Australian Open slammed for 'complete blunder' leaving tennis players and fans in limbo

The decision to push the Australian Open's start time back an hour on Tuesday has sensationally backfired.

Novak Djokovic, Coco Gauff and Marta Kostyuk at the Australian Open.
Australian Open officials have been left red faced by a scheduling call has thrown Day 10 into chaos. Image: Getty

Australian Open officials have been left red-faced after a scheduling call descended Day 10 into chaos. At the start of the tournament, officials added another day in an attempt to eradicate late finishes and delays.

But they made the peculiar decision to start the first quarter-final on Tuesday at 1pm instead of 12pm - as was the case in other day sessions. This was despite the fact that during this tournament, day sessions starting at midday had already run long and pushed back the night session. Delays to Tuesday's play were made even worse by organisers opting to schedule a legend’s doubles match at 12pm on Rod Laver Arena before the first official match was scheduled at 1pm.

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The likelihood of a late finish on Tuesday was clear following fourth seed Coco Gauff’s three-set clash with Marta Kostyuk. The match almost broke the record for the longest women’s match of the tournament, eclipsing the three-hour mark.

The lengthy quarter-final meant delays for the rest of the schedule as the women's match finished at 4.20pm, pushing back Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz's encounter. As the anticipated start time for the night session well and truly passed, Djokovic and Fritz's match was only into the third set. Djokovic stepped up his game in the third set, showing why he is a 10-time Australian Open champion before running away with the match in the fourth, winning 7-6 (7-3) 4-6 6-2 6-3 just before 8.30pm.

Serbia's Novak Djokovic hits a return against USA's Taylor Fritz during their men's singles quarter-final match on day 10 of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 23, 2024. (Photo by Paul Crock / AFP) / -- IMAGE RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - STRICTLY NO COMMERCIAL USE -- (Photo by PAUL CROCK/AFP via Getty Images)
After two long matches, the Australian Open night session has been delayed by multiple hours. Image: Getty (PAUL CROCK via Getty Images)

Tournament organisers put the Serb's clash with the American in the day session, so it would be in primetime for the US audience but after Gauff-Kostyuk started late and went all three sets, Djokovic and Fritz didn't get on the court until after 4:30pm AEDT.

Throughout the afternoon and night fans and commentators took to social media to voice their displeasure with the scheduling. Many were left stunned by the decision to push back the day's play and joked that the final match today between Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev may not start before midnight.

"Today’s 1pm start on RLA (instead of 12PM) could come back to haunt organisers. 5 games all in the second set of Kostyuk V. Gauff. If this goes 3 sets, and Djokovic v. Fritz goes 4 or 5, it’ll be a very delayed start to the night session on Rod Laver Arena," commentator Shane McInnes tweeted.

It appears that organisers have realised their error on Tuesday, with Wednesday’s schedule beginning with Linda Noskova taking on Dayana Yastremska at midday. That match will be followed by Daniil Medvedev’s clash with ninth seed Hubert Hurkacz.

Australian Open continues to fail to avoid late finishes and delays

Despite the tournament making some changes this year in a bid to reduce the late-night finishes, such as starting a day earlier, the first grand slam of the year has already seen multiple late finishes. Most notably Medvedev took five sets to beat Emil Ruusuvori in the second round, resulting in a 3,40am finish.

While a five-set epic in the final match of the night is always going to equate to a later finish than anticipated, the reason it ended so late was partially due to the day session running into the night session. On that day, women's top seed Iga Swiatek took more than three hours to defeat Danielle Collins and men's second seed Carlos Alcaraz was on court for almost three and a half hours in his match with Lorenzo Sonego. The first match of the night session also saw Elena Rybakina and Anna Blinkova go all three sets, meaning Medvedev and Ruusuvuori didn't get on court until after 11pm.

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