Australian Open boss Craig Tiley won’t bow to player pressure and change new rules around spectator movement as he vowed to look at “every avenue” to reduce match lengths after more games finished in the early hours of the morning.
Tiley was beaming on Monday after men’s champion Jannik Sinner was handed the winner’s trophy after record crowds flocked to Melbourne Park with the event staged over 15 days for the first time.
But the tournament wasn’t without criticism as lengthy matches again played the first week with late starts pushing even women’s champion Aryna Sabalenka in to a post-midnight finish and Sinner’s quarter-final finished closed to 1:30am.
Players also criticised a new rule allowing spectators to enter and exit the stands at the end of every game, rather than at the traditional change of ends by players, which moved Australian Jason Kubler to label the Open the “most woke event” in tennis.
Tiley though said the rules would be remain in place for next year’s event.
“Absolutely. What we trialled this year was to enable our fans to come in to the stadium and not be stuck waiting for the game to open after the first game, third game, fifth game,” he said.
“Sometimes if the line is really long you can wait for 20 or 30 minutes. That’s not a good experience for our fans.
“Getting players used to a bit more movement, you have to be respectful of not distracting the players, so we do want our fans to sit down, especially at the north and south ends of the court.
“But generally the first few days was getting used to it and the last few days we had no comments from the players.”
Adamant staring the tournament earlier this year helped give players “on average” two extra hours to recover for their next match by spreading out the schedule, Tiley conceded more could be done to try and limit late-finishes.
He said 15 hours were lost to let calls on service, and removing them, as they do at junior events around the world, could shorten the length of matches.
But Tiley also said things like the length of warm-ups, and time lost between points, could be looked at while conceding sometimes matches, which don’t have a set time limit, sometimes just go long, which is not a problem specific to the Australian Open.
“We will consistently look for ways to look to reduce that (time) pressure, one way could be the lets, the other would be to make sure we start on time,” he said.
“You could look at the player warm-up, is it too long ? But these are things the sport needs to address, not just the Australian Open. This really needs to be driven by the players.
“On average, the length of the matches for the Australian Open was two minutes longer than last year. But there wasn’t any increase in playing time, those came between the points and other things that were going on, that we need to manage better.”