Define night sessions better, please

Welcome back for another Tennis Sweet Spot edition! I’m still at Roland-Garros, and this Monday morning, something incredible happened: the sun stopped its strike and came back to shine on Paris. For how long? That is the question.

On today’s menu?

  • Mirra Andreeva is the real deal

  • Novak Djokovic gets another record in a drama-filled first week

  • Why there’s no valid argument to make for playing professional tennis at 3 am

  • Andy Murray reveals back condition and treatment

  • Denis Shapovalov makes tough decisions

  • Bianca Andreescu wants to have it easier

ROLAND-GARROS 
Andreeva keeps rising

Mirra Andreeva (@OpenRouen)

Mirra Andreeva is just 17, but she’s been making waves for the past two years now and has reached her first Grand Slam quarter-final in Paris. Her tennis IQ is impressive; she has all the shots and moves extremely well, but it’s her calm under pressure that is starting to be her most efficient skill. Last year, she was not immune to a tantrum or two, and it cost her a deeper run at Roland Garros and Wimbledon. But for now, this season, she found how to use that fire brewing inside of her in a non-destructive way.

She got booed in her fourth round on Lenglen by a crowd pushing behind French player Varvara Gracheva. She lost break opportunities and serves, and she never started to act up. She’s been locked in. “I just adjusted to it for my advantage. I know how to use it for myself and not against me. I did a good job, and it was actually helping me a little bit to fire me up.”

In the second round, she was in the stadium until 2 am. She did not care. I just know that it doesn't depend on me. I just have to accept that the conditions are going to be like this. It's going to rain. Probably the match is going to be postponed or maybe. So I just accepted it. I said, it is what it is, so I just have to accept it. I cannot change anything. Well, I will just play. I have to accept this, and that's it.” That’s it. Andreeva played the fourth round in Paris and Wimbledon last year and has now secured a first quarter-final in a Grand Slam after a first one in a WTA 1000 in Madrid. She keeps rising, with the feeling that her shot at tennis glory is bound to happen.

I would say I'm more stable in every way

Mirra Andreeva

She’s always been incredibly composed for her age, but it has really taken a new dimension this year. Could Conchita Martinez, her new coach, be part of the reason? “I would say that the first thing is a lot of positive,” Andreeva said when asked what the biggest guidance that Martinez brought was. “Especially when I have days when I don't feel great on court or when sometimes I'm, I don't know, too pissed off or something. She always gives me a lot of positive, a lot of great energy. We always have nice atmosphere. We always laugh. We always talk about something. So this helps me a lot, so I like that. Sometimes I don't think a lot about matches, and I'm not nervous. It helps me just to kind of release some tension.”

That’s the scary thing with Andreeva: she learns so quickly and basically absorbs what is key to becoming a champion in record time. It’s not easy to stop throwing tantrums when you have a feisty temper. Yet she does. Dealing with pressure at the highest level is a journey: sure, but for her it took only a year to master the first week of a Grand Slam one. 

Now, it's just a bit easier for me to go and play on a bigger court

I would say I'm more stable in every way: tennis-wise, mental-wise, game-wise, everything. I know what to expect from myself. I know players, and I know how I will play. I cannot say that I'm more experienced because I don't have a lot of experience yet. But yeah, I just kind of got used to the atmosphere, got used to the tournaments, to the courts, to the crowds, everything. Now, it's just a bit easier for me to go and play on a bigger court. Last year, I was very nervous before each match, but I was trying to deal with it and just kind of think, well, you have nothing to lose, just go try your best, and that's it. Now I know what to expect, and I'm not as nervous as I was last year. It's a bit easier for me.” Nothing is a given, and Andreeva still has a long way to go, but the composure she’s showing, combined with her game, is one hell of a promise. In Paris or elsewhere, this year or the next.

Djokovic gets another Federer record

Listen Novak Djokovic GIF by Tennis TV

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Novak Djokovic has spent his Roland-Garros winning matches he should have lost. But he fought like hell and was rewarded with a record-tying 369 win in Grand Slams at 3.06 am against Lorenzo Musetti and a record-setting 370 after a win in five sets against Francisco Cerundolo despite hurting his knee after a set. The result of all that sweat and pain is another record taken out of Roger Federer’s racquet. Hollywood, if you want to reboot Iron Man, you know who to call.

ROLAND-GARROS
Tennis shouldn’t be played at 3 am

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In 2008, Marcos Baghdatis and Lleyton Hewitt finished their Australian Open third-round match at 4.33 am, and 16 years later, despite the issue regularly coming back, Novak Djokovic and Lorenzo Musetti concluded their battle at Roland-Garros at 3.06 am. At the same time, Casper Ruud was still on the physio table after also finishing his match in the early morning. So, will this last occurrence push tennis to change?

