The US Open has quietly rejoined the ranks of the three other Grand Slam events by abandoning the last vestiges of the controversial "Super Saturday" format -- and nobody is happier about it than this year's No. 2 seed, Roger Federer.
"I think it's really important," Federer said of the return to a traditional, straightforward program that features the women's final on Saturday and the men's championship match on Sunday.
"That was a big conversation we had with the US Open for a few years," the five-time US Open champion continued. "It took a lot of meetings and convincing to be done, but I hope happy players are going to make a happy tournament, and in the process, everybody's going to be really, really pleased with the outcome."
Starting in 1984, the US Open used the "Super Saturday" format, which featured the two men's semifinals sandwiched around the women's final. The format was adopted to attract television viewers, and it generated an enormous amount of buzz. But it was also highly controversial.
For one thing, Super Saturday often offered too much of a good thing, with the stadium half-empty by the time the women were done with their presentation ceremony and the men were halfway through the second semifinal. For another, the winner of the second semi often had less than 24 hours to prepare to play the US Open final. The increasing demands placed on a player's fitness and stamina in this era also made a silent but powerful case for change.
But it took Mother Nature to finally tilt the balance. The USTA and its broadcast partners finally yielded when inclement weather on Super Saturday forced a Monday conclusion to the tournament for a fifth straight year in 2012. The following two years, the men were guaranteed their much-sought-after (and traditional) day of rest between matches because they played their final on Monday night.
Federer could well be the happiest of those "happy players." He is, after all, 34 years old. And while he's in terrific shape, the nod when it comes to ironman-grade stamina must go to top-seeded Novak Djokovic. At age 28, he's at the peak of his powers, with two majors in his pocket this year. Serena Williams has won just one more Grand Slam match this year than Djokovic, who is 20-1 in the majors.
In fact, just the other day, Djokovic was asked to compare his present form with the way he was playing in his landmark year of 2011.
"I think physically I'm stronger and I'm able to endure longer than I did in 2011," the Serb said.
Currently, Federer and Djokovic are locked in a spirited rivalry. Djokovic won their clash in the Wimbledon final, while Federer avenging the loss by taking out Djokovic in the Cincinnati final.
Any factor that levels the playing field when it comes to endurance is bound to be welcomed by Federer, should he meet Djokovic in what many are already touting as a dream final. For Djokovic, his most conspicuous advantage in the rivalry is that the majors are best-of-five.
"I think with the roof coming now you can sense all the players are really pumped up about that," Federer said. "It's really exciting to see the US Open taking huge strides forward. And then with the new schedule, basically a normal Grand Slam schedule, is great, I think, for everybody's pleased about it."