it is we do in the scheduling office. More than one reporter has asked, "Would we play players every day, as opposed to every other day," and the answer is yes. The players understand that. We have an excellent, excellent group of players. They are willing to play when and where we ask. I mean, it is just a really, really good group of people who try to stay in touch with the referee's office, try to stay in touch with the tournament director. If we give them good information, we get that back in spades from them. They become more and more willing to play in a little bit different place, to play a little bit different time, to stay here as late as they have to, to hang around all day. If we do it from the referee's office, a good job of communicating to them, the status of where they are and where we are with getting these matches played, we really get good cooperation from them. So, you know, congratulations to them. They've just been a great group under very, very trying circumstances. Having said all of that, am I throwing this out for questions yet or do we want to wait?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: No, I think we can open it up for any questions you may have. Obviously, there's some -- optimism will continue, there's disappointment that this is happening, particularly after a record week. I think you're all aware of the continual records that this tournament broke week one, including the largest attendance ever after Sunday's half-way point of this tournament. So we open it up for questions.
Q. Arlen, have you reached a point in your discussions with your team where if the rain continues, even into tomorrow, there is a contingency plan for cancelling - not postponing, but cancelling certain events here, senior events, Juniors doubles, etc.? If so, is there a priority list of who you cancel?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I'll let the referee handle that question.
BRIAN EARLEY: We are not at that point yet. We have had just very preliminary questions about that particular kind of thing. I think it would be premature to go there except to say as we get later in events -- and, you know, this again is contingent on our playing, as we get later in events, we have fewer and fewer conflicts. I also will tell you the Juniors are quite willing to play two matches in a day, three matches in a day, as are the seniors. Remember, most of the senior events are only two sets and a tiebreak. Quite frankly, the doubles they play is not exactly taxing (laughter). I'm sorry.
DAVID NEWMAN: What he meant to say was... (Laughter) senior tennis, doubles tennis, consistent with our mission (laughter).
BRIAN EARLEY: I promised you I wouldn't put my foot in my mouth. I've already done it.
Q. Who will your replacement be, Brian?
BRIAN EARLEY: (Laughter).
ARLEN KANTARIAN: It is early, though. With the number of courts we have, to the degree we get some good weather, we can play catchup pretty quickly. Obviously, that's dependent on one full day and one full night, regardless of how far behind we are, we can play catchup in almost a day to a day and a half's time, given all the courts. You saw that happen last year.
BRIAN EARLEY: We have lighting on every court, so...
Q. Would you say, providing you had clear weather from Thursday onwards, you shouldn't have any problems? The players might have to play more often than they want to, but as far as finishing?
BRIAN EARLEY: If we're given Thursday, Friday, Saturday - remember, we have four rounds to play on both events, both singles events - yes. I would say, without sticking my neck out too far, that we give priority to singles, okay. I don't want to stick my neck too far out there because there are situations where doubles have to be played. But I think our focus is the singles, but we have every confidence we'll finish all of the events on time. Then we'll evaluate it from day-to-day.
Q. What are the weather people telling you about, for instance, the rest of today and tomorrow?
BRIAN EARLEY: Well, right now, we subscribe to three different weather services. One says, actually, that it's 10 percent from today on, I mean, from today through tonight. What we're seeing out there is not on the radar. It's not on anybody's radar screen. What they keep telling me is the conditions are right for mist. Well, they're very right for mist because that's what we're getting. As you know, we can't play in this.
Q. You won't run out of towels (laughter)?
BRIAN EARLEY: (Smiling). Was that a rhetorical question?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Is there more to that question?
Q. What was learned from the situation with Agassi's match the other day and how might it be handled differently if you had a chance to do it differently?
DAVID NEWMAN: Why don't we just talk to the last couple of days. The players have been here, the players want to play, the fans want to watch them play, and we'd like to play. In the player's locker room, in the player's lounge, the discussions have been taking place with players. Want to talk to that?
BRIAN EARLEY: What you try to do is put yourself out there, kind of get input from the players, make sure they know your office is open and they can speak to you. Sometimes they ask silly questions but the important thing is that the line of communication remains open. So, having said that, you just make yourself available and you take all the input and we get together and make our decisions.
Q. Would the decision have been the same if you had to do it all over again about the scheduling of his match?
DAVID NEWMAN: I think it's easy to play Monday morning quarterback.
