Misc Tennis

Australian Open’s failed schedule experiment — Too-late matches remain

Australian Open's failed schedule experiment -- Too-late matches remain

Melbourne, AUSTRALIA — It was well after 4 o’clock in the morning when Andy Murray finally trudged off Margaret Court Arena after a grueling five-hour, five-set battle with Thanasi Kokkinakis at last year’s Australian Open.

Instead of celebrating the epic contest for what it was, public discourse immediately turned to what Murray described as the “farce” of being forced to begin his match well after 11 p.m.

“It’s not beneficial for [ballkids],” he said after the win. “It’s not beneficial for the umpires, the officials. I don’t think it’s amazing for the fans. It’s not good for the players.

“We talk about it all the time. It’s been spoken about for years. When you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”

While Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley at the time said there wouldn’t be any immediate changes to the scheduling, things were tweaked for this year’s tournament.

In an effort to alleviate the backlog of first-round matches, an extra day of play was added to the 2024 schedule — on the Sunday prior to the usual Monday start. Having three days for the 128 first-round matches was supposed to be a small change to help ensure fewer late nights at the Australian Open.

“[We] are excited to deliver a solution to minimize late finishes while continuing to provide a fair and equitable schedule on the stadium courts,” Tiley said at the time.

But the idea failed immediately.

On the first day of the tournament, world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka‘s first serve was sent down at 11:41pm, with most of the Rod Laver Arena crowd already gone following Novak Djokovic‘s four-set epic win over Croatian teen Dino Prizmic.

And Thursday night there was a sense of deja vu around Melbourne Park when, like Murray and Kokkinakis last year, men’s world No. 3 Daniil Medvedev‘s second-round match didn’t…

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