Photo: Lukas Coch/AAP
Novak Djokovic added his voice to calls for changes to the Australian Open schedule amid growing concerns about the well-being and fairness of players at this year’s tournament in Melbourne Park.
Andy Murray had to be the substitute after just a day and a half after a grueling six-hour saga against Thanasi Kokkinakis that didn’t end until 4am local time, a highlight for the first time at this year’s grand slam.
After withdrawing from the tournament in a third-round defeat to Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday night, an exhausted Murray expressed his interest in reducing the number of show court matches during the day and pushing the night session forward to avoid playing into small hours. .
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley said he has no plans to change the schedule after the Murray-Kokkinakis marathon, which is unavoidable at the occasional late night Grand Slams, and broadcast deals are being considered to avoid imposing a breakpoint.
Related: Novak Djokovic dodges Dimitrov and pain, making it to the last 16 of the Australian Open
But pressure is mounting on Tiley to reconsider her stance, as nine-time Australian Open champion Djokovic supports the idea of a change after going to the fourth round in hamstring-impaired straight sets against Grigor Dimitrov.
“The contribution of the players is always important to the organization of the tournament,” Djokovic said. “Whether it’s decisive or not, we know it’s not about what TV broadcasters want to have. This is the final decision maker.
“Playing for the crowd is fun, exciting. [at] midnight, 1, 2, 3. It’s really tiring for us. If you win in such matches, even if you win, you still have to come back. You have a sleep cycle, the rhythm is completely broken, there isn’t enough time to really recover for another high five.
“After what we’ve seen this year, there is something that needs to be addressed in terms of the program.
Murray was hailed for his efforts after recovering two sets from behind to beat Australian wildcard Kokkinakis at 4:05 on Friday morning, with Scot calling the situation “a bit of bullshit”.
After his tournament ended on Saturday, Murray reiterated his view that “finishing games at four in the morning is not good for players”.
“I would also argue that it’s not good for everyone involved in the sport. I think there are some pretty simple things that can be done to change that.”
Murray pointed to recent changes to the US Open, where the number of matches on show courts in daytime sessions has been reduced from three to two.
“This will prevent day games from entering the night session, which starts too late. “I think it’s a pretty simple thing you can look at,” he said. “You still get quality matches during the day. People who bought floor passes would see more of the top players and that would be perfect for them.
“If you did, you could potentially bring the night sessions a little earlier as well, like 6:00 or 6:30. Then, those few hours could make a difference for the players. That’s probably worth something, yes, considering the progression.