Spectators watch Novak Djokovic playing Rafael Nadal during their quarterfinal match of the French Open at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris early on Wednesday. AP
French Open night sessions will remain despite the reservations of Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic whose epic quarter-final clash ended at 1:15 Wednesday morning in front of thousands of shivering fans, many of whom were huddled in blankets to keep out the biting cold.
“Night sessions will stay, but obviously we are going to see whether we move the starting time or not,” admitted tournament director Amelie Mauresmo, a two-time major winner and former world number one.
Nadal’s four-set win over defending champion Djokovic was one of 10 matches scheduled at 9pm at this year’s French Open under an agreement with broadcaster Prime Video.
Nadal, the 13-time champion, had wanted to play in the daytime and repeated his opposition to taking part in clay court tennis after dark.
“It is too late, without a doubt,” said Nadal whose media commitments didn’t finish until 2am on Wednesday. “I understand the other part of the business, without a doubt, that television pays a lot of money but we need to find a balance.”
Rafael Nadal serves the ball to Novak Djokovic during their quarterfinal match. AP
Djokovic also said the night action at Roland Garros starts “too late.” “TV decides. That’s the world we are living in. Broadcasters say it’s going to be night match, day match. They give the money. They decide.”
The final night session takes place later Wednesday when Holger Rune and Casper Ruud meet in the quarter-finals.
Nadal’s semi-final against Alexander Zverev will be staged on Friday afternoon. The final on Sunday is also a daytime affair.
Mauresmo insisted the Nadal-Djokovic night match, played out on the 15,000-seater Court Philippe Chatrier, had been a hit despite the plummeting temperatures.
“When did it end, at half past one? It was full, overcrowded. There was just a handful of people who left earlier,” she said.
“As far as I’m concerned, night sessions in the stadium are definitely appropriate, because it was always full to the brim every night.”
Mauresmo conceded there had been “no miracle solution” to the Nadal-Djokovic conundrum. “There were a lot of discussions. There were a lot of pressures, a lot of issues.”
The Australian Open in Melbourne starts its night action at 7:00pm with two matches on the slate. There is a 7:30pm start for the finals.
In New York, there will be 12 night sessions at this year’s US Open, also starting at 7:00pm. At Wimbledon, play stops at 11:00pm under a locally agreed curfew.
However, trams operate for free to ferry spectators back to downtown Melbourne after the session ends.
In New York, public transport operates 24 hours a day. The last metros back into the centre of Paris are before 1:00.
“People need to leave the stadium late enough and make sure that they have a way to come back home, as they should. We do not have the means to organise this for 15,000 people yet,” said Mauresmo.
Only one of the 10 night sessions this year has featured a women’s match with Mauresmo suggesting that the men’s event was more appealing to broadcasters.
“In this era that we are in right now and as a former woman’s player, I don’t feel bad or unfair saying that right now you have more attraction — can you say that? Appeal? — for men’s matches.”