Australian Open 2023: Novak Djokovic demands change after more late-night madness

Novak Djokovic has called for change to the Australian Open schedule amid more late night madness at Melbourne Park.

Days after the Andy Murray-Thanasi Kokkinakis epic finished up at 4am, Victoria Azarenka’s match against Zhu Lin started just before midnight and only finished after 2am.

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Speaking earlier in the day, Djokovic declared change needed to happen with the late finishes ruining players’ preparations.

“Players’ input is always important for tournament organisation,” Djokovic said. “Whether it’s decisive, we know that it’s not because it comes down to what the TV broadcasters want to have. That’s the ultimate decision-maker.

“For the crowd, it’s entertaining, it’s exciting, to have matches [at] midnight, 1, 2, 3am. For us, it’s really gruelling. Even if you go through and win, prevail in these kind of matches, you still have to come back. You have your sleeping cycle, rhythm disrupted completely, not enough time really to recover for another five-setter.

“Something needs to be addressed in terms of the schedule after what we’ve seen this year.”

Unfortunately for Djokovic and other players, tournament director Craig Tiley has so far insisted there are no plans to change the schedule.

Lleyton Hewitt, who holds the record for the latest-finishing match at Melbourne Park for his 4.34am concluder against Marcos Baghdatis in 2008, has also backed playing late.

“For me, you never know it’s going to be a two-and-a-half hour match or a well-over-five-hour match,” Hewitt told Nine newspapers.

“It’s really hard scheduling wise. Some days with the weather and conditions, you just have to be ready to get on whenever you get put on. The match in 2008 with Baghdatis, there was talk about whether it was going to go ahead or not.

“I would prefer to go out there and play, especially when your opponent is already through, you get a day off in between five-set matches. That’s my take on it. Otherwise, if you have to back up two days in a row, against an opponent who has already got through, you’re certainly disadvantaged.”

We’re finally getting to the pointy end of the tournament and there were some epic round four clashes in the men’s side of the draw.

Third seed Stefanos Tsitsipas needed five sets to beat 15th seed Jannik Sinner, 29th seed Sebastian Korda went the distance to beat 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz in a fifth set tie-break, while the unseeded Jiri Ledhecka completed the “Netflix curse” by knocking out 6th seed Felix Auger-Aliassime in four sets.

But the most striking match came in 18th seed Karen Khachanov’s straight sets win over 31 seed Yoshihito Nishioka.

Khachanov incredibly won the first 14 games before surging into his maiden Australian Open quarter-final.

The Russian pulled of a 6-0 6-0 7-6 on John Cain Arena, with Nishioka winning just 13 points in the first two sets.

In set two, he managed only two points across six games in an embarrassing annihilation.

It’s called a “bronze set” and the tennis world was floored.

Khachanov appeared on track to become only the sixth player in Grand Slam history, and the first since 1993, to record a triple bagel win — 6-0 6-0 6-0 — before Nishioka finally won the 15th game to huge cheers from the crowd.

He face American Sebastian Korda in the quarterfinals.

“First two sets, I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “You’re going with the score, let’s say, too easy. Then Yoshi turned it around, pumped the crowd and I tried to stay focused from beginning to end.

“It’s not easy to win with this score, three sets, but I’m playing well and really happy to go through.”

However, on the women’s side of the draw, until the final match of the day between Victoria Azarenka and Zhu Lin, it was straight sets victories.

However, it was World No. 1 Iga Swiatek who was knocked out by 22nd seed and Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina, 7th seed Coco Gauff saying goodbye at the hands of 17th seed Jelena Ostapenka and 20th seed Barbora Krejcikova out to 3rd seed Jessica Pegula.

Two-time Australian Open winner Azarenka was also shocked in the first set by World No. 87 Zhu, before recovering in the second set and finishing off the two hour and 40 minute epic 4-6 6-1 6-4.

2.18am – Azarenka through to quarters

When matches start at nearly midnight, when would the match finish?

Another late night thriller has finished with two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka holding off World No. 87 Zhu Lin 4-6 6-1 6-4 in a spectacular performance.

But another early morning finish in Australia will only increase the pressure on the organisers with Rod laver Arena the only court used in the night session.

