‘What the hell are we doing?’ Tennis world reacts to latest AO marathon as former great blasts ‘looney tunes’ 3:39am finish
Late-night finishes have become a controversial talking point at the Australian Open in recent summers, and the debate has reignited after third seed Daniil Medvedev needed to play into the small hours to defeat Emil Ruusuvuori.
With the match only beginning at 11:15pm following a marathon women’s singles match between Elena Rybakina and Anna Blinkova, which featured a Grand Slam record 42-point match tie-break won by the latter, the Rod Laver Arena crowd became sparse as the Russian star was forced to come back from two sets to love down to defeat his unheralded Finnish opponent.
It took until 3:39am for Medvedev to wrap up the 3-6, 6-7 (1), 6-4, 7-6 (1), 6-0 victory, with former American great and known tennis marathon match man John Isner describing the situation as ‘looney tunes’.
The early-morning finish has led to further criticism of Australian Open officials, with suggestions the purported solution of adding an extra day – the first Sunday – to the draw was never going to have the claimed effect of minimising late-night starts.
“He [Medvedev] should be pissed off. They should all be pissed off,” commentator Caroline Whittaker said on The Tennis Podcast.
Co-host Matt Roberts agreed, saying you didn’t have to be ‘a rocket scientist’ to work out the real reason for the extra day had nothing to do with preventing late finishes.
“We all knew that the Sunday start was never going to do anything about the late finish,” Roberts said.
“You did not have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out once you realised what they were actually going to do with the schedule. It was going to make no difference whatsoever.
“The Sunday start is an admirable effort to push up the attendance at the Australian Open. Craig Tiley is targeting a million people through the gates.
“Does it really count if so many of those people have to leave before tennis is over? Like are they really seeing the tennis? Are we really counting them as coming to the Australian Open when they’re having a diminished experience because they can’t stay and watch?
“This match, which is great, is being played in a largely empty Rod Laver Arena. Of course it’s empty. It’s 2:30 in the morning! What the hell are we doing?”
Roberts went on to suggest the tournament follow Wimbledon’s lead and bring in a curfew time, with any matches still ongoing at that point to be resumed the next day.
“There is a tennis tournament that takes place every single year called Wimbledon – you may have heard of it, it’s pretty big,” he said.
“They have a curfew at 11pm, they stop playing. It’s like the best tournament in the world. It’s a total non-issue to have a curfew and not be playing at 2:30 in the morning. If you want to actually do something about the scheduling, just have a curfew.
“Wimbledon happens every year and it’s great. No one goes ‘Oh, I can’t believe we’re not playing at three o’clock in the morning’.
“I’m so angry about this.”
For Medvedev, who admitted to a likely bedtime of ‘hopefully’ 6:30am following the marathon match, the most impressive part was that a crowd remained to cheer him through to the final point.
“Honestly guys… I would not be here,” he said post-match.
“Thanks for staying. If I was a tennis fan, at one o’clock, I’d say, ‘okay let’s go and catch the end of the match on TV’. So thanks guys – you’re strong.”