PARIS - Thousands of tennis fans were left hopping mad on Sunday (Monday in PHL) as the conclusion of the French Open final between six-time champion Rafa Nadal and world number one Novak Djokovic spilled over to a second day after rain halted play in the fourth set.
Showers on the final Sunday had been forecast at least 48 hours in advance, but despite that organizers chose to stick to their traditional 1500 local time start for the showpiece match.
Nadal was leading 6-4, 6-3, 2-6, 1-2 when the match referee called the players off court at 1651 GMT. There had also been a 35-minute interruption in the second set.
The final had a lot riding on it for both players since Nadal was chasing a record seventh title while Djokovic was attempting to become the first man in 43 years to win four majors in a row.
It was no wonder that fans scrambled to get tickets which cost up to 169 euros, but were changing hands for up to 10 times the face value with ticket touts outside Roland Garros doing brisk business.
"This is very bad organization, they should have started the match earlier because they knew the forecast," Vladimir Bojovic, who deals with real estate investments and had specifically travelled to Paris from Belgrade to support Djokovic, told Reuters.
"This is just dreadful for tourists as we came for this day and now we have pay even more money to change our flight tickets and spend an extra night in the hotel.
"This tournament needs to get with the 21st century as Wimbledon has a roof and this place still does not."
Listened to Nadal
Bojovic, who had travelled in a party of 10, was also annoyed that officials called off the players at 1851 local time when the rain was still not very heavy.
"They could have continued, but stopped because Nadal kept complaining about the conditions. Djokovic was playing better but they listened to Nadal."
Organizers said tickets from Sunday will still be valid on the third Monday of the championships, but that was small consolation to some people.
Nadal fan Abraham Shiera and his partner, Alexsandra Nunez, who was backing Djokovic, were left more irritated as they had flown in from Venezuela for the final and will be unable to return for the finish due to business commitments.
"We both came for the tennis and are really frustrated by the match not finishing as we're flying back early in the morning," Shiera, an oil and gas businessman, told Reuters.
Nunez, keeping dry under a transparent Roland Garros umbrella, added: "Everyone in Paris knew about the rain today so I can't understand why they did not start earlier.
"It's a real pity that we won't get to see the finish. However, I don't think they had any choice to call off the match when they did because it was difficult for players to continue in that rain."
Organizers, who said the match would resume on Monday, defended Sunday's schedule before reiterating that a roof would be in place for 2017.
"Even though TV does not dictate, there are arrangements that are made weeks and months before the event regarding starting times and all that," tournament director Gilbert Ysern told a news conference.
"You cannot change overnight and tell all broadcasters in the world 'Sorry, but you have to change everything... because we are going to change tomorrow's schedule. It doesn't work like that. Out of respect to all the broadcasters we cannot ... change it at the last minute." (Reuters)