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Novak Djokovic dragged into 'disgraceful' US Open scheduling drama

The World No.2 was made to wait for his highly-anticipated US Open return.

Novak Djokovic ready to serve and Djokovic holding a towel.
US Open fans have been left fuming after Novak Djokovic (pictured) was made to wait till around 11pm local time to play his opening match on day 1 of the grand slam. (Images: Twitter/Getty Images)

Tennis fans have been left fuming after Novak Djokovic was made to wait till around 11pm local time to make his official US Open return after a scheduling debacle. Djokovic made his return to the US after two years and secured victory in one of the penultimate matches on Arthur Ashe Stadium on day 1 in Flushing Meadows.

However, Coco Gauff's dramatic three-set victory stretched on into the night. A presentation after her match saw Djokovic waiting in the locker room till around 10.45pm to take to the court.

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Fans around the world were eager to see Djokovic make his return in New York. And the World No.2 received an almighty cheer when entering the court to face French youngster Alexandre Muller.

But the talk surrounding the champion's return was the bizarre time he had been scheduled to play his opening round match. Jelena Dokic mentioned the World No.2 wouldn't want his matches to drag out and finish at 2-3am if he could avoid it.

"Potentially long nights, if there is anyone that knows how to adjust to that, it's Novak," she said on Channel Nine coverage. And Djokovic was clearly aware of how important it was to avoid a late night finish having raced through the first set 6-0 in just 23 minutes.

Djokovic was made to work harder in the second set as the time ticked past midnight local time. But Djokovic looked sharp as he defeated Muller 6-0, 6-2, 6-3 to secure the World No.1 title. And tennis fans were left fuming the World No.2 was scheduled for the late session on his highly-anticipated US Open return.

Djokovic addressed the late schedule in his on-court interview. "Started quite late. Nevertheless, I was excited to go out on court. It has been a couple of years," he said. Djokovic then joked that a number of people in the crowd were well past their bedtime.

"Thanks for all the people that stayed late. These children should all go to sleep," he said, prompting a laugh from the crowd.

Novak Djokovic hits a backhand.
Novak Djokovic (pictured) has returned to the US Open after two years. (Photo by COREY SIPKIN/AFP via Getty Images) (COREY SIPKIN via Getty Images)

Djokovic has repeatedly talked about scheduling at grand slam tournaments before. As this year's Australian Open, Djokovic said while it might be exciting, playing into the early hours of the morning was hard on the players.

“For the crowd, it’s entertaining, it’s exciting, to have matches [at] midnight, 1, 2, 3am. For us, it’s really gruelling," he said. "Even if you go through and win, prevail in these kind of matches, you still have to come back. You have your sleeping cycle, rhythm disrupted completely, not enough time really to recover for another five-setter.

“Something needs to be addressed in terms of the schedule after what we’ve seen this year. This year, Djokovic was caught up in Wimbledon's controversial curfew.

Djokovic has spoken about grand slam scheduling in the past, and said starting earlier on centre court at Wimbledon could prevent a match being delayed and continued the next day under different conditions.

Novak Djokovic reacts during the match.
Novak Djokovic (pictured) had to wait till 11pm to play his first match at the US Open. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) (Sarah Stier via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic regains World No.1 title

Djokovic regained the World No.1 title off Carlos Alcaraz after progressing into the second round. The duo are on opposite sides of the draw with many pointing out Djokovic was more fortunate with his potential path to the final.

His path was made potentially easier with World No.4 Holger Rune falling on day 1 of the US Open. Regardless of the draw, many tennis fans are still expecting, and hoping, an Alcaraz-Djokovic final with the pair playing out an all-time classic at the Cincinnati Open last week.

The pair also met in the Roland Garros semi-final and played out an all-time classic Wimbledon final. However, Djokovic has remained level-headed leading into the tournament and said he wasn't looking past Muller.

"I think it's also in a way disrespectful to your next opponent if you're already thinking about your finals matchup. Even though I've had tremendous success, maybe you could argue that I could start thinking about later phases and stages in the tournament," Djokovic said.

"But that kind of mindset never really resonated with me."

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