Australian Open won’t finish late finishes – but Andy Murray proves something ‘bullshit’ needs to change

Exhausted Great Britain Andy Murray reacts in second round match against Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis - Lukas Coch/Shutterstock

Exhausted Great Britain Andy Murray reacts in second round match against Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis – Lukas Coch/Shutterstock

The Australian Open ballmaster’s father has called for a curfew to protect young people from the stress of extreme late-night finishes.

The 13-year-olds were working at Margaret Court Arena until 4:05 p.m. Friday morning as Andy Murray struggled in the longest game of his career.

Later, Murray told reporters: “As a parent, if my child is a ball picker for a tournament and comes home at five in the morning, I would be very angry. It is not useful for them. It is useless to referees and officials. I don’t think it’s surprising to fans. It’s not good for the players.”

Bendigo Tennis Club president Damien Saunder told Telegraph Sport about his 15-year-old son Flynn’s experience last year, which involved working in a 3-hour 23-minute night game between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Taylor Fritz at Rod Laver Arena.

“We got home around 1:00 am,” Saunder said, “and then you’re so nervous after all the excitement that it’s hard to sleep. I remember having to make a call to California at 6 am the next morning with my eyes out, and I think Flynn until I got him out of bed. He slept until 10 in the morning, but the next day he was absolutely ruined and then we had to leave at noon for his next shift.

“Overall, it’s been a positive experience for us, but there comes a moment when we’re like, ‘Is this ball-kids-friendly?’ And for everyone else, because how do thousands of people get home? I know actors don’t like to come back the next day and lose their days off, but that’s what can happen when it rains or it’s extremely hot. I think we need to keep an eye on our main actors here and decide not to go past 2am.”

Voices around the tennis world have expressed concern about the scenes being played at Margaret Court Arena on Thursday night. “It’s crazy for players to risk so much and play at this level at this hour,” said Eurosport’s John McEnroe. “To me, this is ridiculous. It’s going to be a game people talk about, but it’s also going to have a huge impact on Andy’s chances of getting deeper into the tournament.”

But tournament director Craig Tiley defended the program on host broadcaster Channel Nine. “There’s no need to change the program at this point,” Tiley said. “There is always someone [freakishly long match]and it’s hard to plan the whole event around the once-in-a-lifetime probability. You also have to protect the matches. If you only play one game at night and there is an injury, you have nothing left for the fans or the broadcasters.”

Evidence that tennis matches are getting longer

It’s true that programming tennis is devilishly difficult. What makes the scoring system so interesting, namely the fact that you lose one match point and then find yourself playing two more sets, hurts timings. When you add in possible injuries, tournaments come with such a variety of scenarios that it’s impossible to plan them all.

But while Tiley scores valid points, tennis as a whole fails to address the creeping trend for longer matches. Players are getting fitter and the margins are getting tighter, leading to closer competitions. Research by John Dolan of the Lawn Tennis Association reveals that there were 55 three-hour matches last year on the WTA Tour, from zero in 2000.

Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz (right) shakes hands with Italian Jannik Sinner (left), who beat him in the five-hour quarterfinals of the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows - Jason Szenes/Shutterstock

Spaniard Carlos Alcaraz (right) shakes hands with Italian Jannik Sinner (left), who beat him in the five-hour quarterfinals of the US Open Tennis Championships at the USTA National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows – Jason Szenes/Shutterstock

As a result, these late-night anomalies, such as heat waves or other extreme weather events, are becoming more common with each passing year. You can see it as golf’s equivalent of the distance problem, as the advent of Bryson DeChambeau’s 400-yard rides transforms respectable courses into gigantic pitch-strikes.

Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner’s match at the US Open in September is another recent example. A 5 hour and 15 minute arm wrestling extended the night session to 2.50 am – a new record for the tournament. The best-of-five-set format of men’s grand slam matches makes major teams particularly susceptible to these scenarios, but they also show up in the ATP Round.

Despite a schedule of best-of-three sets, Alexander Zverev and Jenson Brooksby found themselves finishing in 4.55, a new record in a game that started at 1:30 in Acapulco last February.

Criminal balls?

So what is the solution? The idea of ​​a curfew that Saunder proposes may be beneficial for children playing ball and other staff members, but players hate the idea of ​​interrupting the flow. Perhaps a match can be removed from the daytime schedule to avoid the common situation where the night session starts late. And the easiest tweak would be to shorten the rallies by speeding up the courts and balls.

Dunlop balls used in this tournament have come under heavy criticism from Rafael Nadal and others, although the organizers insist they are unchanged from last year. “At the beginning of the game,” Murray said at a brief press conference at 4:30 a.m. Friday, “I felt like there was no pressure on the ball, it was almost flat. So it’s very difficult to hit the winners once they’re in rallies. I think yesterday was a 70-shot rally or all of a sudden. There were more than 35-40 rounds of rallies, which is not normal.”

Neither comes back to your apartment at sunrise, which is what a tired Murray faced at 5:30 am.

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