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John McEnroe takes aim at divisive Australian Open decision amid commentary return

The American great has taken aim at the grand slam for the new format.

John McEnroe interviews Novak Djokovic and McEnroe reacts.
John McEnroe (pictured right) has blasted the Australian Open having claimed this year's extended competition is nothing more than a 'money grab'. (Getty Images)

Tennis great John McEnroe has taken aim at the Australian Open ahead of its start calling the decision to extend the tournament to 15 days as a 'money grab'. McEnroe was a regular at the Australian Open for many years, but ESPN opted not to send him last year to the first grand slam of the year.

He also missed the US Open after falling sick. McEnroe is bag to commentating in 2024 and the outspoken former player has taken aim at the Australian Open only days out before the tournament starts. Australian Open boss Craig Tiley announced at the end of last year the tournament would move from 14 days to a 15-day competition.

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The idea was to eliminate late-night finishes. The best example of this was the furore surrounding Thanasi Kokkinakis and Andy Murray's 4am finish in the second round. Murray was critical of the finish and took aim considering the ball kids had to remain on court for the duration of the match.

And while Tiley has claimed the move will eliminate late finishes with matches moved due to the extra day, McEnroe blasted the idea and claimed it was nothing more than a money grab from the tournament. “First of all, it's a money grab as far as I'm concerned,” McEnroe said on an ESPN conference call ahead of the tournament.

“They just found another way to make some money. I don't agree with it. I'm a commentator. No one's particularly concerned about my feelings. The players, if they accept it and they're getting something from it, like some money for their pensions or retirement for some players that don't have insurance, I would say that's a good thing that they have added an extra day."

However, McEnroe does not think the players will benefit financially from the move and it just creates more days for the tournament. “I don't think that has happened, just like it didn't happen at the French Open. I completely disagree with it. That's probably me being selfish that I have to be away from home an extra day or two," McEnroe added.

McEnroe called for a 'commissioner' of tennis to be introduced to look after player welfare and create a uniform program for grand slams. Although this decision appears far off with grand slams and tour events often run separately. McEnroe will be part of the ESPN team to cover this year's Australian Open having been announced in the line-up.

John McEnroe interviews Rafa Nadal.
John McEnroe (pictured left) has been regular commentator at the Australian Open over the years although he isn't a fan of the 15-day tournament. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images) (Cameron Spencer via Getty Images)

Australian Open extends tournament

Last October, Tiley announced the tournament would move to 15-days after players and fans hit out at the late-night matches at the 2023 grand slam. "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," Tiley said in a statement.

Late night finishes and tournament schedules have been a major talking point between players and fans for some years with Novak Djokovic advocating for matches to finish earlier after being dragged into the drama at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open last year. At last 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."

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