Zirin, Dave, The Progressive
When we think out the pro tennis tour--with its starched whites, seven-figure paydays, and country club environs-the first thing that pops up isn't, "Those guys need a union." In other sports--like the remorseless brutality of boxing or the death march of professional cycling--the need for a union where none exists seems like common sense. But surely not in the genteel land of tennis.
Think again. There is a growing roar among the top players in the game that they will organize and go on strike if their demands are not heard.
What demands, you may ask? During the U.S. Open, players had to take the court for three consecutive days to make up for rain delays, and they had to play on wet and dangerous surfaces for part of the tournament. They then were given one day off before having to fly to Europe for the Davis Cup.
A strike "is a possibility," said Andy Murray, the world's number four player. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that, but I'm sure the players will consider it. We need to have some say in what goes on in our sport.... We just want things to change, really small things. Two or three weeks off during the year, a few less tournaments each year, which I don't think is unreasonable."
The constant rain and chaotic schedule at the U.S. Open brought much of the ongoing griping of the pro tennis tour out into the open. The great Rafael Nadal, Murray, and star U.S. player Andy Roddick confronted tournament referee Brian Earley when they were rushed onto a damp court they were told was dry. After Earley insisted this wouldn't happen again, water began to actually seep through the cracks of Louis Armstrong Stadium the following day. It was so bad that announcers John McEnroe, Brad Gilbert, and Chris Evert openly talked on the telecast about the importance of getting a union so players could protect their very safety. McEnroe even went on a six-minute discourse--an unheard of amount of time on broadcast television--to discuss the history of tennis players who had tried to organize. He ended by saying, "There is no player union, and that's the crux of the issue. …