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By Chris Oddo | @TheFanChild | Tuesday January 9, 2024

After much heated debate, the ATP and WTA Tours have responded to players’ wishes and implemented rules to avoid late-night finishes at tournaments.

Tennis Express

With mental and physical health at the fore, the tours had created an untenable situation over the years, allowing events to load up center court schedules with more than five matches which frequently ended up with matches starting after midnight and sometimes finishing as late as three or four AM.

This November in Paris, things hit a boiling point when the tournament scheduled six matches per day on its Centre Court, leading to extremely late finishes. Jannik Sinner famously pulled out of the tournament a day after completing a match at 2:37 AM. He was scheduled to play 15 hours later, on the next day.

Sinner’s withdrawal is one of many examples of unnecessary and extreme demand placed on the players due to tournament’s desire to put as many marquee matches on the main showcourts as possible, to enhance ticket revenues and TV viewership.

Frustrated, and fatigued, players consistently called for change in 2023, and their voices have been heard.

“The number of late match finishes (defined as matches finishing after midnight) has risen considerably in recent years, negatively impacting players and fans. This is tied to an increase in average match length on Tour,” the tours said in a joint statement, released Tuesday.

More details of the changes are listed below:

New rules related to Match Scheduling will be implemented at WTA and ATP events and will be in effect from January 2024 as follows:

  • No more than five matches per day per court (with an 11AM start), with three matches during the day session and two matches during the evening session.
  • No matches to go on court after 11PM, unless approved by the WTA/ATP Supervisor in consultation with WTA/ATP management.
  • Matches not on court by 10:30PM to be moved to an alternative court – by no later than 11PM.
  • Night sessions to begin no later than 7:30PM, with a recommendation for 6:30PM.

Strategic Review of Tennis Balls

The tours also addressed another hot button issue: the degradation in consistency and playability of tennis balls.

Players’ voices have once again been heard as many spoke out about the stark contrast in balls across different events, and how they open the door unnecessarily to repetitive injuries.

“Historically, each individual tournament has had the ability to determine its own ball supplier or sponsor, leading to potential inconsistencies of balls used week-on-week,” the statement from the WTA and ATP read.

“The intention is to now move towards a more consistent and centralized approach by WTA and ATP. The goal is to deliver greater ball consistency within tournament swings for players, and tighter certification and specification requirements for an enhanced end-product, while not adversely affecting revenue streams for tournaments.” Both tour CEO’s made brief statements in the circulated email.

Steve Simon, WTA Chairman and CEO, said: “We feel it is important that these initiatives are fully aligned between the two Tours and will allow for athletes to perform at their highest levels, providing for an improved athlete and fan experience. The athlete’s direct feedback in cooperation with our event members has been terrific in allowing us to continue modernizing our sport.”

Andrea Gaudenzi, ATP Chairman, said: “Match scheduling and tennis balls are both priority topics on our agenda, together with the WTA. It’s imperative that we evolve and adapt to the demands of the modern game, particularly where player health and fan experience are concerned. We’re optimistic about the impact we can make on both these fronts, now and in the longer term.”