Zheng Qinwen is facing a brutal scheduling situation for her Australian Open semi-final against Dayana Yastremska on Thursday night, with the Chinese tennis handed a tight turnaround for her last-four showdown with the Ukrainian qualifier. Australian Open organisers have faced backlash over their scheduling decisions all tournament, having extended the grand slam to 15 days in an attempt to avoid late starts and give players more time to recover between matches.
American legend John McEnroe labelled it a "money grab" before the tournament and the extra day has done little to eliminate the late-night finishes or backlog of matches that has frustrated players and fans alike. Criticism against organisers erupted again on Tuesday over the decision to commence quarter-finals at 1pm and put all four matches on Rod Laver Arena.
'CAN'T BELIEVE IT': Aus Open fans shocked by Carlos Alcaraz scenes
'RIDICULOUS': Australian Open slammed for 'complete blunder'
Following the questionable move, some matches inevitably went longer meaning others subsequently started later than planned. The farcical scenes culminated in Aryna Sabalenka's quarter-final win against Barbora Krejcikova not getting underway until around two hours after the scheduled start time and Jannik Sinner's straight-sets win over Andrey Rublev not finishing until around 1:30am - in front of a largely empty stadium.
Zheng Qinwen cops rough Aus Open schedule
With the Australian Open kicking off on a Sunday for the first time in 2024, it meant the schedule gave some players a two-day break or more between their first and second round matches. What is particularly head-scratching is the fact Zheng has been given less than 24 hours between her stirring quarter-final win over Russian Anna Kalinskaya and her semi-final against Yastremska. In contrast, Djokovic and Sinner have three days rest between their quarters and semi-final matches.
Zheng's quarter-final finished just before 10pm on Wednesday and the late finish left her with a tight turnaround for the showdown against Yastremska, who romped to a straight-sets win over Czech teenager Linda Noskova some eight hours earlier. Zheng - who is hoping to emulate her idol Li Na by becoming China's only other grand slam singles winner - says the schedule has left her little time for reflection or recovery.
"I don't know if you can improve in less than 24 hours," Zheng said about the tight turnaround. "Basically I'll be just trying to recovery and think about what I have to do for the next match... there is nothing I can change too much in 24 hours, right? So just keep simple and let's go for it."
Comeback Queen 👑
Zheng Qinwen storms back from a set down against Kalinskaya to book her place in the semifinals, 6-7(4) 6-3 6-1 👏#AusOpen • #AO2024 • @wwos • @espn • @eurosport • @wowowtennis pic.twitter.com/MzuXFcGv4K
— #AusOpen (@AustralianOpen) January 24, 2024
Aryna Sabalenka wants 'revenge' against Coco Gauff
Defending champion Sabalenka will lock horns with reigning US Open winner and World No.4 Coco Gauff in the earlier women's semi-final on Thursday night. The Belarusian is bidding to become the first woman to win back-to-back Open crowns since compatriot Victoria Azarenka in 2013 and admits "revenge" is on her mind against Gauff, who defeated the 27-year-old in their previous battle, on the way to the US Open title.
"I love it. I love it," Sabalenka said about the showdown against Gauff. "After the US Open, I really wanted that revenge, that's a great match. The defending champion will go into the clash full of confidence after dropping just 16 games in five matches at this tournament.
However, Gauff has a favourable 4-2 winning record against the Belarusian, making Thursday night's semi-final an enticing proposition. "It's always great battles against Coco, with really great fights," Sabalenka added. "I'm happy to play her and I'm super excited to play that semi-final."
Sabalenka is riding a 12-match winning streak at Melbourne Park after claiming last year's title but Gauff has won her past 12 grand slam matches, meaning something has to give on Thursday night. "She's moving really well. Everything you do on court it's coming back," Sabalenka said about the American. "So you need to build the point probably a couple of times in one point to finish the point. That's why she's really tough opponent."
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.