Gauff opposes late-night play: 'It's not healthy'

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PARIS — Coco Gauff said 3 a.m. finishes for matches are not “healthy” for players, adding that tournament organizers should consider a mandatory cutoff point for when night matches start.

Novak Djokovic’s third-round match Sunday at the French Open against Lorenzo Musetti ended at 3:07 a.m. local time after starting at 10:37 p.m. the previous night. The five-setter lasted 4 hours, 29 minutes.

These designated night matches are ticketed separately from the rest of the play on Court Philippe-Chatrier during the day. The evening match usually begins at 8:15 p.m. local time, but a scheduling change Sunday saw an extra match included on the main court at Roland Garros as organizers sought to complete third-round matches after rain delays.

The addition of Grigor Dimitrov’s match to the Philippe-Chatrier schedule pushed Djokovic’s match later into the evening, resulting in the latest finish in French Open history.

“Yeah, I definitely think finishing at 3 a.m. is — I feel like a lot of times people think you’re done, but really, 3 a.m., then you have (media responsibilities) and then you have to shower, eat, and then a lot of times people do treatments,” Gauff said. “So that’s probably not going to bed until 5 o’clock at the earliest, maybe 6 o’clock, and even 7 o’clock.

“I definitely think it’s not healthy. It may be not fair for those who have to play late because it does ruin your schedule. I’ve been lucky I haven’t been put in a super-late finish yet.”

Late finishes are becoming increasingly common, with matches at both the Australian Open and US Open frequently going on until the early hours of the morning. Gauff said there should be a cutoff point in the evening for when matches can start.

“What can be done? I know on the tour side they’re thinking about putting matches can’t start after a certain time,” Gauff said. “I don’t know if it’s going to be a Grand Slam rule, but I know on the WTA Tour — I think that’s something to look at. Maybe if a match is going long, possibly moving courts. Then I know it’s tough because, especially here, it’s only one night match, and people obviously paid for those tickets.

“It’s a complicated thing, but I definitely think for the health and safety of the players it would be in the sport’s best interest I think to try to avoid those matches finishing — or starting after a certain time. Obviously, you can’t control when they finish.”

Gauff, who advanced to the French Open quarterfinals with a straight-sets victory Sunday over unseeded Italian Elisabetta Cocciaretto, also believes players should have more of a say in the scheduling of tournaments to help safeguard their welfare.

“I think that we’re their product, essentially, and I definitely think — I feel like tournaments are becoming more understanding,” she said. “Some tournaments are more understanding than others. It’s tough, but I think tournaments … should listen to the players more.

“I know there’s a product to sell, and I know that there’s certain things outside of the control. But overall, if there’s a list of little things, like the balls. If there’s multiple players — and I feel like there were a lot — complaining about the ball changing, especially on the men’s side, every week, I think that’s something that can be considered when it comes to tournaments and the health and safety of players.

“Obviously I don’t want to complain too much about it because we are very blessed and privileged to be playing for a lot of money, and there’s people working real jobs under worse conditions for less money and just trying to get by. So it’s a balance between two things.”

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek said players ultimately will have to accept whatever decision is made by tournament organizers when it comes to night matches and late finishes.

“It’s not easy to play, and then it’s not like we’re going to fall asleep one hour after the match,” said Swiatek, who also won Sunday to reach the quarterfinals. “Usually it takes us like four hours to even chill, and you need to do recovery, media. It’s not like the work ends with the match point.

“I was always one of the players that said that we should start a little bit earlier. Also, I don’t know if the fans are watching these matches if they have to go to work next day or something when the matches are finishing at 2 or 3 a.m. It’s not up to us. We need to accept anything that is going to come to us.”

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