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Australian Open under fire after schedule disaster set to result in another late finish

Australian Open under fire after schedule disaster set to result in another late finish

Australian Open organisers have come under fire for a bizarre scheduling move that is certain to result in yet another late finish.

The tournament made some changes for this year in a bid to reduce the late night finishes, like starting a day earlier, but it hasn’t made much of a difference.

Already there’s been a 3.40am finish when Daniil Medvedev wrapped up his five-set victory over Emil Ruusuvuori in the second round.

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That was partly because of the day session, which has been reduced to two matches, running into the night session. On that particular day, women’s top seed Iga Swiatek needed just over three hours to defeat Danielle Collins, while men’s second seed Carlos Alcaraz was on court for nearly three and a half hours against Lorenzo Sonego.

The first match of the night session was also a marathon between Elena Rybakina and Anna Blinkova, which resulted in Medvedev and Ruusuvuori not entering the court until after 11pm.

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While a similar finish is not out of the question on Tuesday, it could have been prevented if not for a strange move in the day session.

Organisers opted to schedule a legend’s doubles match at 12pm on Rod Laver Arena, before the first official match was scheduled for 1pm despite every other day session starting at 12pm.

Fourth seed Coco Gauff and Ukrainian Marta Kostyuk slugged it out for over three hours, which meant that Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz didn’t play the first point of their match until 4.45pm AEDT.

Gauff needed over three hours to win her match. Credit: AAP

At the time of writing, the first set is still going after 65 minutes and given there will be an on-court post-match interview, plus approximately 30 minutes for fans to vacate the stadium and night session ticket holders to enter, there’s zero chance of the night session starting at the scheduled time of 7pm AEDT.

And if that match between defending champion Aryna Sabalenka and ninth seed Barbora Krejcikovavs goes to three sets then the blockbuster between men’s fourth seed Jannik Sinner and fifth seed Andrey Rublev might not start until after 11pm AEDT.

Commentators and fans were left confused by the decision to start today’s play at 1pm instead of 12pm.

“Today’s 1PM start on RLA (instead of 12PM) could come back to haunt organisers. 5 games all in second set of Kostyuk V. Gauff. If this goes 3 sets, and Djokovic v. Fritz goes 4 or 5, it’ll be a very delayed start to the night session on Rod Laver Arena,” commentator Shane McInnes tweeted.

“Sinner and Rublev may be in for a late night if this match makes its way into a 3rd set. Starting the day session at 1pm just invites things to get messy. Sunday tournament start helps though,” a prominent tennis blogger added.

“Terrible scheduling for RLA today. Why on earth would you start the first of 4 singles matches after 1pm?! Did the legends doubles really need to be played on Centre Court? Ridiculous,” journalist Christian Montegan said, before adding it was a “disaster” in another tweet.

“Copped some criticism this week about the schedule. Lots have been out of their control with a record number of 5 set matches. This however is a complete blunder. No excuse so not have the night session start on time,” a fan added.

“So they start the tournament a day early to ‘avoid late finishes’ yet it’s about to hit 4:30pm and one of the most exciting matches this AO is yet to even see players on court. This screams Kokk vs Murray 11:15pm start time last year,” another fan said/

It appears organisers immediately realised the mistake with Wednesday’s schedule beginning at 12pm again when Linda Noskova takes on Dayana Yastremska, followed by Medvedev’s clash with ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz.

Although there was another curious detail with the night session starting at 7.15pm instead of the usual 7pm.

Chinese 12th seed Qinwen Zheng will get the primetime slot for her match against Anna Kalinskaya before Alcaraz takes on sixth seed Alex Zverev.

This latest schedule fail makes a mockery of tournament director Craig Tiley’s comments ahead of the event.

“We’ve listened to feedback from the players and fans and are excited to deliver a solution to minimise late finishes while continuing to provide a fair and equitable schedule on the stadium courts,” he said when announcing the tournament will run an extra day.

“The additional day will achieve this, benefiting scheduling for fans and players alike. The first round will now be played over three days instead of two, also giving fans an extra day of unbelievable tennis, entertainment, food and family fun.”

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