ATP & WTA Announce Changes To Match Scheduling To Prevent Late Finishes

ATP & WTA Announce Changes To Match Scheduling To Prevent Late Finishes

by Nurein Ahmed

Professional tennis' major governing bodies, the ATP and WTA, have announced a raft of changes that are expected to prevent late-night finishes to matches.

The issue of match scheduling has been the elephant in the room for quite some time, and players have spoken in unison against it. But in a groundbreaking move, new policies will now take effect imminently beginning in January 2024 and have since been summarized into four points.

Both bodies unanimously agreed to define late-night finishes as those matches that were completed past midnight and sampled sufficient data to realize that the number has risen significantly in recent years. This has ultimately affected players' health and preparation in subsequent rounds.

The number of matches per day and per court will be strictly limited to five, and each match court will have an 11 a.m. start. The five matches will be split between the day session (three matches) and the evening/night session (two matches).

Moreover, evening sessions will be expected to commence no later than 7:30 p.m., with a recommended start time set at 6:30 p.m. It was also agreed that any matches that would not have started by 10:30 pm in the night session would be moved to an alternative court.

And lastly, no matches will be permitted to go on schedule past 11 p.m. In exceptional circumstances, that is the case; it must be ratified by the WTA/ATP supervisor in consultation with WTA/ATP management.

The ATP and WTA noted that these changes will be in effect for a trial period of one year, after which a comprehensive review will be done. Also on the agenda was the discourse about tennis balls, which had been a bone of contention in the past year.

Most players have spoken against the frequent ball changes happening on tour, some of whom have been impacted negatively with compounding issues of shoulder, elbow, and wrist injuries, which have taken a toll on their health.

The two bodies were in alignment that it will aim to move to a "more consistent and centralized approach," which will deliver consistency for players' swings whilst also not hurting revenue streams for tournaments that have always been at liberty to select their own ball sponsors.

Outgoing WTA CEO Steve Simon told it was important that feedback was considered to continue "modernizing" tennis. At the same time, his ATP counterpart, Andrea Gaudenzi, echoed similar sentiments while adding that player health and fan experience take precedence in their agendas.

"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."

Statement from WTA CEO Steve Simon

"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."

Statement from ATP Chairman Andrea Gaudenzi


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