Alexander Zverev becomes the latest player to hit out at tennis chiefs over big issue

Alexander Zverev during a match

It has been a talking point in tennis throughout 2023 and now Alexander Zverev has become the latest player to hit out at tennis chief over the timing of matches.

Zverev beat Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina 6-7 (4) 6-2 6-1 in Beijing to progress to the last eight of the China Open, but his match didn’t start until after midnight.

The match finished at 2.40am local time and Zverev didn’t hold back in his criticism of officials after the match.

“Obviously, it’s difficult to play until 3:00 am. I’m not sure it was the right call to keep us on this court,” he stated.

“I think we should’ve changed courts. We should’ve gone on. There’s so many great courts on the stadium. So many opportunities where we could’ve played.

“I’m not sure we should’ve waited until past midnight to start the match, to be honest.”

Zverev has commented on the issue of late starts before, as he was critical of organisers at the Madrid Open last year after his semi-final match ended late and meant he went to bed at 4am.

He then lost heavily against Carlos Alcaraz in a final that got underway a few hours later and offered up this damning verdict.

“The ATP’s job was an absolute disgrace this week,” Zverev said. “To play a final against Carlos Alcaraz, who for me is the best player in the world right now, in a Masters 1000 event… it is difficult.

“I had no coordination. I had no coordination on my serve, I had no coordination on my groundstrokes. I missed two overheads that were super easy because I see the ball and everything is moving in my eyes.”

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The problem of late finishes in matches has been a theme throughout 2023, with tournament organisers seemingly eager to keep the action flowing for as long as possible.

Matches could be moved to smaller courts to ensure they are played at a sensible time, but officials are keen to ensure the top players compete on courts that have full television coverage.

This has led to a succession of matches being players well after midnight, with Andy Murray’s match against Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open in January sparking a debate over this topic.

Murray battled for nearly five hours to upset Matteo Berrettini in his first round match in Australia and at five hours and 45 minutes, his win against Kokkinakis was the longest match of Murray’s whole career, the second longest in the tournament’s history and the third latest finish to a tennis match ever.

“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for,” said Murray after the Kokkinakis match.

“We come here after the match and that’s what the discussion is, rather than it being like, ‘epic Murray-Kokkinakis match’. It ends in a bit of a farce.

“Amazingly people stayed until the end, and I really appreciate people doing that and creating an atmosphere for us. Some people obviously need to work the following day and everything.

“But if my child was a ball kid for a tournament and they’re coming home at five in the morning, as a parent, I’m snapping at that. 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, and it’s been spoken about for years. But when you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”

There have also been issues on the WTA Tour, with Elena Rybakina among those questioning why she was being sent out to play tennis matches that have finished well after midnight.

This is clearly a problem that needs to be addressed by tennis chiefs, but there does not appear to be a huge appetite to answer the call for change from players.