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‘We need to find a balance’: Nadal and Djokovic still not happy, Mauresmo suggests tweaks to Roland-Garros night sessions

The Roland-Garros night sessions have proved very controversial again this year

Novak Djokovic Tennis – French Open – Roland Garros, Paris, France – May 31, 2022 Serbia’s Novak Djokovic in action during his quarter final match against Spain’s Rafael Nadal (AI/Reuters/Panoramic)

Quarter past one in the morning should surely be well past the bedtime of any player during a Grand Slam tournament. But that’s the time Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic finished their four-set quarter-final on Tuesday night at Roland-Garros, having started the match as scheduled at 9pm CET.

Quite apart from the lateness of the denouement, Paris on a spring evening is also somewhat chillier than a Melbourne evening in January or a New York night in September.

Nadal, the victor, was of course happy with the result, but declared it “without a doubt” too late to be playing tennis.

“I can’t complain because we have two days off now, but if you only have one day off, or like Zverev had in Madrid, and he had to play the final the next day, then is a big issue,” he said.

“Of course I understand the other part of the business, without a doubt, that televisions pays a lot of money to have matches that late, then the tournament makes money and then the players make money. We need to find a balance, the right balance to make the things the best way possible. Is true that start the match here 9:00 in the evening playing on clay, best-of-five can be very long. These kind of things can happen. But that’s it.”

And Djokovic agreed – on every point.

“I think they are starting too late, to be honest, but again, TV decides,” he said. “That’s the world we are living in. Broadcasters say it’s going to be night match, day match. They give the money. They decide.”

Zverev: It’s not easy for me to play at 9.30pm

Other players have expressed their dislike of the temperature during night sessions because of the way it affects their game. That includes semi-finalist Alexander Zverev, who said after his fourth-round win over Bernabe Zapata Miralles: “I don’t mind the evening sessions when it’s 30 degrees during the day. When it’s 14 degrees like today, then in the night it’s going to be what, 8, 9, something like that, it gets difficult.

“But that’s just for me, for my game, to be honest, because my serve is going to be even slower, my forehand is going to be even slower. It’s not going to be an easy thing for me to play at 9:30 at night with no sunlight, with no heat, and 8 degrees.”

Mauresmo: Maybe we’ll start earlier

Tournament director Amelie Mauresmo responded in her press conference on Wednesday to many questions about the scheduling. She hinted that in future the day sessions might begin an hour early, at 11am CET, meaning the night sessions could also begin earlier. However, she remained positive about the decisions she had made, saying that the viewers on television and in the stadium had enjoyed the night sessions.

“You should have seen the public in the stadium. When did it end, at half past 1:00? It was full, overcrowded. There was just a handful of people who left earlier. As far as I’m concerned, night sessions in the stadium are definitely appropriate, because it was always full to the brim every night. There was the match between Musetti and Tsitsipas where people left earlier indeed during the week.

“As for the other matches, they were not that long. There was a lot of people. There was a real enthusiasm, because they could work during the day. People could actually work during the day and yet watch the match during the evening. So that’s like some fresh air for them in the evening, sometimes it’s actually late. And as for last night, I thought it was crazy.”

When asked about players’ views on the night sessions, she confirmed she would be speaking to them and getting their feedback for the future.

Mauresmo: It was tough to pick a match of the day

Only one women’s match has been scheduled for the night session during the tournament – France’s Alizé Cornet’s second-round clash with former champion Jelena Ostapenko. World No 1 Iga Swiatek has not had the showcase spot as she has sailed through the draw. And tournament director Mauresmo suggested on Wednesday that the men’s matches were more attractive as the “match of the day” than the women’s.

“Aas a woman, former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying that right now you have more attraction, more attractivity – can you say that? Appeal? That’s the general – for the men’s matches.

“My goal was when I was doing the schedule every day to try and see, and from the first rounds, from the first round, when the draw came out, to try and see what match in the woman’s draw can I put there, honestly, the confrontation or the star that I could put there…It was tough for more than one night to find, as you say, the match of the day.”

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