Australian Open under fresh fire as Jessica Pegula rips 'crazy' farce

The American star has become the latest big name to criticise Australian Open officials.

Jessica Pegula, pictured here at the Australian Open.
Jessica Pegula has criticised the Australian Open's late-night scheduling. Image: Getty

American star Jessica Pegula has become the latest high-profile name to criticise the Australian Open's treatment of players. Controversy erupted on Friday after Andy Murray's second-round clash with Thanasi Kokkinakis finished at 4.05am.

The match didn't get underway until after 10pm and finished well into Friday morning after going to five sets. Altogether the match lasted five hours and 45 minutes, falling just short of the Australian Open's longest match ever - the five hour and 53 minute final between Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal in 2012.

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Tennis Australia has copped heat from players and fans in the aftermath, with many calling for changes to be made to 'ridiculous' scheduling that constantly sees matches starting late at night in grand slams. On Friday afternoon, Pegula labelled the farcical scenes involving Murray and Kokkinakis 'crazy'.

"There's no sport that does that," she said after her 6-0 6-2 win over Marta Kostyuk. "I don't think it's very good. It's long even for TV. I don't know who wants to do that. I don't think they want to do that.

"It is definitely something that needs to be talked about and changed. I know it doesn't happen that often, but when it's happening at a grand slam, at the biggest stage, those guys, that could be the next round for them or the tournament.

"Doing that is not healthy. The recovery, I can't even imagine mentally and physically. People also don't realise, you can't sleep after that either. You're so wired.

"I don't even know if he (Murray) could get any sleep after that. It's definitely something that needs to be talked about because I don't think any of the players think that should be happening at all."

Tennis fans, pictured here watching Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open.
There were plenty of fans who stuck around to watch Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Speaking after the match, Murray said he'd be fuming if he was the parent of a ball kid who came home at 5am after taking part in his match. The treatment of ball kids has also been in the spotlight during the Australian Open after fans came to the realisation that they don't get paid.

"I don't know who it's beneficial for," he said in his post-match press conference, which still went ahead despite the clock approaching 5am on Friday. "We come here after the match and that's what the discussion is. Rather than it being like, epic Murray-Kokkinakis match, it ends in a bit of a farce.

"Amazingly people stayed until the end. And I really appreciate people doing that and creating an atmosphere for us at the end. I really appreciate that.

"But if my child was a ball kid for a tournament and they're coming home at five in the morning, as a parent, I'm snapping at that. It's not beneficial for them, it's not beneficial for the umpires, the officials, I don't think it's amazing for the fans, it's not good for the players."

The match clock, pictured here after Andy Murray's win over Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open.
Andy Murray's win over Thanasi Kokkinakis was the second-longest match in Australian Open history. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Australian Open boss defends late-night farce

But Tennis Australia boss Craig Tiley has since dismissed the criticism, saying there's not much that can be done when so many matches need to be crammed into the schedule. He told Channel 9: "At this point, there's no need to alter the schedule.

"We will always look at it when we do the (post-tournament) debrief, like we do every year. But at this point ... we've got to fit those matches in the 14 days so you don't have many options.

"Over the last three days, we've had extreme heat, over five breaks of rain, we've had cold ... we've had three late nights with scheduling to try and catch up with matches."

Murray's older brother Jamie Murray had earlier questioned why two matches were held back-to-back after 7pm. The doubles champion wrote on Twitter: "Time for tennis to move to only one match at the night sessions at grand slams.

"This is the best outcome for ALL singles players. We can't continue to have players compete into the wee hours of the morning. Rubbish for everyone involved - players/fans/event staff etc."

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with AAP

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