US Open Ambience 2019

US Open confirm night session will remain despite backlash

US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster has announced that night sessions will remain at the US Open this year, which has prompted responses from the likes of former No.1’s Novak Djokovic and Victoria Azarenka.

Scheduling has become a big topic of discussion in recent weeks, following rain delays at the Canadian Open meaning that a contest between Elena Rybakina and Daria Kasatkina finished at around 3am.

Rybakina went onto describe the WTA as ‘weak’ and ‘unprofessional’ following her exit from the tournament, revealing that she was feeling ‘destroyed’.

This situation resulted in runner-up Liudmila Samsonova having to play both her semi-final and final matches on the same day, with the Russian only winning one game against Jessica Pegula in the final.

At the US Open last year a number of matches finished in the early hours, including the incredible five-set quarter-final contest between eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, that finished at 2:50am.

The night session on the Arthur Ashe stadium begins not before 7pm and consists of two matches, being billed as the matches of the day.

This is something that two-time Grand Slam champion and WTA Player Council Member Victoria Azarenka has voiced issue with, “I try to be reasonable, I try to compromise, I try to create ideas and we are moving at the slowest pace to get things done.”

The Belarusian continued, “This is the only sport in the world where you don’t know when you will play. I look at it as a player, and it’s ridiculous. I look at it as a fan, and I don’t know which matches I’m going to go watch because I have no clue unless you’re very fanatical.

“We need to appeal to a bigger crowd to watch our sport. The night matches have to start earlier in the 6PM and 8:30PM slots.”

Novak Djokovic appears to be looking at the situation from a more balanced perspective, “Throughout my career, I have also experienced very late match endings. It doesn’t usually happen regularly, but from time to time. And now many tournaments are introducing night sessions that they didn’t have before.

“Tournaments seek to make more profit by selling tickets for the day and night sessions and I think before it was played in full session. Now, when the day session ends, they empty the stadium so that the people who will be in the night session can enter. It seems good for the players, maybe it’s not ideal, but you also have to find the balance to satisfy the fans. Tournaments are just looking for more profit and income.”

The 23-time Grand Slam champion concluded, “The night sessions are more entertaining, the people cheer more and the US Open night sessions are the most famous in tennis. But I understand that if you have finals so late on a consistent basis it’s not good because you have to wait all day to play. If you get up early, you have to kill time before playing. It’s a challenge for the players but I think one of the reasons we finished so late is because of the break between the day session and the night session for the reasons I said.”

Stacey Allaster, who was previously the WTA CEO and is now the US Open tournament director, has responded, “Without question, late-night matches were heavily discussed and reviewed after the 2022 US Open.

“I think one of the challenges that we just have as a reality of tennis, we are not defined by a start and an end time. So that unpredictability of a match, sometimes we can have a short match, or we can have that long five-hour match. So at the moment, we’re staying the course with two night matches. We’ll continue to evaluate it.”

The US Open’s night sessions will become centre stage once again, when the tournament begins on Monday 28th August.

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Matthew Johns, Tennishead Writer, is a professional tennis journalist with a specialist degree in Sports Journalism. He's a keen tennis player having represented his local club and University plus he's also a qualified tennis coach. Matthew has a deep knowledge of tennis especially the ATP Tour and thrives on breaking big tennis news stories for Tennishead.