Why is the Australian Open starting on a Sunday?

The 2024 Australian Open will start on a Sunday, becoming a 15-day event for the first time.

There had been growing concerns over late finishes with so many matches scheduled on the opening Monday.

Last year, the second-round match between Andy Murray and Thanasi Kokkinakis did not finish until 4:05am - which the British former world number one described as “ridiculously late”

The new Sunday start will see an increase in the number of sessions across the three arenas from 47 to 52.

The day session at Rod Laver Arena and Margaret Court Arena will feature a minimum of two matches, which is down from three, to limit the potential of late finishes.

Night sessions, meanwhile, will continue to feature a minimum of two matches and the John Cain Arena schedule also remains unchanged.

Murray has said that while he happy to see tennis finally addressing its late night habit – the 36-year-old is not ruling out more long days at this year’s Australian Open.

“I don’t think the Sunday start will change the late finishes,” said Murray. “I think on centre court they’re having two matches in the day, two matches in the evening.

“I think that will reduce the possibility for late finishes on Rod Laver just because it’s unlikely you’re going to have issues with the day session running into the night, then having that gap where they have to clear out the stadium and get the night session fans in.”

Meanwhile the ATP and WTA announced earlier this week a new scheduling policy restricting the number of matches played per day at tournaments and setting a deadline of 11pm for contests to start.

Murray welcomed the tours’ new rules, saying: “It’s really good. I’ve spoken about it, I’ve heard lots of players and the media, obviously, discussing it for a long time. It just makes sense. It’s a very obvious thing that needs to change.

Andy Murray’s match against Thanasi Kokkinakis did not finish until 4am last year (Getty Images)
Andy Murray’s match against Thanasi Kokkinakis did not finish until 4am last year (Getty Images)

“I haven’t heard anyone really disagree with that. So it’s positive that there’s going to be some changes made. It will be good for, I think, everyone. It will definitely help with recovery for following day’s matches and things like that.

“I certainly think, for fans and the tournament, it just probably looks a wee bit more professional if you’re not finishing at three or four in the morning.”

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley hopes the new arrangements will help alleviate the pressure on late-night finishes for both the players and the fans.

“We’ve listened to feedback from the players and fans and are excited to deliver a solution to minimise late finishes while continuing to provide a fair and equitable schedule on the stadium courts,” 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.

“Every year our team works hard to bring fans an event that feels new and exciting, and this is another opportunity to grow what is already the biggest annual sporting event in the world in January.”