NEW YORK – Intermittent rain delayed the start of play for a second day at the U.S. Open on Tuesday, holding up matches for 3 1/2 hours and threatening to wipe out nearly a full schedule.
Less than 12 hours after Andre Agassi electrified a capacity crowd of 23,736 at Arthur Ashe Stadium with a come-from-behind 6-7 (4), 7-6 (8), 7-6 (6), 6-2 first-round victory over Andrei Pavel of Romania, the only entertainment for early spectators Tuesday was former doubles veteran Luke Jensen clowning with the crowd, driving one of the "Slamboni" court-drying machines.
After a relatively dry morning, showers began at the 11 a.m. start time and continued for about an hour. Rain halted, the drying crews went to work, but a half hour later rain resumed.
"The forecast is for that type of pattern until after 7 p.m.," tournament spokesman Chris Widmaier said. "The forecast is not encouraging."
Play finally began on the Arthur Ashe Stadium court about 2:30 p.m. with No. 1 women's seed Amelie Mauresmo facing Germany's Kristina Barrois, but dark skies remained overhead.
U.S. Open officials introduced an onsite meteorologist and revamped procedures for rain delays — introducing the "Slambonis" instead of relying on ball kids with towels for large-scale court drying — after the weather caused significant problems with the 2003 tournament schedule.
Including Mauresmo, Tuesday's schedule called for 61 matches in the day session, which also featured No. 2 men's seed Rafael Nadal.
The night session headlined former Wimbledon champion Maria Sharapova and fifth-seeded American James Blake.
Monday's first day of play started 90 minutes late to rain, but continued uninterrupted through the night session, when Agassi's eyes welled up with tears in his emotional victory.
Most of the Open-record night session crowd were on their feet when Agassi served out the final point after midnight.
"You want it to be everything you hope it is," Agassi said. "It was perfect."