One year after Hurricane Irene in New York, it rained cats and dogs last week at the U.S. Open. The climate issues raise the question of roofs on the outside courts. Going back to a phenomenon which didn't start yesterday and which is starting to take on considerable importance...
1/ Roland-Garros 1973
The year of the tiebreak's introduction in Paris. While the tournament was quite sunny, the final had to be postponed, not by one day like this year, but by two! There was no question of a roof then. It was the biggest game of his career on that Tuesday, but it was all too much for the Yugoslav Nikola Pilic. Not being able to play for two days had broken his mojo. The conqueror of Dent, Bertolucci, and Panatta, wasn't able to deal with the wait. More experienced, winner of the U.S. Open the previous year, Nastase won in one of the more one-sided finals of the Open era (6-3, 6-3, 6-0).
2/ Australian Open 1976
The Australian Open was still taking place at Kooyong and very few foreigners were going that way at the end of the year. The tournament was aptly named - the quarterfinals were played between eight local players. Rosewall and Newcombe were on their last legs but it was the unfancied Mark Edmondson who finally won and beat the two legends in the final two rounds. A crazy end to the tournament since it was played in such a heat and wind that the organizers had to stop the final twice. Edmondson, then 212th in the world, remains to this day the lowest-ranked Grand Slam winner ever.
3/ Wimbledon 1991
Even if Agassi was coming back after three years of boycott and even if it was the year of German hegemony with Graf in the ladies and Stich/Becker in the men’s tournament, this edition will remain as the first with games played on the middle Sunday. The rain prevented any matches from taking place on the Monday; it was a little better on the Tuesday and not so good on the Wednesday (only 18 games, Editor's note). 73 hours were necessary for Stefan Edberg to finish his first round match. So even if Wimbledon is "bigger" than tennis, they played had to play on the Sunday. "We had no tickets, no security, no food and very few ball boys. But we couldn't do otherwise, only 52 of the 240 scheduled matches could be played. Fortunately, that Sunday was sunny" said Chris Gorringe afterwards, the Executive Director of the All England Club. In 1997 and 2004, the tournament had to sacrifice tradition again.
4 /Australian Open 2009
The rain in London, the storms in New York and the scorching heat in Melbourne. Coming mostly from the northern hemisphere, a majority of the players suffer from sunstroke during the austral summer. It’s not rare for them to play in temperatures of 40 to 45 °C. That year, Marion Bartoli fell apart against Zvonareva: "My feet and my mouth were on fire". Novak Djokovic even had to surrender in the quarterfinal against Andy Roddick despite the roof and the air conditioning inside, crucial because of the magnifying effect of the sun.
5/ Flushing Meadows 2003
A funny year for American tennis; Sampras finished his career the year before, winning his fourteenth Grand Slam in New York. Andre Agassi was into the tail-end of his career and Andy Roddick, 21, won his first - and eventually only - major. It was a transition period where people started to deplore the lack of a roof on outside courts. The junior tournament ended in tears and doubles were simply postponed.
6/ Flushing Meadows 2011
Irene, the hurricane advertised as” historical”, finally transformed into a tropical storm approaching New York. It produced winds of over 60 mph, downed trees, caused flooding and power outages. Even if it didn't claim any lives in the United States’ largest city, 370,000 New Yorkers had to be evacuated as a precaution. The participants of the US Open wisely stayed in their hotels. In total, Irene forced the evacuation of nearly two million people and caused billions of dollars-worth of damage but didn’t affect the program of the U.S. Open that much. A miracle...
7/ Roland-Garros 1976
A record number of withdrawals in this year of severe drought. It's true that the mercury rose to 34.1 °C in Paris in June. As if this edition was the forerunner of the telluric summer to follow. A symbol? Björn Borg's victory in the last sixteen against François Jauffret (6-4, 6-2, 3-6, 4-6, 10-8) in 4hours and 30minutes. In the next round, the double titleholder, a guy inured to pain like no other, fell against Adriano Panatta. One of his only two defeats in Paris.
8/ Wimbledon 2007
Few editions of the English Grand Slam escape the rain. The 2007 edition was particularly loaded. Nothing better than getting a tray of strawberries and cream to wait it out. The first week thus allowed organizers to break sales records. Even traditions take the rap. Organizers had to sacrifice the middle Sunday, the Sunday of the first week, which by tradition isn't played, on the altar of a sunny spell. Wimbledon 2007 ended up looking like a Masters Series where there are games every day and at the end it’s always Roger Federer and Venus Williams who eventually prevail.
9/ Wimbledon 1976
The year of the drought and one of seven times (1931, ‘76, ‘77, ‘93, ‘95, 2009, 2010) when there hasn't been a drop of rain at the London tournament. In 1976, the venerable institution allowed a deviation from the rules to allow a longer break between points and during the change of side. It was 30 °C in Britain, and no one knew how to deal with it...
10/ Roland-Garros 2012
Spring-Summer 2012 in France was rubbish. Four seasons in one day in Paris. As the tournament at the Porte d'Auteuil has no roof (we'll have to wait until 2017 for that, Editor's note), they need to get the tarpaulins out. Without rain, Novak Djokovic might have achieved the unthinkable: beating Rafael Nadal in Paris and coming back from two sets down. Instead, the rain saved the Spaniard and the final was played over two days. With the expected result. Too bad…
By Rico Rizzitelli