Tourney director says AO won’t alter schedule

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Tournament director Craig Tiley said there are no plans to alter the Australian Open schedule to avoid late starts and finishes to matches, even after Andy Murray labeled the 4:05 a.m. (local time) end to his second-round win over Thanasi Kokkinakis as “a bit of a farce.”

Murray triumphed over Australia’s Kokkinakis in a five-setter that lasted 5 hours, 45 minutes, but because previous matches on Margaret Court Arena finished later than expected throughout the day session Thursday, the pair didn’t begin the match until 10:20 p.m.

Speaking to Channel 9 in Australia on Friday morning, Tiley said tournament bosses would “look at” the circumstances that led to the second-latest Grand Slam finish of all time — the 2008 epic between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis here ended at 4:38 a.m. — but does not expect to make any changes for this Australian Open.

“At this point, there’s no need to alter the schedule,” Tiley said. “We will always look at it, when we do the (Australian Open) debrief, like we do every year.

“But at this point, at what it is, we’ve got to fit those matches in the 14 days, so you don’t have many options.”

Tiley cited a number of extraneous factors in affecting the first week of the Open; severe weather caused significant delays and suspensions of early-round matches on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“It’s extremely difficult. There’s so many variables that go into thinking about how you’re going to make it work each day,” he said. “Over the last three days, we’ve had extreme heat, over five breaks of rain, we’ve had cold, and it’s Melbourne … we’ve had three late nights with scheduling to try and catch up with matches.

“You are going to have an out-of-the-box situation, like last night, where it goes extra long, unexpectedly … There’s always one.

“You’ve also got to protect the matches. If you just put one match at night and there was an injury, you don’t have anything for the fans or the broadcasters.”

On the court following the longest match of his career, Scotland’s Murray said tennis as a whole needed to look to “change this business of playing at 3 or 4 in the morning.”

“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for,” he then said in his post-match news conference. “A match like that, yeah, we come here after the match, and [the finish time is] what discussion is. Rather than it being like, ‘Epic Murray-Kokkinakis match,’ it ends in a bit of a farce.”

The three-time Grand Slam winner went on to say that late finishes aren’t “beneficial” to anyone involved — from ball kids, to fans, to workers at the tournaments.

“If my child was a ball kid for a tournament, they’re coming home at 5 in the morning, as a parent, I’m snapping at that,” he said. “It’s not beneficial for them. It’s not beneficial for the umpires, the officials. I don’t think it’s amazing for the fans. It’s not good for the players. So, yeah, [players] talk about it all the time. It’s been spoken about for years. When you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”

Murray’s brother, Jamie, posted on social media during the match that it’s “time for tennis to move to only one match at the night sessions at Grand Slams.”

“This is the best outcome for ALL singles players. We can’t continue to have players compete into the wee hours of the morning. Rubbish for everyone involved — players/fans/event staff Etc.”

Hall of Famer Martina Navratilova tweeted that it’s “essential” for tennis to find a way to be flexible in circumstances such as what happened in the Murray-Kokkinakis match.

“It is essential we create better rules in tennis regarding the weather (light and wind) and starting times or cut-off times for matches,” she wrote. “Murray and Kokkinakis will finish around 4am. Crazy — no other sport does this.”

Murray faces Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the fourth round on Saturday.

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