BRIAN EARLEY: I'd rather not answer that question. I think it's so easy to look back and say two or three different things. There's always different options. We did what we thought was best at the time.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: The history of this match in those situations has been such that when we move into the night session, we typically suspend play. I would say we would, in fact, do the same thing, but that we would also confer with the players at an early time. While the decision would be the tournament management's decision, fairness of play is priority one. Fairness to the fans is priority two. We tend to go from there. I don't think any two situations are identical, and they need to be dealt with on a one-off basis.
Q. Arlen, coming from the country of the (inaudible) Grand Slam as they do, may I ask you if there are any regrets you didn't put a roof on the new stadium? Are there any plans to do it at some later date?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I saw Paul McNamee about ten minutes ago. I said, "Did you bring your retractable roof with you?" We're very jealous of that situation, at least at this point in the tournament. The stadium was built and completed in 1997 without plans for a roof. It was, I think, prior to any of us here, other than Brian Earley.
BRIAN EARLEY: I wasn't consulted. I wasn't the referee. I was not the referee.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We have initiated, just hired some master planners, MBBJ, that you have heard about, that have done a tremendous amount of work for stadiums and venues in this country. One of the many, many reasons is to take a more in-depth look at whether or not it's feasible, both structurally and financially, to put a roof over Arthur Ashe Stadium. It is not in the plans today. But we would never say never. It is certainly a costly situation, a much more costly situation after a venue has been built, and then contemplate whether or not a roof would make sense. If you look at the 122-year history of this event, and trace the weather - and I'm more familiar with the 12-year history where this is only the second year in 12 years we've ever had any cancelled sessions - it certainly would not make sense based on that history. That doesn't mean we'd rule it out. The only way I think we could justify it is if we also felt this stadium could be used year-round for additional tennis events, other sporting events, etc., etc. That feasibility study will be conducted.
Q. Is there a pretournament contingency plan with CBS? Does it come up like on Thursday night when you haven't finished this round that you say, "We played Monday, what time do we play Monday, do we go for Monday night?" What happens there?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: The only contingency plan that really is well-defined is that if there's a washout Sunday, we typically hold that final on that Monday late afternoon. Other than that, we play these things -- haven't had to deal with it, but we would typically play this on a day-to-day basis. Those discussions with CBS, I'm sure, will be initiated as soon as tonight, depending on what happens with today's weather. They have not been initiated yet.
Q. Is it possible to start the matches earlier? Could you start matches at 9 or 10 in the morning?
BRIAN EARLEY: That really doesn't buy us anything. That really doesn't change anything. If you think about it, if somebody's in three events, you're talking about first, third and fifth, we have those available. Typically, if we are accommodating to a doubles match, remember we have enough courts to spread out to play. It's not, again, a question of length of day. Length of day we have because of the lights. I don't foresee us, you know -- in the time that I've been here, which is 21 years, we have never started, that I remember, before 11 o'clock for reasons that we were behind in the schedule. I know we have started earlier than that for other reasons, but not for reasons that we were behind in the schedule.
Q. Brian, last night you had a moment where you were on court with Justine. She wanted to keep playing. You kind of said, "You know you can't play in this." We know all the policies. Can you talk a little bit about the emotions of you when you're out there, the players, when they're out there, they've been here all day, they want to play, but it's a safety issue.
BRIAN EARLEY: What it started with was I asked her if she thought it was raining. Because I said, "I really can't tell, but it feels like it is. I want to make sure. I'm willing to have you stay." She said, "No, no, we want to play. We want to play." It puts you in a tough position. I go back to the Mary Joe and Venus thing that happened many years ago. So I have been so conservative since that time. I've actually, you know, said, "Look, we're just not going out there." Last night she said, "It's not raining hard enough." I said, "Well, yeah, yeah. Everybody wants to play. I'm not seeing a lot of water on the court, let's go. But you've got to stop if you feel it's dangerous." You know, I stood out there for a little bit then said, "Okay." Again, the players don't make the decision but they do have input. We do communicate with them. That was kind of a fun, you know, a fun thing. But by the same token, we've really got to look out for their safety.
Q. Can you talk about that too, Arlen, the emotional element for you guys and the players, how frustrating this has been.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: You know, it's tough. But I'll tell you, the cooperation level from the players has been tremendous. Jim and Brian have done a great job keeping people alive and well and entertained in that players' lounge. I don't know if you've been able to make it up there. That helps us. I think that this group feeds off the reaction of the players and of the fans. We had fans - for those of you that were in the stadium last night, the fans that stayed with us were cheering every time we made an announcement as to what the USTA's policy was. I don't know if I saw you in that Congo dance up in the aisles in Arthur Ashe, but we were really having fun last night. This group feeds off that. If we can keep the players happy, if we can keep the fans happy, we're happy. So far, so good. So hats off to the players and to this New York crowd and to the media.
