Players, coaches slam scheduling as Jannik Sinner pulls out of Paris after another late, late finish

The Italian started his match with Mackenzie McDonald after midnight, finished at 2.37am and faces a quick turnaround – if he is even ready to play

Jannik Sinner Vienna QF 2023 GEPA/Panoramic

The topic of late finishes in tennis just won’t go away.

For the umpteenth time in 2023, a match that started after midnight and finished well into the early hours, this time at the Rolex Paris Masters, with Jannik Sinner beating MacKenzie Mcdonald, finishing things off at 2.37am. The Italian duly pulled out of the event on Thursday, citing fatigue.

It was the third straight night in which matches had finished after midnight, with Wednesday night’s finish 11 minutes later than another epic, the 2.26am finish on day one.

Late finishes inevitable with six matches on one court

With an 11am start, and six matches scheduled on the Court Centrale, organisers were always asking for trouble and when Grigor Dimotrov and Daniil Medvedev played for almost three hours, and then Alexander Zverev and Ugo Humbert played for three hours, 29 minutes, the evening session was even more delayed.

And while late finishes are not good for anyone, including fans, officials and media, it is especially brutal on the player who wins, who needs to come back the next day. Even more so when, for some reason, they are scheduled in the day session, leaving them very little time to recover.

Sinner’s plight was captured perfectly by both his coach, Darren Cahill, and the Italian’s peers, including Casper Ruud, who took to social media to express his dismay.

Sinner finish a repeat of last year’s Moutet-Norrie situation

Wednesday’s incident was far from an outlier. Not only did Monday’s session go to 2.26am, but a year ago, tournament director Cedric Pioline admitted that late finishes were no good for players, in particular, after Corentin Moutet and Cam Norrie started after midnight and finished at 3.03am.

And of course, at the beginning of the year, Andy Murray finished his match with Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open at just after 4am, leaving him little time to recover for the next round.

Guidelines in ATP Tour rulebook

There are, in fact, already guidelines regarding late starts at tournaments. On page 86 of the rulebook, it states:

5) Starting matches after Midnight is not recommended (after 1:00 a.m. should be avoided). The ATP Supervisor may postpone a match after examining the impact on the tournament and the players. If postponing the match is not possible, then consideration must be given to moving a match to another court, if available.

But more often than not, players are allowed to go on court at a late hour, knowing that if their match goes long, they are going to be in trouble. Sometimes, after hanging around for hours waiting to start, they just want to get it done, but tournaments rarely take a decision that would benefit the players themselves.

Sinner confirms withdrawal

Speaking after his match with Mcdonald, Sinner hinted that he may not even be able to play his next match, given the quick turnaround and the obvious risk of injury, not least with the ATP Finals just around the corner.

And the Italian confirmed tournament officials’ worst fears when he withdrew from the event, sending De Minaur through to the last eight in the process.

Organisers could have moved the Novak Djokovic-Tallon Griekspoor match into the day session, allowing Sinner at least to play in the evening session. They chose not to.

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