The Australian Open on Tuesday joined Roland Garros in extending its running time by a day, turning the January major into a 15-day slough.
The new twist was hyped by organisers as an “historic first” and was designed to blunt growing criticism of poor match scheduling which has seen early round contests at Melbourne Park start after midnight or end in the wee small hours of the next day.
The diabolical trend was begun several editions ago in Paris, which is now firmly established as a 15-day ordeal – with an extra day of ticket and on-site fan sales thrown in as a money-spinning sweetener.
Wimbledon made its deal with the devil at last summer’s edition, scheduling matched on the formerly sacred Middle Sunday in order to get more punters through the gates.
Melbourne bosses spun the schedule change in the brightest of terms.
“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,” TD Craig 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.”
In an effort to actually cut back on post-midnight finishes, the event will cut day session matches from three to two Rod Laver and Margaret Court arenas
Night sessions – conspicuously the main problem – will continue to feature two matches.
Main photo:- Night sessions on Rod Laver Arena often run well into the night – by Roger Parker International Sports Fotos Ltd.