Tennis superstars Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic are often on either end of the court, but this time, the two players are on the same side of the argument surrounding the match scheduling issues at the ongoing French Open.

Earlier this week, Nadal defeated Djokovic in the quarter-finals via a four-set thriller that was played over a duration of over four hours. On average, Grand Slam matches often stretch for several hours, and it is typical for five-setters to be played until late into the evening.

However, the late start to this year's evening sessions meant that Nadal and Djokovic played until 1:15 am on Wednesday. The night session began at 8:45 pm, meaning even a shorter match would have ended close to midnight.

The players had to play late amid drastically dropping temperatures while members of the audience were forced to cover up with blankets. Furthermore, spectators were forced to find more expensive means of transportation on their way home after most of the public routes have shut down by this time.

When Nadal was asked if he thought the schedule was too late, he responded: "It is without a doubt. I understand television pays a lot of money but we need to find a balance."

The Serb shared the Spaniard's sentiments, saying: "Broadcasters say it's going to be night match, day match. They give the money. They decide." The matches are aired in France via Amazon Prime.

However, many spectators from around the globe were equally unhappy, with east Asians for example having to watch the match in the wee hours of the morning.

Night sessions were introduced at the French Open in 2021, allowing more matches to be played in the main arenas despite the capacity restrictions brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"There are difference of opinions about the night session. I think they are starting too late. But again, TV decides. That's the world we are living in," said Djokovic.

Meanwhile, tournament director Amelie Mauresmo, who is a former Wimbledon and Australian Open Champion, said that there are benefits to the late start times. "There was a real enthusiasm. People could actually work during the day and yet watch the match during the evening," she said, before adding that all the night sessions were fully sold out.

"I'm learning a lot of things regarding the scheduling of the tournament. We will actually have a feedback session on this at the end, but it's just 10 night matches overall."

Mauresmo also drew criticism for saying that men's matches draw more attention from the paying audience, which is why only one of the ten evening sessions this year was a women's match.

Rafael Nadal
Rafael Nadal celebrates his epic victory over Novak Djokovic AFP / Anne-Christine POUJOULAT