Australian Open officials have controversially decided to boot 10-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic from the Rod Laver Arena night time slot in preference of local hope Alex de Minaur. The World No.1 has played on the main court in the evening the last 15 times he has taken the court at Melbourne Park but on Sunday that streak will be broken.
Coco Gauff and Magdalena Frech will start play on Rod Laver Arena on Sunday from midday, with Djokovic to follow against Frenchman Adrian Mannarino. The night session will see de Minaur face fifth seed Andrey Rublev and the final game is yet to be announced but is expected to be a doubles match.
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Djokovic has dropped just two sets at the 2024 Australian Open as he looks to claim an unprecedented 11th Australian Open crown. On Friday night the Serb swept past Argentine Tomas Martin Etcheverry in straight sets, extending his undefeated run at Melbourne Park.
The World No.1 has not lost a match at the Australian Open since 2018 and brought up his 100th match at Melbourne Park in style, smashing 34 winners and never facing a break point in a routine 6-3 6-3 7-6 (7-2) victory. Djokovic becomes just the third player in Open history to reach the century mark, behind old rival Roger Federer (117 matches) and American legend Serena Williams (105).
However, the Serb will have to play his 101st game in the afternoon after de Minaur was given the prime time spot as he attempts to reach the quarter-final of his home grand slam for the first time. Last year, de Minaur was crushed by Djokovic in straight sets in the fourth round in front of a packed Rod Laver Arena. Social media was stunned by the decision to snub Djokovic with ticket holders up in arms that none of the top four men's players will feature in night action on Sunday, as fourth seed Jannick Sinner is scheduled to play an afternoon match on Margaret Court Arena.
A defending champion not playing in Rod Laver… I see… pic.twitter.com/xiRiS2Wa2B
— Laís | Jurídico da Sabalenka (@drwhittaker_) January 20, 2024
The stupidity of this scheduling. Spent hundreds for RLA tickets for tonight and tomorrow night only to not watch men’s no. 1, 2 or 3 🤦🏻♀️🤷🏻♀️
— TheFictionDreamer (@TheFictionDream) January 20, 2024
You actually gave him a day game. Hell has frozen over.
— Joe Kostowski (@JoeK64002711) January 20, 2024
Worst schedule ever
— Nguyen Long (@l11160075) January 20, 2024
Rod Laver says Novak Djokovic will win Australian Open again
On Friday, Rod Laver said Djokovic is playing "amazing" and believes he is not only the man to beat but practically has the Australian Open wrapped up. "He has all the shots. He knows exactly when he could play them and when he can't play them," Laver said.
"It is almost to me like he's priming himself to get through to the final. He'll lose a set somewhere in these five-setters and I'm thinking 'Is he having us on' because he could do this in two and two and two (6-2 6-2 6-2).
"He's such a great athlete to begin with, but his mind also is tennis and so he sees it almost unfold in front of him, just what he should be doing. That is how he is being a great champion. He serves well, his groundstrokes are unbeatable so I have to believe unless someone miraculously plays their best tennis to knock him off, they can start putting part of his initials on the trophy now."
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