Tennis is being brought into disrepute by Australian Open madness – it needs to change now

Daniil Medvedev's late night finish at the Australian Open
Daniil Medvedev's late night finish at the Australian Open

One man has big questions to answer as tennis was taken to the brink of a farce as the clock edged past 3.30am on Rod Laver Arena.

After heavy criticism of late finishes at last year’s Australian Open, tournament chief Craig Tiley claimed he had made a big move to ensure a repeat would not be possible in 2024.

Yet long before Daniil Medvedev and Emil Ruusuvuori finished their epic second-round match in front of a sparse crowd and at a time when only birds are normally awake, the Australian Open took tennis to a new level of madness.

What other sport in the world orders its leading stars to start their match after 11pm at night and doesn’t appear to have any concern for their well-being as they are still playing almost four and a half hours later?

The answer to that question is none.

Yet Australian Open chiefs expect world No 3 Medvedev to finish his match at 3.40am, while still expecting him to commit to on-court interviews and media duties before he leaves Melbourne Park when the due is due to rise on Friday.

ATP Tour and WTA Tour chiefs have stated they will not allow players to go on court for a match after 11pm in their events and that is for best-of-three-set back matches.

If you are playing a five-set match in Melbourne, that rule doesn’t apply and it is hard to understand how this can continue.

Tiley and his Australian Open organisers may be content that they are providing entertainment for an audience around the world for almost 16 hours in a single day, yet fans should not be able to watch live tennis from Melbourne when the sun is dipping in Edinburgh.

This is disrespectful to the players and the sport, yet Australian Open chefs don’t appear to be keen to find a solution.

Their plan to combat this problem was to only play two matches in the day session this year, but they still scheduled the night session on the show courts to start at 8pm.

That meant any night when two matches were long and drawn out would be a problem, which was the scenario that played out on Thursday night/morning.

Medvedev looked like he might have been in bed much earlier as the unseeded Finnish player Ruusuvuori took control.

But the Russian showed his fighting spirit to ensure that it turned into an early morning as he battled back to win 3-6 6-7 (1) 6-4 7-6 (1) 6-0, with sunrise two hours away.

“I didn’t feel I had downs in the match,” said the Spaniard. “In the tie-break, he started to play an unbelievable game. I think he made some big returns after a good first serve from me.

“I think probably I could do something else in the tie-break. But the level that he played, it was really, really high.

“If I was a tennis fan, at 1 am, I would’ve went home to watch more on TV for 30 minutes and then go to bed. You are strong,” he added, addressing the small crowd that fought through to the end with Medvedev and Ruusuvuori.

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This should not be allowed to happen again.

Andy Murray played a late-night match against Thanasi Kokkinakis at last year’s Australian Open that finished at 4.05am and that was seen as a moment when Australian Open chiefs needed to ensure their tournament was not part of another crazy late-night finish.

Now the debate should begin again, with one solution being a move to shift the start of evening matches to 7pm.

There should also be a curfew to ensure matches don’t run into the start of the next day, as the current set-up is not fair to players or fans.

As is the protocol at Wimbledon, matches should finish at a set time and any matches that are not complete can be finished the next day. It’s a simple solution and needs to be introduced now.

Also, it’s not too late to move the start time for the evening session to 7pm as with only two matches in the daytime, there is a good chance matches will be finished in good time to get a new set of spectators in.

Tennis is being brought into disrepute by current Australian Open rules and it can only be hoped that common sense is applied to this problem sooner rather than later.