Q. You mentioned a feasibility study with Ashe stadium. Have you looked into or will you look into the other stadiums also? Also maybe even the indoor practice courts?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: It's a good question. First of all, in terms of practice courts, one of the reasons we brought in a master planner was to look at the renovation, restructuring, possibly rebuilding of our current indoor tennis facility out by the east gate. Certainly a priority for us, not only for the Open and indoor practice courts, but also for year-round play with an additional five to six courts. It does introduce an interesting alternative that if we were to cover one of the stadiums, that maybe it not be Arthur Ashe Stadium, maybe it be Louis Armstrong, the grandstand court, so we can keep at least one show court from a television standpoint or otherwise, going. Good question. That is a fall-back that will be part of the feasibility study.
Q. Arlen or Brian, what would be the drop-dead date by which you can't complete the tournament on Sunday and you really have to look at extending it?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I'm not sure we know that today. Brian, do you want to take a shot?
BRIAN EARLEY: The rule of thumb is that you play a singles match, the most you can play is one singles match in a day - that doesn't mean that we wouldn't, you know, as pieces of matches are played. We've played pieces of matches and then gone on to play a second singles match in a day. Again, you have to, you know, the rule of thumb is one thing; and then what really happens is another. I don't really think we can go there yet.
Q. You used the expression 10 percent from today to tonight. Are you talking about a 10 percent chance of continued rain or 10 percent chance of no rain?
BRIAN EARLEY: Sounds like... I'm just saying they were -- the one forecast said 10 percent chance of showers. When I called them and asked them, he said, "Yeah, it's a 10 percent chance of showers but the conditions are right for what you have now." That was the point I was making, that the weather forecast is one thing, but what we have can be somewhat different.
Q. If you're in a frantic situation, would you schedule...
BRIAN EARLEY: Frantic what?
Q. Catch-up situation, would you schedule a separate night session for Friday and sell tickets for it, or would you just continue playing on? Have you thought about that yet?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I think that's one of those one-day-at-a-time questions. That is not the current plan. In a situation like this, that we've never been in before, we would never say "never." It's crossed our mind as a possibility. I don't think we'll have to address whether that's necessary or not till at least another 24 hours from now.
Q. From an economic standpoint, how much does a wash-out cost the USTA?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I don't have those numbers offhand. It's a question that lends itself to the ticket exchange policy, food/beverage concessions, etc., etc. I'll give you a two-word answer and leave it at that - a lot.
Q. Given that your situation is going to be exacerbated with the weather, are you seriously reviewing "Super Saturday"? You talk about putting the players' needs first. So many of them come in here and say it's ridiculous to play two men's semis, one first, one last, then play the final. Do you think it's time to review the situation?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Yes, we think it's been time to review that for a while now, as you know. It doesn't have much to do with the rain situation. But, certainly from a player fairness standpoint, I know Brian's been for investigating that, and as you know, I think in the next year, we will continue to discuss that issue with our television partners. We are for it from a player perspective. We do think the Saturday, "Super Saturday" situation with regards to what used to be one-day session event, two men's finals and two men's semis and the women's finals, is now advantageous to the women and the fans. It gave the women more rest between matches, one of several benefits. That's step one. We will continue to look at different scheduling options, continue to take a look at that.
Q. Would you consider reducing best-of-five to best-of-three?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Brian, want to discuss that? Are you talking about best-of-five, best-of-three in the men's singles?
BRIAN EARLEY: As you know, it has been done often in the men's doubles in other Grand Slams. We no longer play best-of-five. When we did, we played best-of-three on several occasions when we got backed up. We haven't even gone there. We haven't even talked about it. I feel that a Grand Slam men's singles title deserves best-of-five sets all the way through. That would only be -- I'm only one part of the equation. That is the subject that we, hopefully, won't have to broach. I'm just giving you my kind of candid...
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I think that's a very strong Grand Slam view throughout as well.
Q. The women's finals scheduled for Saturday night, the men's on Sunday, you didn't answer before about the drop-dead situation. If we don't have, by Friday, finished the men's quarterfinals and the women's semifinals, aren't we going to have to extend it? Are we forced to extend it at some point?
