Novak Djokovic weighs in on debate over Australian Open schedule controversy

Ewan West
Novak Djokovic press conference
Novak Djokovic at an Australian Open press conference

Novak Djokovic has shared his thoughts on the controversy over the scheduling of matches at the Australian Open as there was another late finish to play at the 2024 tournament on Tuesday. 

The tennis great suggested scheduling less matches on the centre court and having a single session as potential solutions, but admitted these are “most likely not going to happen.”

Australian Open chiefs – and in particular Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley – have come under fire as matches have continued to be played late at night throughout the event in Melbourne.

World No 3 Daniil Medvedev finished his five-set second round match against Emil Ruusuvuori at around 3:40am local time, one of the latest finishes in the history of the tournament.

After Coco Gauff and Djokovic both won lengthy quarter-final matches on Tuesday, the schedule on Rod Laver Arena was delayed again. Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova were asked if they wanted to move their quarter-final match from the main court to Margaret Court Arena, but refused.

Jannik Sinner’s last eight win over Andrey Rublev in the last match of the day started and finished late – and it could have been much later had Sabalenka and Sinner not both won in straight sets.

Tiley had claimed before the tournament that making the Australian Open a 15-day event by starting on Sunday and having only two day session matches would address the issue. This clearly has not happened, though, with play for the night session still scheduled to start at 8pm at the earliest.

Following his quarter-final win over Taylor Fritz, Djokovic gave an in-depth response on the scheduling debate when asked if the Sinner-Rublev match finishing late would give him an advantage in the semi-finals.

“What kind of advantage will I have? We have two days. It’s not much of an advantage that I see there. We are playing semifinals on Friday, so plenty of time for whoever wins that match tonight to recover. Scheduling has become a hot topic, so to say,” the world No 1 said.

“We talked about it, I think few matches ago I talked about it on the press conference, and I couldn’t give a really clear answer to that, because, I mean, it’s really up to Grand Slams and our respective tours to think about the ways to accommodate both male and female players in a proper way so we have no late finishes.

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“I think ATP came up with this rule change, but that’s on ATP Tour. Grand Slams are not part of the ATP Tour. They have their separate rules and regulations that obviously are independent from our tours.

“We know that there are two sessions, right? So if you are scheduling two matches starting at 12:00 with men playing best-of-five, if it goes three, four hours, takes for them I think, whatever, 45 minutes to clean the stadium, bringing new fans for the night session, so it takes a lot of time, you know.

“Coco Gauff played a long match today. I played a very long match today. Then you have the night session starting two hours after they were scheduled, after the time they were scheduled. So not ideal, obviously not great also for Sinner and Rublev. I’m sure that they are not happy with a potential start of whatever.

“Yeah, we’ve seen in the past some late finishes. And I know for the crowds and for the tournament in a way it’s kind of exciting to see a 4:00am finish, a 3:00am finish. I was part of some of those, you know. But it’s definitely not fun for us, you know.

“The good thing about the quarter-finalist on the men’s section is we have two days. So I think that’s plenty of time to get a good sleep and recover. But yeah, I get your point. Look, there are different ways to address this.

“Maybe scheduling less matches on the centre court, doing it in one session, which is most likely not going to happen, because every session carries a lot of economical value for them. So of course they are going to communicate it and try it that way and try to get as many people for different sessions.

“And TV broadcasting, there’s a lot of elements that are in play. TV broadcasting pays a lot of money to the tournament and sponsors the tournament. So obviously, you know, in the end of the day, they are the ones drawing the line and saying, we want to see this player at that session or et cetera, et cetera.

“Even though of course Craig Tiley here, who is a great person, and I respect him a lot, and he’s always trying to do his best for the players. He’s a tournament director and he’s obviously trying always to communicate with players and take their opinions and consideration.

“But, you know, TV broadcasting channels have the biggest power. We know that. Which is not unusual because they are the ones that are giving us the stage, as well, the platform to reach out to millions of people around the world, which is great for us. Yeah, it’s hard to say what the best scenario is in this case.”

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