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Mark Philippoussis inadvertently caught up in 'pathetic' Australian Open controversy

The Aussie tennis legend's doubles match threw the schedule into chaos on Tuesday.

Mark Philippoussis, Coco Gauff and Marta Kostyuk at the Australian Open.
A legends doubles match featuring Mark Philippoussis (R) was the first match on Rod Laver Arena, followed by Coco Gauff and Marta Kostyuk (L). Image: AAP/Getty

Aussie tennis great Mark Philippoussis inadvertently became the cause of all the Australian Open's troubles on Tuesday when his legends doubles match created a scheduling disaster. Tennis fans and commentators took Australian Open officials to task over the decision to begin four singles quarter-finals at 1pm on Tuesday, instead of the usual 11am or midday start.

Coco Gauff's win over Marta Kostyuk took over three hours to complete, before Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz also played a long four-setter. The two matches were supposed to be finished by 7pm, at which point the night session would begin with Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova, followed by Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev.

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But Djokovic's match didn't finish until closer to 9pm, meaning fans with tickets to the night session were locked out for two hours. When the night session finally began there were thousands of empty seats around Rod Laver Arena, with fans evidently sick of waiting and heading home to get some sleep before work on Wednesday.

Tennis fans at the Australian Open.
The night session at the Australian Open was far from a sell-out. (Photo by Andy Cheung/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

And the farcical situation was all down to the fact that organisers inexplicably decided to put a legends doubles match - featuring Philippoussis - as the first on Rod Laver Arena on Tuesday morning. Philippoussis teamed up with Marcos Baghdatis to beat Thomas Johansson and Robert Lindstedt, but couldn't have imagined the havoc that the match was about to produce.

Sabalenka and Krejcikova didn't get on court until around 9pm, and by the time Sinner had beaten Rublev it was 1.30am. Organisers would have been counting their lucky stars that Sabalenka and Sinner didn't play long matches, otherwise we would have been looking at another 4am finish that organisers had supposedly taken steps to avoid this year.

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Organisers immediately took steps to rectify the situation for Wednesday, starting play at midday instead of 1pm. They even asked Sabalenka and Krejcikova if they wanted to relocate to Margaret Court arena on Tuesday night so the night session could begin, but they declined.

Sabalenka later revealed that she would have taken up the offer if Djokovic and Fritz went to a fifth set. "There was the possibility that one of our matches will be moved, but we just decided to see how the Novak and Fritz match will go," Sabalenka explained in her press conference. "If it's gonna be too long, then we kind of agreed for the possibility to be moved, but Novak won third and fourth sets, so we just went on court as normal."

The women's World No.1 said she believed Sinner and Rublev were offered the same move. "I'm pretty sure they asked the guys if they want to move, but yeah. It's not like they pushed us, you know," she said. "They just ask our opinion and what we are thinking about being moved."

Jannik Sinner, pictured here after beating Andrey Rublev at the Australian Open.
Jannik Sinner finished up around 1.30am after beating Andrey Rublev. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images) (AFP via Getty Images)

Fritz said he felt for Sinner and Rublev having to play into the early hours of the morning, especially before a semi-final in the Italian's case. Thankfully he and Djokovic have two full days off before the men's semis on Friday.

"It just screws up your whole clock. I pray for those guys," Fritz said. "If they end up doing that, then they can at least get scheduled at that time for the rest of the tournament. If you have to turn around and play in the afternoon in any of the other days, it just completely messes your sleep schedule.

"There's got to be something they can do to where people aren't playing until 2-3am. I don't think people really fully understand how much time we actually have to spend doing stuff after we finish playing as far as like ice bath, treatment with physios, massage, all this stuff. If you finish at 2am, there is no chance I'm going to sleep until 5am, 6am."

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