Pushed off the main U.S. Open stadium on Saturday because of time concerns, No. 1 Dinara Safina lost in the third round at Flushing Meadows, beaten by 72nd-ranked Petra Kvitova of the Czech Republic 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (5).
Ahead 6-5 in the third set, Safina had three match points but lost them all.
She blamed herself for that. But she also complained about the court change - both because she felt disrespected by the move and because she thought organisers could have handled the situation better.
“From my side, I can say, I’m No. 1 player in the world, why did they move me?” Safina said.
The match was shifted from Arthur Ashe Stadium to the smaller Louis Armstrong Stadium because of a late-running afternoon session. The original schedule called for Safina-Kvitova to open the night session in Ashe, followed by a men’s match between Tommy Robredo and James Blake. But because things were running late, organisers opted to play those matches simultaneously.
“They just told us, ‘We’re switching you to Armstrong.’ And basically that’s it,” Safina said. “And it’s very unfair.”
Kvitova didn’t seem to mind. Asked after her victory about the court change, she said: “Yeah, doesn’t matter for me. I’m not (a) star, so ...”
Her win over Safina ended at 12:50 a.m., about 10 minutes before Robredo wrapped up his three-set victory over Blake net door.
Not that Safina played a whole lot of show-court tennis during her difficult stay in New York. She won a pair of three-setters in the first two rounds, but was unable to pull out another, this one against a 19-year-old with one career title who is only ranked as the fourth-best player in the Czech Republic.
Safina committed 39 unforced errors and nine double-faults - actually below her averages of 43 and 13 for her first two matches. But she was on the defensive throughout and did nothing to justify her much-critiqued status as the world’s top-ranked player.
It’s a ranking she’s already assured of keeping after this week, even though she leaves still seeking her first Grand Slam championship.
The match didn’t begin until around 10:15 p.m., and thousands of fans holding tickets for the night session that was scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. were left milling outside for hours, waiting for the end of Andy Roddick’s five-set loss to John Isner.
Tournament officials did not want to delay the start of the Robredo-Blake match because the winner net faces Roger Federer, whose match finished before 2 p.m.
“You’ve got to balance safety issues, a big crowd - but the No. 1 factor is competitive integrity,” U.S. Open spokesman Chris Widmaier said. “If we had not split the matches, the women’s match would have started at about 10:30, and who knows what time Blake and Robredo would have finished?”