Australian Open officials have announced the 2024 tournament will start on a Sunday and run for 15 days instead of the traditional 14. In a bid to reduce the jam-packed schedule and avoid the late-night finishes that infuriate fans and players, the Australian Open has added an extra day.
The 2024 edition will now start on Sunday January 14, rather than Monday the 15th as originally planned. It means the first-round matches will be played across three days rather than two.
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley said the change was made after officials listened to “players and fans”. The first week of the Australian Open always seems to feature marathon night sessions and matches that end up finishing well after midnight.
Thanasi Kokkinakis lost a five-set thriller to Andy Murray in January in a match that started around 10pm and finished after 4am. Murray later lashed out at the scheduling, describing it as "ridiculous" and a "farce".
Tiley said on Tuesday: “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. 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.”
The Sunday start will increase the number of sessions on the three showpiece courts - Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena - from 47 to 52. Day sessions on Rod Laver and Margaret Court will now feature a minimum of two matches, rather than the traditional three. Night sessions will continue to feature a minimum of two matches.
Andy Murray had blasted Australian Open schedule
Speaking after the farcical 4am finish against Kokkinakis, former World No.1 Murray said: “I don’t know who (the 10pm start is) beneficial for. We come here (to a press conference) after the match, and that’s what 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. I really appreciate people doing that, creating an atmosphere for us at the end. I really appreciate that. Some people need to work the following day and everything."
The Scottish veteran said he would be fuming if he was the parent of one of the ball kids who had to work (for free) until the early hours of the morning. “If my child was a ball kid for a tournament, they’re coming home at 5am in the morning, as a parent, I’m snapping at that," he said.
"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. We talk about it all the time. It’s been spoken about for years. When you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”
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