Novak Djokovic joins the debate over late night matches in tennis

Kevin Palmer
Novak Djokovic on the secrets of his mental approach
Novak Djokovic revealed his mentality secrets at an ASICS event (Albin Durand)

Some of the biggest names in tennis have called for an end to late night matches over the course of 2023 and now Novak Djokovic has given his verdict on the issue.

Andy Murray’s match with Thanasi Kokkinakis finished after 4am at the Australian Open in January and this has become a regular theme on the the ATP and WTA Tour in recent weeks.

Elena Rybakina played a match against Daria Kasatkina that finished just shy of 3am in Montreal and the former Wimbledon champion was quick to suggest the scheduling was unreasonable.

The incident inspired world No 1 Iga Swiatek to suggest tennis official needs to change the way they organise the game’s biggest tournaments.

“Maybe we should focus more on what is healthy for players because we have to compete every week,” said Swiatek.

“The tour is so intense with travel and not actually having two days of calm and not working that it would be nice in the future to focus on players, especially next year when there will be more and more mandatory tournaments and longer tournaments.”

Experienced WTA Tour player Victoria Azarenka has suggested tennis chiefs need to change their scheduling to ensure fans and players are not alienated by the unpredictable orders of play.

“I absolutely lost it yesterday because we work so hard in the Players Council and I just felt so frustrated, like I’m not making a difference and I put a lot of time, a lot of effort,” said Azarenka.

“I try to be reasonable, I try to compromise, I try to create ideas and we are moving at the slowest pace to get things done.

“This is the only sport in the world where you don’t know when you will play. I look at it as a player, and it’s ridiculous.

“I look at it as a fan, and I don’t know which matches I’m going to go watch because I have no clue unless you’re very fanatical.

“We need to appeal to a bigger crowd to watch our sport. The night matches have to start earlier in the 6PM and 8:30PM slots.”

Adverse weather and day session matches that go on longer than expected can cause a backlog for the evening matches and Djokovic has suggested the introduction of two separate sessions each day is driving the problem.

Grand Slam events and several ATP Masters 1000 tournaments now have two daily sessions, with tickets on sale for both in an effort to drive up revenues and Djokovic suggests that is the big problem.

“The tournaments are normally looking to get more profit by selling the day session & night session tickets,” he told reporters.

“Nowadays, when the day session ends, they empty the big stadiums, bringing on the people for the night session. That takes time.

“Whether that’s good for players, maybe not ideal, but at the same time, you have to find balance between satisfying the fans. Tournaments are looking to obviously gain more profit & more revenue out of it.

“Then the night sessions are normally the most entertaining. You know, people get into it.

“US Open night sessions are probably the most famous night sessions in our sport. There is also something about it that gets you going.”

With tournament organisers maximising their income thanks to the introduction of night sessions, it seems unlikely that player welfare will be put ahead of commercial profits any time soon.

READ MORE: Victoria Azarenka lashes out at tennis chiefs and demands change