US Open's Stubborn Start Times Puts Players' Feelings Bottom Of The Pile

Expect more late finishes in New York this year
10:00, 22 Aug 2023

The US Open organisers have dug their heels in and confirmed there are no plans to change the scheduling to avoid late finishes this year. 

It comes after a spate of matches in the 2022 event finished way past midnight, with the record late conclusion of a match coming between Spain's Carlos Alcaraz and Italy's Jannik Sinner, a contest that finished at 2.50am. 

Playing at that time isn’t going to lead to elite level tennis. It’s not good for the players, or the spectators, many of whom have to head home to catch public transport before midnight. Even if you are staying close to Flushing Meadows, walking around New York City at that time of night is not recommended, so safety is a genuine concern. 


The fatigue of players has to be a consideration, but for now nothing is changing. The evening session is still set to begin at 7pm local time, and will feature two matches back-to-back. If these are both men’s matches at four hours apiece, you can see how the 3am time can be hit, while it seems like a tough ask to finish two complete matches before midnight strikes. 

"At the moment, we are staying the course with two night matches. We will continue to evaluate it," said US Open tournament director Stacey Allaster. “Without question, late-night matches were heavily discussed and reviewed after the 2022 US Open.

"We looked at starting the evening session earlier, instead of 7pm start at 6pm, but it's not really a possibility because it's hard for New Yorkers to get here even at 7pm. We talked about one match at night, but we felt that's not fair to our fans."

It should be two matches a night, that is understandable. But fans of the sport would surely rather miss the first few games of a match starting at 5pm or 6pm rather than the conclusion of a five-set thriller. Also, how many fans of tennis in the US are actually heading to the courts after work in New York? You’d think the majority would alter their shifts at work, finish early, or book the entire day off if they had tickets to see one of the four majors.


The priority has to switch to the player’s point of view. Late starts at the Australian Open have also been heavily criticised, and rightly so. Andy Murray finished his match against Thanasi Kokkinakis in January at 4am local time, afterwards labelling the contest a “farce”, however the extreme heat - touching 40C, makes later games a more feasible option down under.

The US Open doesn’t face those same pressures, with temperatures usually between 24C and 30C in the evenings, so late night play isn’t a necessity. After that Australian Open, it was thought that more discussion would take place around the welfare of players but that doesn’t appear to have materialised in the months between the Australian and the US Open. Players have once again been thrown to the back of the queue in terms of priorities, and the quality of the matches could decline as a result. 

Kazakhstan's Elena Rybakina has also complained this week, as she explained that she felt "destroyed" by the recent Canadian Open, where her quarter-final last week finished at 3am. 

"One of the realities we have in tennis is that we are not defined by a start and an end time,” Allaster continued. "We can have a short match or we can have a five-hour match. One thing we do know, there is nothing like a night match on Arthur Ashe."

When the tournament director has that view, it’s unlikely things are going to change unless players begin to protest or a medical incident due to fatigue happens. We hope it never reaches that stage, but tournament directors must take responsibility for the stresses they are putting these players under. 

Suggested Searches:
The Sportsman
Manchester United
Manchester City
Premier League
Sportsman HQ
72-76 Cross St
Manchester M2 4JG
We will not ask you to provide any personal information when using The Sportsman website. You may see advertisement banners on the site, and if you choose to visit those websites, you will accept the terms and conditions and privacy policy applicable to those websites. The link below directs you to our Group Privacy Policy, and our Data Protection Officer can be contacted by email at: [email protected]

All original material is Copyright © 2019 by The Sportsman Communications Ltd.
Other material is copyright their respective owners.