Djokovic ‘cleared out of the way’ for Nadal says host
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The French Open was struck by controversy on Tuesday when Rafael Nadal topped Novak Djokovic in a four-hour affair that stretched into the early hours of the next morning. Both players agreed they would like to avoid a repeat of the scheduling faux pas, with a close-run battle always likely in the best-of-five-sets showdown.
This led to further debate as to why nine of this year’s 10 evening fixtures at Roland Garros included only men. Two-time major champion Amelie Mauresmo—the first woman to direct the tournament—responded by saying “it was tough” to find women’s match-ups—which play by a best-of-three format—that had the same star appeal as their male counterparts.
But Mats Wilander and Tim Henman believe there’s a compromise to be found, which would avoid the same risk of matches going deep into the night. It’s their suggestion there’s a better balance to be struck between men’s, women’s and doubles matches while maintaining the same draw for fans.
“Two out of three sets, what are you going to have a one-hour night session? So, it’s not because it’s women and men, it’s because it’s two out of three and three out of five,” said Wilander on Eurosport. “I think that they could start a little earlier, play a women’s match, for sure, and then have a doubles afterwards so that the programme is a minimum of three hours, then it’s ok – but at this moment, putting a women’s match on at 9pm that could end in an hour, I think that’s too risky.”
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The Swede backed up those comments by saying organisers of course “want equal rights.” World No. 1 Iga Swiatek called Mauresmo’s comments “disappointing and surprising,” and Wilander appeared to support the Pole while touting longer women’s matches as an answer.
“You need that balance, you need that equal opportunity,” added Henman. “But then you are thinking about the marquee match-ups which the fans and the television audiences want to watch. I am a big fan of night-time tennis, I think there’s a great atmosphere, I understand the revenues it generates for the tournaments, but right now it doesn’t seem like it’s working perfectly.”
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The former British No. 1 suggested starting the matches earlier in order to fit both a women’s and doubles match into the same evening. He also sympathised with Mauresmo and was confident “there will be some adjustments” made in time for 2023 to improve next year’s tournament.
Mauresmo admitted it was “a key issue” that there was no public transportation available to those who stayed to watch Nadal’s midweek win over Djokovic in its entirety. “She’s not trying to make a bad decision to annoy people,” Henman concluded. “It should be given time, it’s a new scenario for Roland-Garros with the night matches and I am sure there can be improvements along the way.”
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