Australian Open 2019

ATP and WTA Tours combine with ‘strategic review’

In their latest collaboration, the ATP and WTA Tours have come up with a ‘strategic review’ to reduce the number of late-night finishes and the problems caused by frequent ball changes.

The intention is to move towards a more centralised approach between the two tours to ultimately combat some of the most prevalent scheduling issues that surround the sport.

Recent years on tour have played host to some of the latest-ever finishes, with crammed schedules forcing matches to start at obscene times.

In November, Jannik Sinner took to the court at 00:30 local time for his last-32 encounter with Mackenzie McDonald at the Paris Masters – a match that he won, but at what cost? The Italian claimed victory in the early hours of the morning but later withdrew from the tournament, citing an insufficient gap between matches.

Not to forget the five-set marathon match between Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis at last year’s Australian Open that finished at 4:15am.

Match scheduling

To prevent further circumstances, which come partly as a result of an increase in the average match length on the tours, the following guidelines will be in effect from January 2024.

With these measures, scheduling at tournaments should be made easier and the changes will be welcomed by players and fans alike.

It is the first step of many in an attempt to combat the scheduling issues that hampers the success of men’s and women’s tennis.

Tennis balls

“Match scheduling and tennis balls are both priority topics on our agenda, together with the WTA,” ATP chairman Andrea Gaudenzi said.

“It’s imperative that we evolve and adapt to the demands of the modern game, particularly where player health and fan experience are concerned.”

The inconsistencies of balls used on a weekly basis has also sparked controversy in recent times, with Carlos Alcaraz and Daniil Medvedev among those to air their concerns.

World No.1 Novak Djokovic made it very clear to Gaudenzi how he felt about the situation last year, and those conversations may have initiated action from the governing bodies.

“We feel it is important that these initiatives are fully aligned between the two tours,” WTA chairman Steve Simon added.

“It will allow for athletes to perform at their highest levels, providing for an improved athlete and fan experience. The athlete’s direct feedback in cooperation with our event members has been terrific in allowing us to continue modernising our sport.”

Inside the baseline…

It is refreshing to see some action being taken against these prevalent issues, especially as it comes from both tours in a united effort. But frankly, it should not have taken this long for something to be done about those concerns. Despite the progress that will hopefully be made in terms of scheduling, it’s hard to predict how successful the measures will be, particularly due to the uncertainty of tennis match as well as the increase in average match length.

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Jerome Coombe, Tennishead Writer, discovered his love for tennis journalism whilst studying languages and playing competitive tennis. He has a wide knowledge of tennis, from the ITF circuit right through to the ATP/WTA Tours, and strives to shed a light on all corners of the sport.