Web Stories Saturday, February 24

MELBOURNE : Tournament director Craig Tiley said on Monday that late finishes are inevitable at the Australian Open despite the introduction of an extra day this year to help with fixture congestion.

The year’s first Grand Slam is notorious for its late finishes and in 2008 a match between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis famously concluded at 4:33 a.m.

The final match of the first day of the 15-day Australian Open on Sunday started at 11:41 p.m. (1241 GMT) after Novak Djokovic had taken four hours to win his first-round match against qualifier Dino Prizmic.

Mercifully, women’s defending champion Aryna Sabalenka raced through her tournament opener in less than an hour but Tiley said players had to expect to play into the early hours at Melbourne Park on occasion.

“We finished at 12:35 a.m. and we have taken the edge off having the possibility of late finishes,” Tiley told Australia’s Channel Nine on Monday.

“Nobody could predict that Novak would have gone over four hours to play a qualifier. No one would have predicted that putting a schedule on.

“It’s going to happen and it will happen again, it could happen tonight or tomorrow night.”

The WTA and ATP Tours made a joint announcement this month limiting the number of matches that can be scheduled on a court in an evening session and banning contests beginning after 11 p.m. in the interests of player welfare.

The four Grand Slams are not, however, bound by the rules of the tours.

While Tennis Australia said the addition of the extra day was made with player welfare in mind, former world number one John McEnroe described it as a “money grab”.

Players, including Djokovic, backed the extension of the tournament if it resulted in fewer late finishes.

Some 87,705 fans passed through the gates of the Melbourne Park precinct on Sunday.

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