Djokovic Seeks to Avoid Ferrer Upset After U.S. Open Washout

Novak Djokovic will seek to avoid his first U.S. Open loss against a lower-seeded opponent as he returns to the court less than 24 hours after his men’s semifinal against David Ferrer was halted by severe storms.

Ferrer had a 5-2 lead and was serving for the first set yesterday when tournament officials halted play, evacuating Arthur Ashe Stadium before torrential rain and heavy wind swept through the National Tennis Center in New York.

Bad weather also pushed the women’s singles final between Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka back until today and means the U.S. Open men’s championship will be played on a Monday for the fifth straight year.

“We’re getting very tired of having Monday finals,” tournament director David Brewer told reporters.

Djokovic, the defending champion and No. 2 seed from Serbia, and Ferrer, the fourth seed from Spain, take the court at 11 a.m. New York time today seeking a spot in the men’s final against Andy Murray of Britain.

Murray, the third seed, reached his second U.S. Open final yesterday with a 5-7, 6-2, 6-1, 7-6 (9-7) victory against No. 6 Tomas Berdych of the Czech Republic. Their match was delayed more than an hour by rain and then bedeviled by wind so strong it blew a chair onto the court at one point.

While the women’s final originally scheduled for last night was postponed, organizers sought to play the men’s semifinals back-to-back in Arthur Ashe Stadium rather than move the Djokovic-Ferrer match to the smaller Louis Armstrong Stadium.

Semifinal Stopped

Murray, 25, needed almost four hours to beat Berdych, who had ousted five-time U.S. Open champion Roger Federer in the quarterfinals. Ferrer and Djokovic then played only 33 minutes before their match was stopped at just after 5 p.m. -- Brewer said it was essential that fans were given time to leave the stadium and grounds before the severe weather struck.

Brewer said U.S. Tennis Association officials had spoken with player representatives, broadcast partners, ticket holders and security officials throughout the previous 24 hours before making a decision about the scheduling of the men’s semifinal matches.

While Djokovic and Ferrer are back in action today, Murray gets an extra day of rest as he seeks to become the first British man to win a Grand Slam title since Fred Perry in 1936.

“In fairness to the ticket holders and our broadcast audience worldwide who tune in to see two men’s semifinals, we felt that it was really the only way to go to keep them back-to-back in Arthur Ashe Stadium,” Brewer said.

Following the completion of the Djokovic-Ferrer semifinal today, Williams will seek her fourth U.S. Open title against the top-seeded Azarenka in the women’s final at 4:30 p.m.

The men’s final is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. tomorrow.

Brutal Conditions

Murray, the U.S. Open runnerup to Federer in 2008, withstood “brutal” conditions yesterday that he said were some of the hardest he’s ever played in.

“And I come from Scotland, so that’s saying something,” Murray said after a match in which Berdych had 64 unforced errors after averaging 24.8 through his first five matches.

Wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour) forced the men to play tentatively and take much of the pace off their shots. The swirling wind sent napkins and plastic bags from the stands floating above and around the players, and a point had to be stopped when Murray’s chair and gym bag were blown over onto the court.

The gusty conditions seemed to have more of an impact on Berdych, who has one of the highest ball tosses on his serve. After hitting a serve at 137 mph earlier in the tournament, he hit first serves as slow as 77 mph yesterday and had six double faults while losing seven of his 20 service games.

Lost Hat

Up a service break at 2-1 in the first set and facing break point while serving, Murray’s hat was blown off as he hit a drop shot that Berdych was unable to reach.

Chair umpire Pascal Maria at first awarded Murray the point. Berdych then complained that the fallen hat distracted him, hindering his attempt to play the drop shot, and that the point should be replayed.

During an exchange at the net, Murray asked Berdych several times if he was “100 percent sure” that he was hindered. When Berdych said he was, Murray agreed to replay the point and had his serve broken. He went on to lose the set, and played the rest of the match without the hat.

Murray, who in August won the Olympic gold medal in London, is now in the final of a second straight Grand Slam, having been beaten by Federer in the Wimbledon final in July. After his victory yesterday, he received congratulations from Scottish actor Sean Connery, who interrupted a post-match news conference with Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson.

Scotland Connection

Murray’s mother, Judy, was with Connery and Ferguson.

“You smell of wine,” Murray joked to his mother before joining her for pictures alongside Connery and Ferguson.

“Been coming here the last three years to New York, and I explained how Scotland invented the world,” Ferguson said. “Today we invented the wind.”

“Today they conquered the world,” added Connery.

Murray will get extra time to recover as Djokovic and Ferrer return to the court today, when the forecast calls for clear, sunny conditions and a high temperature of 79 degrees (26 Celsius), according to the National Weather Service. The forecast for the men’s final tomorrow is similar, though the latest Monday finish has only raised more questions about whether the U.S. Open should have a roofed facility.

The U.S. Open remains the only one of tennis’s four major events without at least plans for a stadium with a roof. The Australian Open and Wimbledon venue have courts with retractable roofs, while the French Open will get a center court stadium with a retractable top in 2017.

“We talk about a roof all the time,” Brewer said. “The engineering and the technology is not quite there yet. It’s safe to say that when the technology and engineering are there we will be one of the most eager to listen and hear what the engineers have to say.”

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