Alex de Minaur caught out by ‘absolutely ridiculous’ AO scheduling move

As if a grand slam tournament isn’t challenging enough, Alex de Minaur’s Australian Open campaign will face somewhat of a hurdle in the second round.

Grand slam tournaments are a marathon, not a sprint compared to other tournaments on the tennis calendar with men’s players in particular having best-of-five set matches rather than the best-of-three set matches which are the norm across the rest of the calendar.

But the Australian Open, which faced several late night finishes, including the marathon clash between Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis which finished after 4am in 2022, the tournament has attempted to make a few changes.

Night sessions will begin by 7.30pm and matches won’t start after 11pm, while the Australian Open started on a Sunday and will run for 15 days for the first time.

Day sessions at Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena will also feature a minimum of two matches, down from three, to limit the potential of late finishes due to day games running late., while night sessions will also feature a minimum of two matches.

While the Australian Open said it had made the decision in order to cut down on marathon late night matches, the extra day just means the first round will cover three days, not two.

And it’s thrown up a curve ball for Australia’s highest ranked player, World No. 10 Alex de Minaur.

While de Minaur is in red-hot form with wins over Taylor Fritz, Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Carlos Alcaraz in the fortnight leading into the Australian Open, he faces a tricky clash against big-serving former World No. 3 Milos Raonic to kick off the day two night session on Monday.

However, his potential opponent World No. 41 Matteo Arnaldi had already booked his placed in the second round by midafternoon on Sunday.

When de Minaur and Raonic step onto court at around 7pm on Monday, Arnaldi would have already had the best part of 29 hours of extra rest.

For the record, de Minaur, assuming he wins, will also have a full day off before facing Arnaldi on Wednesday.

De Minaur’s match isn’t the only one being played a day earlier.

Aussies Alexei Popyrin and Marc Polmans will play off for the right to challenge World No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the second round although their clash is scheduled for 12.15pm on Monday.

In all, there are eight second round matches where one player will have had two full days off, while the other player will have one.

Tennis journalist Jose Morgado tweeted: “Matteo Arnaldi into the 2nd round at the #AusOpen with a 7-6(5), 6-2, 6-4 win over Adam Walton. Awaits De Minaur or Raonic who play… tomorrow night. Odd scheduling.”

Sports writer Ricky Dimon posted: “There are EIGHT first-round match-ups in the top half of the men’s draw in which opponents facing each other in the second round of the tournament are playing on different days in the first round. Absolutely ridiculous scheduling.”

But former Australian World No. 1 doubles player Paul McNamee responded: “Everyone has a minimum one day off … so the integrity of rest between matches is fully protected … no issue here at all.”

The Australian Open’s unprecedented move of starting the tournament a day early and going for 15 days has faced a mixed reaction.

American great John McEnroe is firmly against however, slamming the move as just another way to make money through TV revenue and ticket sales.

“First of all, it’s a money grab as far as I’m concerned,” McEnroe said on an ESPN conference call.

“They just found another way to make some money. I don’t agree with it. I’m a commentator. No one’s particularly concerned about my feelings.

“The players, if they accept it and they’re getting something from it, like some money for their pensions or retirement for some players that don’t have insurance, I would say that’s a good thing that they have added an extra day.

“I don’t think that has happened (players getting more money), just like it didn’t happen at the French Open. I completely disagree with it.

“That’s probably me being selfish that I have to be away from home an extra day or two.”

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