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2024 Australian Open to begin on Sunday (that means Saturday night in the U.S.)
The Melbourne major joins Roland Garros as 15-day Grand Slam tournaments.
Published Oct 02, 2023
In sports, the team “copycat league” is used to describe the trend of defeated teams attempting to replicate the winning formula which its league’s champion just used. Think of how many NBA teams, for example, embraced the three-point shot after the Golden State Warriors’ rampant success in the 2010s, or how “heavy hockey” ruled the NHL for a time after the physically imposing Los Angeles Kings claimed a pair of Stanley Cups in the last decade.
In tennis, from a tournament perspective, the trend is getting bigger. More 1000-level tournaments are lasting longer than a week, an expansion that will continue to play out in the coming years. Grand Slam events have always been two weeks long, with one outlier: Roland Garros, which since 2006 has begun on a Sunday and ended on one, 14 days later.
It seemed only a matter of time before another major followed suit, and on Monday, it was announced that the Australian Open be the second 15-day Slam, beginning in its very next edition in January.
“We’ve listened to feedback from the players and fans and are excited to deliver a solution to minimize late finishes while continuing to provide a fair and equitable schedule on the stadium courts,” Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley said.
“The additional day will achieve this, benefiting scheduling for fans and players alike. The first round will now be played over three days instead of two, also giving fans an extra day of unbelievable tennis, entertainment, food and family fun.”
Over the last decade, all of the Slams have grown in some manner: Roland Garros added a night session; the US Open added a second night session, on Louis Armstrong Stadium; Wimbledon’s roofs over Centre and No. 1 Courts can keep tennis going until as late as 11 p.m. local time. Counting the qualifying event and Fan Week, the 2023 US Open saw nearly one million spectators at Flushing Meadows. The big just keep getting bigger—and, many would say, the rich keep getting richer.
But the Australian Open’s move to 15 days is the most significant change, and perhaps a sign of things to come. In a media release, the tournament said that, “with data showing matches are now longer, the move to a Sunday start is designed to help alleviate the pressure on late night finishes for both the players and the fans.”
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Each day session at Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena will feature at least two matches—a change from at least three—with night sessions continuing to bill a double feature of tennis. The first round will be played over three days, with the doubles draw beginning on Tuesday.
For American viewers, this all means that the 2024 Australian Open will begin on Saturday night, January 13.
Whether it's an individual athlete, a team or a pillar of the sport, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
“Every year our team works hard to bring fans an event that feels new and exciting,” said Tiley, “and this is another opportunity to grow what is already the biggest annual sporting event in the world in January.”