NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Open tennis tournament has extended its schedule to a Monday men's finish next year after a fifth year of weather delays disrupted the event in September, the U.S. Tennis Association said on Friday.
The new program will feature a Sunday women's final followed by the men's title match on Monday, and provide a day's rest between the semi-finals and finals for both the men and women, bringing the U.S. Open in line with the other grand slams.
The change, which affects just the 2013 event pending a decision on the years going forward, will abolish the Open's controversial Super Saturday, that for nearly 30 years had the men's semi-finals and women's final scheduled on the same day.
The USTA, which had been harshly criticized by players over the scheduling, also announced an addition of $4 million to the prize money pool for the year's final grand slam, bringing the total to $29.5 million.
"Both the prize money increase and the addition of a day of rest are great for the players," Serena Williams, who won the 2012 women's crown for her fourth Open title, said in a statement. "These moves make the tournament stronger than it's ever been for all players."
Men's champion Andy Murray, who claimed his maiden grand slam title at the National Tennis Center, also applauded the change.
"I'm pleased that the USTA has modified the U.S. Open schedule to include a day of rest between the semi-finals and final," said the Scotsman, who became the fifth men's champion in a row to claim his title with a Monday finish.
"Together with the prize money increase, it's good that they've taken on board the players' concerns."
Rain delays wreaked havoc with the completion of the 2012 championships, triggering an annual debate and complaints from players and spectators over why the showcase courts are not covered.
Wimbledon and the Australian Open both have retractable roofs over their centre courts and the French Open has announced plans to do the same at Roland Garros.
The new program will spread the U.S. Open's finish over four days.
The men's singles semi-finals will continue to be played in a single day session on Saturday, with the men's singles final to take place on Monday.
The women's semi-finals will be played on Friday as usual, with their championship match on Sunday.
(Reporting by Larry Fine, editing by Mark Meadows and Gene Cherry)