Australian Open chiefs announce huge schedule change for first Grand Slam of 2024

Kevin Palmer
Melbourne Park - Australian Open

Australian Open chiefs have announced a surprise change to the schedule for the first Grand Slam of 2024, after confirming in will become a 15-day event for the first time.

There had been growing concerns over late finishes with so many matches scheduled on the opening Monday.

Last year, the second-round match between Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis, which lasted five sets, did not finish until 4:05am – which the British former world number one described as “ridiculously late”.

The new Sunday start will see an increase in the number of sessions across the three arenas from 47 to 52.

The day session at Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena will feature a minimum of two matches, which is down from three, to limit the potential of late finishes.

Night sessions, meanwhile, will continue to feature a minimum of two matches and the John Cain Arena schedule also remains unchanged.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley hopes the new arrangements will help alleviate the pressure on late-night finishes for both the players and the fans.

“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,” Tiley said.

“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.

“Every year our team works hard to bring fans an event that feels new and exciting, and this is another opportunity to grow what is already the biggest annual sporting event in the world in January.”

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The Murray epic against Kokkinakis last year may have been the breaking point in this story and players will welcome the change after an ongoing debate over late finishing matches in the last year.

Alexander Zverev was the latest player to criticise tournament officials after he had a late finish in Beijing this week.

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 are 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.”