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Australian Open Extends Schedule by an Additional Day to Prevent Late-Night Matches

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In an effort to alleviate the strain on both players and fans, the Australian Open will extend its schedule by an additional day next year. This decision comes in response to a string of grueling matches in recent years that often concluded in the early hours of the morning.

The new 15-day schedule for January’s season-opening grand slam in Melbourne comes after growing calls to limit finish times across a notoriously crowded schedule marked by a number of matches going long into the night and taking a grueling toll on players.

At this year’s tournament, Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis famously ended a marathon battle at 4:05 a.m. in a second-round match that lasted nearly six hours.

Murray, a three-time grand slam champion and former world No. 1, was left fuming not just at the duration of the match but also because he was denied a chance to go to the toilet in the middle of the contest.

The Australian Open has a demanding schedule in the early rounds of the tournament; five matches are regularly played each day on the show courts – three during the day session and two at night.

“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,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said in a statement.

With the new changes, the tournament’s first round will last for three days, instead of the previous two, easing the squeeze in the busy opening stages.

The Australian Open’s new dates for 2024 will be January 14-28 and the Sunday start will increase the number of sessions across three arenas from 47 to 52. But organizers did not mention whether there would be a cutoff time for night matches.

The battle between Murray and Kokkinakis was only the second-latest finish in the tournament’s history.

Australian Open Extends Schedule by an Additional Day to Prevent Late-Night Matches

In 2008, Lleyton Hewitt beat Marcos Baghdatis in five sets at 4:33 a.m. after Roger Federer had taken four and a half hours to defeat Janko Tipsarevic earlier in the day.

Those late finishes are a bonus for international viewers in Europe and North America, who are able to enjoy the drama and tension of a five-set match in their daytime hours. But they are less fun for the players and those watching in the stands.

The lack of a time cap in tennis means matches last as long as it takes players to win.

Three out of the four grand slams – the Australian Open, the French Open and the US Open – currently schedule night sessions, while Wimbledon ends evening sessions at 11 p.m. with unfinished matches resuming the following day.

The Wimbledon curfew, introduced in 2009, was initially intended to ensure the safe departure of spectators from the venue. However, this cutoff has occasionally left fans in suspense during the most thrilling matches.

One of the most memorable instances was the longest professional match in Wimbledon’s history, which took place in 2010. In this epic contest, US player John Isner emerged victorious over his French opponent Nicolas Mahut after an astounding 11-hour battle played out over the course of three days.

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