Australian Open extended to 15-day event

The Australian Open will start on a Sunday in 2024, becoming a 15-day event to try to reduce pressure on players and fans from late-night finishes.

The decision follows an escalation in calls to limit finish times in a crowded schedule at the season-opening grand slam event in Melbourne.

Five-time finalist Andy Murray this year played a near six-hour, five-set marathon against Thanasi Kokkinakis that did not end until after 4am, the former world No.1 describing the finish time as “ridiculously late”.

“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for,” Murray said of the late finish.

“Rather than the discussion being about an epic Murray-Kokkinakis match it ends in a bit of a farce.”

Murray said the late finishes weren’t just an issue for the players – voicing his concerns for fans and ballkids.

“If my child was a ball kid for a tournament, they’re coming home at 5am in the morning, as a parent, I’m snapping at that,” he said.

“It’s not beneficial for them. 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.”

Former world No.1 Novak Djokovic also spoke out about the late finishes.

“I think for … the crowd, it’s entertaining, it’s exciting, to have matches [at] midnight, 1, 2, 3am,” he said.

“For us, it’s gruelling. Even if you go through and win … in these kind of matches, you still have to come back.

“You have your sleeping cycle and rhythm disrupted completely, [there’s] not enough time really to recover for another five-setter.”

At the time, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley ruled out a change mid-tournament. But he said it would be considered as part of a post-tournament briefing.

It emerged in changes announced on Tuesday, with the 2024 tournament scheduled to run from January 14-28.

Tiley said the changes had come about after listening to feedback from players and fans to limit late finishes.

“The additional day will achieve this, benefiting scheduling for fans and players alike,” he said on Tuesday.

“The first round will now be played over three days instead of two.”

The Sunday start will increase the number of sessions on Melbourne Park’s three showpiece courts – Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena – from 47 to 52.

Day sessions on Rod Laver and Margaret Court will feature at least two matches, rather than three as previously, to limit the potential for late finishes.

Night sessions will continue to feature a minimum of two matches.

Tickets for the 2024 Australian Open are on sale now.

-with AAP

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