BRIAN EARLEY: Certainly would make sense to do that. Again, if we have pieces of matches finished and so on, and, you know, that's a contingency plan we will sit down and make in the next couple days as we get there. I really don't want to etch anything in stone until we're faced with it.
Q. Is this also a situation to reconsider running the first round over three days instead of two?
BRIAN EARLEY: Remember that the first round over three days is very much tied to the Saturday and Sunday playing seven matches in 14 days, and the Saturday-Sunday semis and finals. Why we have a Saturday semi and a Sunday final, it makes very good sense to play a first round over three days. I don't know that this press conference is the place to go into that too much in depth but I'm happy to answer those questions, just maybe at another time. I think it's a great scenario. It's excellent for the fans. It creates a second Tuesday where we have men's and women's tennis in the day and night. Men's and women's singles in the day and in the night. Other than just going there, you know...
Q. I know you said you have completed a partial match and then go on to play a whole match in the same day. Would you consider playing two full matches in the same day, for particularly the men who would be playing best-of-five?
BRIAN EARLEY: Never gone there.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Never say never.
BRIAN EARLEY: I never say never. Hard for me to imagine that, but then again I've never been in this situation, so...
Q. You have reliable weather reports for Thursday on?
DAVID NEWMAN: Does anyone?
BRIAN EARLEY: Does anyone, that's the question. As you see, we're stuck in this trough here. The conditions, you know, are such that it doesn't look like rain and we're not playing. We're being told it's gonna be a beautiful weekend Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Q. What about tonight? Thursday, Brian?
BRIAN EARLEY: Yeah, Thursday I'm hearing both. Thursday's kind of the break day, you know.
Q. What about tonight, if there's a possibility to play, will Roddick play or will someone play from the top half?
BRIAN EARLEY: Remember, we can spread people out, so we might play -- if there's a chance to play, we might play everybody. We might play everybody. Play all the way down the line. We have terrific lights. We have umpires here ready to go. We have ball kids, facilities. We're all set to go. It doesn't mean that the matches that are scheduled in Arthur Ashe will be in Arthur Ashe. I'm not speaking for the tournament here. I'm just speaking from a referee's point. We want to get the matches played and we have lovely courts to play them in.
Q. What's the latest a match can start?
BRIAN EARLEY: We've started matches as late as 11 o'clock. We started a best-of-five at 11:05. I don't know who was here for that. Mr. Pernfors and Mr. Wilander played until 2:15.
BRIAN EARLEY: I knew somebody would know this. We started them at maybe 11:05. It's 11:00ish. But, you know, again, you have people now who want to play. The players, again, have been so cooperative. They really are eager to play. It's a question of playing two matches in a day or starting a match and finishing a match, they're here and they want to play if the weather is right and we have a court for them. My guess is that they're gonna be very cooperative.
Q. Brian, last night Pierce and Myskina didn't start until quarter past 11. You had so many people tied up drying the court. Why do you not cover the court? Surely that would make it quicker, you could make better use of the time.
BRIAN EARLEY: Was that something Danny was going to answer?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: We have our head of our facilities here, Danny Zausner. I can tell you that between Brian and Danny and myself, we've addressed this on several occasions. We will continue to address it. I think the history of the event has been the system that's in place now in addition to some, I guess, airblowers that we have recently provided as well. The question of tarp, the question of the tented type of tarp used at Wimbledon, has come up. Brian or Jim, I don't know if you want to address that, or Danny?
DANNY ZAUSNER: There are some issues with that court as far as our surface. It's definitely smaller than other Grand Slams. We are and will continue to investigate it. The reality is we've had more rain in the last two years than the last 10 years combined. It's something that's new to us. It's not being ignored, I'll assure you that.
ARLEN KANTARIAN: I am told that there could potentially be a three- to four-minute pickup in terms of time had we had tarps. I think the conclusion at least at this point, that the referee and others have come to, is does that three to four minutes, if in fact that is the time savings, warrant the type of tarp on the sidelines of the court or not. I think that's the question. To the degree it can help us save more time than three to four minutes, I think we would be more serious about investigating that.
Q. Isn't this a city that never sleeps? Why not a midnight, all-night program?
ARLEN KANTARIAN: Won't meet the deadlines.
BRIAN EARLEY: That's right. That's good.
RANDY WALKER: Anything else? Okay. Thank you all.
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