Many hardcore tennis fans were left extremely upset at the perceived unfair US Open Draw Ceremony, which took place on the 23rd August.
This was due to the lack of transparency regarding the US Open draw ceremony that took place on Thursday, which shown to fans via a Facebook livestream as well as on their official website. The presenters for the livestream were ESPN’s Chris McKendry and Chris Fowler, as well two-time US Open champion Tracy Austin. The were later joined by the defending men’s and women’s singles champions, Rafael Nadal and Sloane Stephens, after the draw had been revealed.
But that was the issue – the draws were merely revealed and fans could not actually see the draw take place live or at least hear it take place live (as was the case for Wimbledon). Instead there was a 30-second promo for each of the Top 4 seeds in the respective men’s and women’s singles tournaments and out of nowhere suddenly their entire quarter would appear, which the presenters would analyse. Obviously everyone was extremely confused about how the draw could appear that quickly, but then Fowler revealed to us that the supposedly *random* draw had actually taken place hours earlier and that they were just showing us the outcome!
This was enough justification for complaints but from the (potential) match-ups that that the draw provided, it was very understandable why people claimed it was rigged. In the women’s draw Serena Williams (who had been upgraded from 26th to 17th seed) could now meet her sister Venus (seeded 16th) in the 3rd Round, which is the earliest they could meet. But before that Venus must get past another former US Open champion, wild card Svetlana Kuznetsova in Round 1. And just to put the cherry on the top, they were all in World No. 1 Simona Halep’s section of the draw. Other areas of suspicion were second seeded and reigning Australian Open champion Caroline Wozniacki drawing 2011 US Open champion Sam Stosur in Round 1 whilst 2004 champion Maria Sharapova (seeded 22nd) drew a qualifier when two players she has had intense feuds with (Genie Bouchard and Patty Schnyder) conveniently still remained in the qualifying competition. And continuing with these “what are the chances?” type match-ups it was Schnyder who Sharapova has been drawn against.
These suspicions also existed in the men’s draw. 2016 US Open champion Stan Wawrinka was drawn to face Grigor Dimitrov (seeded 8th) in the opening round for a 2nd straight Major. In addition Andy Murray (playing in the tournament on a protected ranking) could face 2009 US Open Juan Martin Del Potro (seeded 3rd) in Round 3, and we could have a match between the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champions Roger Federer (seeded 2nd) and Novak Djokovic (seeded 6th) in the quarter-finals, which was the earliest they could play each other. Therefore, the amount of popcorn matches in this draw was WAY over what would be expected from a random draw.
As a result, Twitter was full of people dragging the US Open for their lack of transparency and accusing the tournament for rigging the draw to the extent that they were flooding the feeds of some users as seen below
Some fans even had their own conspiracy theories behind why the US Open would want to rig the draw. For example, one user on MensTennisForums.com claimed that the tournament wanted Nadal to win to keep him relevant in the Slam race, and also so that people cannot claim that he is only a clay-court specialist because of his many US Open titles. This point seems particularly topical as the draw ceremony seemed heavily biased towards Nadal, with McKendry claiming that the crowd had gathered at the ceremony because of “the Rafa effect” and the other presenters at one point asking them, “Do we have any Rafa fans here?” Even Sloane Stephens picked Nadal as her prediction for the men’s champion given the draw.
Whilst I do not particularly agree with that conspiracy theory, I do believe it is like that the US Open did rig the draws for popcorn matches. Sadly, this is an assumption that myself and many other fans will never prove. However, the US Open should be held accountable for their lack of transparency with the draw ceremony, and these claims by fans are merely the consequences of the tournament’s actions. If the draw ceremony was not hidden, then there would be no real room for fans to make these accusations. The trust of fans is not something that should be taken for granted; it is something that has to be earned.
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