The U.S. Tennis Association, which runs the Grand Slam event played in New York, announced the changes Friday – but only for next year.
A decision about 2014 and beyond probably will come after the 2013 tournament, USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said.
Rain forced the USTA to postpone the men’s final from its scheduled Sunday slot to Monday each of the past five years.
Some top male players complained that the U.S. Open was the sport’s only major tournament that put their semifinals and final on consecutive days. The men’s semifinals in New York will stay on Saturday under the new plan.
Friday’s moves end the tradition of what the U.S. Open has called “Super Saturday” since 1984, with both men’s semifinals and the women’s final all on that day’s schedule at Flushing Meadows, followed by the men’s final Sunday.
Wimbledon, the French Open and Australian Open follow another pattern: women’s semifinals Thursday, men’s semifinals Friday, women’s final Saturday, men’s final Sunday. The U.S. Open now joins the French Open – which starts and ends on Sundays – as 15-day Grand Slam tournaments.
As part of the new schedule, the USTA is scrapping its Saturday night session in 2013; the women’s final had been played in prime time since 2001.
Now the women’s final will be in the old men’s final time slot, 4 p.m. ET on Sunday. The men’s final will be at 5 p.m. ET on Sept. 9. Both will remain on CBS. The tournament will start on Aug. 26.
The USTA also announced Friday that total prize money in 2013 will jump $4 million to a record $29.5 million. The increase is the largest in tournament history, doubling the roughly $2 million hike from 2011 to 2012.
The USTA has not decided how the new money will be distributed.
“Both the prize money increase and the addition of a day of rest are great for the players,” four-time U.S. Open champion Serena Williams said in a statement issued via the USTA. “These moves make the tournament stronger than it’s ever been for all players.”
Williams’ title in New York this year, her 15th at a major tournament, came on a Sunday, the fourth time in the last five years the women’s final was delayed a day because of rain.
Unlike at Wimbledon and the Australian Open, the U.S. Open does not have a roof to protect any court used for tournament matches. It’s also the only Grand Slam tournament that has been scheduling two men’s semifinals a day before the men’s final, which leaves less room for scheduling flexibility when there is disruptive weather.
“We listened to the players and understood we needed to accommodate their request for an extra day of rest between the semifinals and final. ... The USTA reached out to many of the top players, player agents, as well as the respective tours,” Widmaier said.
“So far, everything has been fairly positive. The day of rest is being embraced across the board,” he added. “Because of the nature of the game, and to assure a final that can be played at the highest competitive level, you need an extra day of rest. We recognized that.”
In a statement released by the USTA, 2012 champion Andy Murray said: “I’m pleased that the USTA has modified the U.S. Open schedule to include a day of rest between the semifinals and final. Together with the prize money increase, it’s good that they’ve taken on board the players’ concerns.”
Widmaier said the tournament still needs to figure out on which days the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles finals will be played next year. One reason for the need to reschedule: The women’s doubles championship match has been on Sunday in the past, but can’t be in 2013, with the singles shifting to that day.