The pro tennis tours are trying to cut down on matches that stretch past midnight

FILE - Andy Murray of Britain leaves Margaret Court Arena after 4 a.m. on Jan. 20, 2023, following his five set win over Australia's Thanasi Kokkinakis at the Australian Open tennis championships in Melbourne, Australia. The womens and mens professional tennis tours have introduced new scheduling guidelines to prevent matches from starting after 11 p.m. except with approval and recommending a 6:30 p.m. start for night sessions at tournaments. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File) (Ng Han Guan, Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

In their first coordinated efforts to cut back on late-night tennis, the women’s and men’s professional tours introduced new scheduling guidelines Tuesday that include preventing matches from starting after 11 p.m. except with approval and recommending a 6:30 p.m. start for night sessions at tournaments.

The WTA and ATP also announced that they are conducting what they called “a strategic review” to try to add more consistency to the kinds of tennis balls used starting in 2025, following complaints by players that the week-to-week changes in equipment are problematic and possibly causing more injuries.

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It’s the latest example of the two tours working together.

“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 tours said the number of matches finishing after midnight “has risen considerably in recent years,” prompting the rules about late sessions that go into effect this month at WTA and ATP events on a trial basis for this season.

Tennis, of course, is played without a clock, meaning matches can be shorter than an hour or stretch for hours on end. One recent example: Andy Murray’s second-round victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis at last year's Australian Open lasted more than 4 1/2 hours and concluded after 4 a.m.

Grand Slam tournaments — such as the Australian Open, which begins Sunday at Melbourne Park — are not governed by the tours. But Tennis Australia says it was hoping to add some breathing room to its event's schedule this year and reduce the late-night play by starting competition a day earlier than usual — Sunday instead of Monday — and making the tournament 15 days instead of 14.

The new scheduling guidance put forth by the tours on Tuesday includes allowing no more than five matches on any court each day after an 11 a.m. start, with three during a day session and two in the evening; no matches starting after 11 p.m., unless a supervisor from one of the tours and tour management give the OK; any matches that haven’t started by 10:30 p.m. must be moved to a different court, so long as it’s before 11 p.m.; night sessions can’t begin after 7:30 p.m., and it's preferable that they should start an hour earlier than that.

Tournaments can request that exceptions be granted “based on local cultural traditions, weather conditions, or other extenuating situations,” the tours said.

For years, each tournament has been allowed to choose a ball supplier or sponsor, “leading to potential inconsistencies of balls used week-on-week,” Tuesday’s news release said, adding that the aim is to “now move towards a more consistent and centralized approach by WTA and ATP.”


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