With the night session already running over two hours behind due to the farcical scheduling at the Australian Open on Tuesday, did we really need Nick Kyrgios and Novak Djokovic giggling their way through an on-court interview? Organisers of the grand slam copped widespread backlash on Tuesday over the inexplicable decision to commence the quarter-finals at 1pm and put all four matches on Rod Laver Arena.
Play usually starts at 11am or midday at Melbourne Park, but Coco Gauff's clash with Marta Kostyuk didn't get underway until 1pm. The plan was for Novak Djokovic and Taylor Fritz to follow Gauff and Kostyuk in the afternoon session, before Aryna Sabalenka and Barbora Krejcikova at 7pm in the night session followed by Jannik Sinner and Andrey Rublev.
'WON'T GO AWAY': Harsh truth for Cruz Hewitt after Australian Open debut
But organisers didn't give themselves nearly enough leeway, sparking an absolute farce when Gauff took over three hours to beat Kostyuk. That threw the whole schedule out of whack, with Djokovic and Fritz not getting on court until after 4pm and finishing near 9pm.
It meant fans who had tickets to the night session were left sitting around at Melbourne Park for over two hours waiting to get into Rod Laver Arena. Photos have emerged showing fans slumped up against walls and sitting in corridors watching the Djokovic and Fritz match on TV screens, hoping and praying for it to end.
Officials actually asked Sabalenka and Krejcikova if they wanted to relocate to Margaret Court Arena, and Sabalenka later admitted that she would have taken up the offer if Djokovic and Fritz went to a fifth set. But Djokovic got the job done in four, sparing organisers even more of a disaster.
Why did we need Nick Kyrgios interviewing Novak Djokovic?
But with ticket-holders for the night session locked out of Rod Laver Arena and waiting for over two hours, questions were asked as to why we needed to watch Kyrgios interview Djokovic. The post-match interview had been pre-planned, with Kyrgios doing some commentary for ESPN and Eurosport during the tournament.
— Eurosport (@eurosport) January 23, 2024
The interview itself was insightful and unique to watch, but left infuriated fans waiting in the wings even longer. American journalist Ben Rothenberg questioned why it wasn't ditched so the night session could finally begin and give some fans some relief.
"Night session started more than an hour [and] a half ago, why are they doing a full-length interview right now?" he wrote on social media. "The Australian Open is utterly unserious when it comes to scheduling."
You're absolutely right. It will never change though because whichever TV channel holds the rights in Aus uses the tournament as a vehicle to advertise all their upcoming shows for the year and it's in their interests to keep eyes on screens for as many hours as possible
— Dave (@Mesut_Ausil) January 23, 2024
Totally right.. but it was a nice interview 😀
— Tennistonic (@tennistonic) January 23, 2024
Australian Open savaged over 'ridiculous' scheduling fail
The interview only went for around four minutes, but surely you ditch the post-match chat when things are running so late. When Sabalenka and Krejcikova finally got on court after 9pm, there were thousands of empty seats scattered around Rod Laver Arena.
The night session for a quarter-final would normally be close to a sell-out at the Australian Open, but fans had clearly given up and gone home. Considering it was a weekday, hardly anyone stuck around until 1.30am - which is when Sinner and Rublev's match finished up.
It could have been even worse if Sabalenka and Sinner's matches had been long affairs, but mercifully they were straight-sets wins. Tellingly, the day session will start at midday on Wednesday, with organisers moving to rectify their mistake straight away.
The farce comes after organisers added an extra day into the schedule for the 2024 tournament, starting on a Sunday rather than the traditional Monday. The 15-day tournament was touted as a way to avoid the late-night finishes that have plagued the event over the years, but it clearly hasn't worked.
American legend John McEnroe labelled it a "money grab" to add an extra day of selling tickets and advertising spots on TV. Maybe he is right.
I have tickets to RLA tonight and you expect people to hang around until potentially past midnight for the evening men’s match? What a disgrace! Appalling scheduling yet again. Absolute joke!
— McFlyy.eth (@mcflyyeth) January 23, 2024
The times for these matches are a disgrace😴😪 @AustralianOpen
— Orlando Guerra (@orlandoguerra89) January 23, 2024
The men's Quarter Final for the @AustralianOpen starting after 10.30pm, ridiculous.
— Andrew Hurley (@AndyHurleyaust) January 23, 2024
— Alon Esterman (@aesty_18) January 23, 2024
Appalling scheduling by the @AustralianOpen. When will they actually learn? Becoming a joke and not only diminishes crowds and the spectacle but is patently unfair for those players having to play into the early hours.
— McFlyy.eth (@mcflyyeth) January 23, 2024
Australian open scheduling is a total joke games potentially finishing at 4am farce
— Adam Clarkson (@AdamAJ76) January 23, 2024
The Australian Open is a joke when it comes to scheduling. So many matches starting well past 11pm and finishing after 2am. How must players recover?
— Zweli Mbhele (@TheZweli) January 23, 2024
Sign up to our newsletter and score the biggest sport stories of the week.