Azarenka said she’ll likely only get to sleep at 6am and have to sleep with a mask on during the day.

Azarenka will play World No. 3 Jessica Pegula in the next round.

11.23pm – Tsitsipas survives five-set thriller

World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas remains the highest seed man in the Australian Open draw after taking a dramatic five set thriller over 15th seed Jannik Sinner.

He books a quarterfinal with Jiri Lehecka in on Tuesday but it was another brilliant showdown as the Italian star bounced back from two sets down.

But Tsitsipas responded, claiming a 6-4 6-4 3-6 4-6 6-3 win.

The match took exactly four hours and the Greek star said it took a lot out of him.

“it was a long match guys. I felt like I spent an entire century on this court playing tennis. It felt so long. What a great night,” he said.

“I’m really excited to be sharing moments like this on the court, especially in Australia. I’m trying to do my best out here. It’s not easy, you know. I had unbelievable opponent on the other side of the court playing incredible tennis in the third and fourth set.

“I stayed really calm. Just like Mr Rod Laver used to do in his day,” Tsitsipas added, pointing to the Aussie legend who was watching the match.

“I feel my face burn from the effort I feel my face burn from the effort I put together. I might need to … I may need to jump in the Yarra River.”

Tsitsipas is still on track for his maiden grand slam and wouldn’t meet the other top 10 seeds left – 9th seed Holger Rune, 5th seed Andrey Rublev or No. 4 Novak Djokovic — until the final.

7.00pm – The Netflix curse is real

Jiri Lehecka has stunned sixth seed Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday to surge into the Australian Open quarter-finals in only his fifth Grand Slam appearance as yet another seed fell to complete the “Netflix curse”.

The 21-year-old Czech was knocked out in the first round at the four majors last year but was too hot for the sixth-seeded Canadian on Margaret Court Arena, winning 4-6 6-3 7-6 7-6.

It may also be bad news for Netflix if it hopes to continue its series Break Point as Auger-Aliassime was the tenth and final person to fall from the first part of the series.

6.30pm – Teen in tears after heartbreaking loss

Coco Gauff broke down in tears during an emotional press conference following her surprise exit from the Australian Open at the last-16 stage on Sunday.

The 18-year-old usually cuts a composed figure under the glare of the world’s media, despite her tender age.

But it all became too much when asked about the frustration she felt during her 7-5 6-3 fourth-round defeat to Latvia’s Jelena Ostapenko, the 2017 French Open champion.

“I worked really hard and I felt really good coming into the tournament, and I still feel good,” Gauff told reporters.

“I still feel like I’ve improved a lot. But, you know, when you play a player like her and she plays really well, it’s like there’s nothing you can do.”

The prodigiously talented American, who must now wait at least a bit longer for a first major crown, added: “I feel like today I would say nothing because every match you play a part in, but I feel like it was rough.

“So it’s a little bit frustrating on that part.”

Her voice suddenly began to crack, the tears flowed and the teenager was offered a tissue, before saying: “I’m OK. We can keep going.”

6.07pm – Aus Open champion’s son into quarters

Son of 1998 Australian Open champion Petr Korda, Sebastian Korda is into his first grand slam quarterfinal.

Korda’s incredible tournament, which saw him knock Daniil Medvedev earlier in the week, continued as he knocked 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz 3-6 6-3 6-2 1-6 7-6 in a hard-fought thriller.

5.50pm – ‘Horrible’ obliteration leaves tennis stunned

A dominant Karen Khachanov won the first 14 games before surging into his maiden Australian Open quarter-final on Sunday in a straight sets romp over Japan’s outclassed Yoshihito Nishioka.

The Russian 18th seed swept past his racquet-smashing opponent 6-0 6-0 7-6 on John Cain Arena.

Nishioka, seeded 31, was so out of touch in the opening two sets that he won just 13 points.

In set two, he managed only two points across six games in an embarrassing annihilation.

It’s called a “bronze set” and the tennis world was floored.

Khachanov appeared on track to become only the sixth player in Grand Slam history, and the first since 1993, to record a triple bagel win – 6-0 6-0 6-0 – before Nishioka finally won the 15th game to huge cheers from the crowd.

The victory put him into the last eight at a Grand Slam for the fifth time. His best result was reaching the semi-finals at the US Open last year, where he lost to Casper Ruud.

