It’s clear that changes were necessary in response to the immense popularity of modern tennis worldwide. To maximise profits throughout the day, organisers introduced evening matches, opting to split tickets and entry into two sessions: one during the day and another in the evening.
It seemed like the natural transition, with the US Open held in New York already hosting evening matches, whilst sports such as football and rugby all show evening matches to cater to a global television audience.
But as the game grows and matches get longer, tennis matches are now being played long into the night, and fans and players alike, aren’t so keen on the new scheduling.
“Tournaments seek to make more profit by selling tickets for the day and night sessions and I think before it was played in full session,” Novak Djokovic, the 24-time Grand Slam champion said during the US Open this year.
“Now, when the day session ends, they empty the stadium so that the people who will be in the night session can enter. It seems good for the players, maybe it’s not ideal, but you also have to find the balance to satisfy the fans. Tournaments are just looking for more profit and income.”
Just like Roland-Garros, the annual Grand Slam tennis tournament held in Paris, the Australian Open has been extended to a 15-day event to minimise the chance of late-night match finishes and alleviate the pressure on players, fans and organisers.
The change would see a minimum of two games played during the night sessions, down from three, to reduce the chance of late finishes. The Sunday start would also see the number of sessions increase from 47 to 52 across the three AO arenas in Melbourne: Rod Laver Arena, Margaret Court Arena and John Cain Arena.
“We’ve listened to feedback from the players & fans & are excited to deliver a solution to minimise late finishes while continuing to provide a fair & equitable schedule on the stadium courts,” Craig Tiley, AO Director said.
“The additional day will achieve this, benefiting scheduling for fans & players alike. The first round will now be played over three days instead of two, also giving fans an extra day of unbelievable tennis, entertainment, food & family fun.”
Whilst it’s a welcome addition to see that AO organisers are willing to address the possibility of late-night finishes, changing the schedule to feature a 3-day opening round won’t necessarily fix the problem, as it’s rare to see the first-round matches, which tend to be of lower quality, going for an extending period of time.
Hopefully, the change in the scheduling will address the growing issues facing modern tennis, and not, as fans and players believe, serve as a blatant money grab from AO organisers.