He will next face either American 29th seed Sebastian Korda or Polish 10th seed Hubert Hurkacz.

“First two sets, I didn’t know what was going on,” he said. “You’re going with the score, let’s say, too easy. Then Yoshi turned it around, pumped the crowd and I tried to stay focused from beginning to end.

“It’s not easy to win with this score, three sets, but I’m playing well and really happy to go through.”

The Russian, a former world number eight, has won four career titles, all on hard courts, and was simply too good for Nishioka.

— AFP

5pm – Rare triple bagel avoided

Russia’s Karen Khachanov is through to the quarterfinals after a straights sets win over Japan’s Yoshihito Nishioka.

Khachanov won the first two sets 6-0 6-0 and was so dominant he only lost two points in the second set.

But Nishioka fought back in the third set to salvage some pride and avoid a rare triple bagel.

3pm – Ostapenko wins another upset

Many expected a quarterfinal between Iga Swiatek and Coco Gauff, but both those title fancies have been knocked out of the draw in major fourth round upsets.

After Elena Rybakina eliminated Swiatek, 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko defeated American teenager Gauff 7-5 6-3.

2.10pm – World No. 1 knocked out

Iga Swiatek has been knocked out of the Australian Open by Elena Rybakina in a huge upset.

Reigning Wimbledon champion Rybakina won the first set 6-4 and hardly put a foot wrong throughout the match.

World No. 1 Swiatek broke early in the second set to take a 3-0 lead, but her advantage went up in smoke as Rybakina broke back to close out a very impressive 6-4 6-4 win.

“That is a seismic shock in the women’s draw here at the Australian Open,” the commentator said.

12.50pm – World No. 1’s early nightmare

Iga Swiatek got off to the worst possible start on Sunday against Elena Rybakina.

The World No. 1 was handed a code violation before her first serve for not being ready to start following the one-minute warning.

Once the match got underway things only got worse for Swiatek. After racing away to 40-0 on serve, Rybakina bounced back to break the heavy favourites serve and claim the early 1-0 lead.

Swiatek then held two break points as she looked to instantly respond, but once again it was the 22nd seed who had the answers as she powered through the points to take the 2-0 lead.

11.30am – Cold-blooded handshake stuns Aus Open

Local favourite Andy Murray couldn’t produce another heroic effort as he was knocked out in the third round by Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday night.

The British star coming off an almost six-hour, five-set epic against Thanasi Kokkinakis was feeling the effects and fell in four-sets as Bautista Agut advanced with the 6-1, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4 win.

But it was a moment after the match came to an end that captured the eye of fans watching on as the two men exchanged a rather frosty handshake at the net.

The fired up Spaniard and the shattered Brit slapped hands and barely made eye-contact as the two didn’t exchange any words before shaking the chair umpires hand.

Fans went wild over the footage as speculation mounted over the beef between the two stars of the game.

“That was quite the drive-by handshake from Murray there,” one wrote.

Another added: “Wow! That handshake at the net. Murray & Bautista Agut clearly dislike each other.”

A third wrote: “What was with that handshake between rba and Murray?”

Agut hinted in his press conference the crowd being completely behind Murray had got under his skin.

“He understands the game very well and he knows how to play with a crowd, how to play with the nerves of the opponent,” he said afterwards.

“Today was a tough match. I think I did a great job.”

11am – Swiatek chasing more silverware

Swiatek has won three Grand Slam crowns but never at Melbourne Park, where the 21-year-old reached the semi-finals last year.

The top seed will be desperate to add Australia to her US Open and French Open (twice) triumphs, and is hot favourite to do just that over the coming week.

But on day seven of the first major of the year, she faces a real last-16 challenge in Rybakina.

The Moscow-born Kazakh is seeded 22 but defeated last year’s Melbourne runner-up Danielle Collins in round three and beat world number two Ons Jabeur to win Wimbledon last year.

Rybakina has huge respect for Swiatek, who has dominated women’s tennis since the retirement last year of Australia’s Ashleigh Barty.

“For sure she’s very strong physically and mentally,” the 23-year-old said. “I think that if I’m going to play my game, aggressive, I’m going to be solid from the beginning till the end, I have all the chances.”

– AFP

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