Honestly, we don’t really think so because it’s been 16 years of this debate… These super late matches aren’t the rule but the exception, so some will keep arguing that it’s worthless to reform an entire sport because of exceptional cases. Others will notice that it happens more and more often and even seemed to become the norm before the ATP and the WTA finally decided this year to put it in their guidelines that matches shouldn’t be started after a certain time and that night sessions should aim for a 7.30 pm start. That’s the only window of potential change that I see now. It would, in my opinion, take broadcasters to threaten not to renew deals - who really watches that Djokovic crazy match at 3 am? - or sponsors moving out for the Grand Slam events to cut down on their night sessions. Money talks. It’s still very funny to me that Wimbledon, with its 11 pm curfew, has zero issues filling up its bank account with £380 million despite having no night sessions…

WHY IS IT AN ISSUE?
Tournaments that let players on the court until 3 am are playing with their bodies. It’s hampering their recovery and sending their injury risk through the roof. These efforts repeated at an hour when your biological clock knows you should be asleep is unhealthy in the long run. Sleep deprivation is horrendous for one’s body and mind. There’s no way trying to make us believe otherwise. Also adding that, unless in Australia, playing at night in Paris means you’re playing in the cold.

And it’s not like it’s only happening a couple of times a year: it’s become a kind of norm at Grand Slams that a night session finishing around midnight is a decent one. Eyebrows start to be raised at 2 am. I’m sorry, my eyebrows are up there at 11.30 pm. Mirra Andreeva, 17, finished her second round in Paris at 2 am: no. We went on court, and it was around 10 pm,” Andreeva said. “I am usually already in bed by that time.” A match finishes or even starts on a different day than it started or was scheduled: it’s a no for me.

I definitely think it's not healthy

Coco Gauff

It’s also terrible for the staff who have to stay around from morning to…morning. The ball kids?! I mean, how do you justify keeping children up and working that late? It’s obviously miserable for the spectators on-site who are left freezing in the depths of the night or early morning and for those depending on public transportation who will have to leave before the end of a session they paid for. It’s absolutely nonsense for the media: they’ll get nothing after these super late matches because press conferences are cut extra short, and everybody that could be talked to in order to give some expertise or color has left quickly, too. Broadcasters are airing and commentating on these matches for very few people, so their scores are going to be bad, and still, the colleagues will terminate their journey of work at crazy hours. Nobody wins.

WHAT DO THE PLAYERS SAY?
Coco Gauff: “I feel like a lot of times people think you're done, but really, 3:00 a.m., then you have press, and then you have to shower, eat, and then a lot of times people do treatments, so that's probably not going to bed until 5:00 at the earliest, maybe 6:00, and even 7:00. I definitely think it's not healthy. It may not be 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. What can be done? I know on the Tour side, they're thinking about putting matches that can't start after a certain time. I don't know if it's going to be a Grand Slam rule. 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 a 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.”

It's really difficult to recover

Carlos Alcaraz

Carlos Alcaraz: “Well, for me, I don't like night sessions, but not for the crowd. I think that the crowd in night session is special, but we end so late, press conference, physio, ice bath. We have to do a lot of things that is really important things to recover for the next matches. We have a lot of important things to do. And Novak, I'm sure he went to go to sleep at 6:00 a.m., and the last point finished at 3:00, something like that. Three hours, you know, between the last point until he went to go to sleep. It's really difficult to recover when you are going to go to sleep so, so late. The night session is a real thing, so we can't change it. We have to adapt ourselves as much or as better as we can to the matches.

Iga Swiatek: “It's not like we're going to fall asleep one hour after the match. Usually, it takes us four hours to even chill, and you need to do recovery and media. It's not like the work ends at the match point. I was always one of the players who 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 the next day or something when the matches are finishing at 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. It's not up to us. We need to accept anything that is going to come to us.”

Lets Go Ok GIF by Tennis TV

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Novak Djokovic: “I don’t want to get into it. I have my opinions, but I think there are great things to talk about as we are talking about this match today, and both Lorenzo’s and my performance stand out. I don’t want to be talking about the schedule. I think some things could’ve been handled a different way. There’s a beauty as well in winning the match at 3 am if it’s the last one of the tournament — but it’s not, so I’m going to have to switch all of my young genes on and try to recover as quickly as possible.”

Casper Ruud: “What other sports make you play/compete/perform for four-plus hours at 3 am? I just finished my match two hours ago. After that, I have to cool down on the bike for 15 minutes, do press/media, ice bath for 10 minutes, shower, eat, and then get treatment/massage. I’m currently at the treatment stage.”

Marcos Baghdatis to L’Equipe: “It’s not fair, it’s not safe, it’s not healthy for the players. Unfortunately, these late matches and finishes will keep happening as long as the deciders and the tournaments won’t sit down to try to find solutions. In the meantime, players will still be put in danger, and there’s no excuse for that.”

WHAT COULD BE DONE? 
That’s the thing: everybody for sure agrees that the whole thing needs to stop. But how? They won’t cut night sessions because it brings money: Roland-Garros, for example, has a different broadcaster (Amazon Prime) for them. The French Open was by the way the least suited to night sessions out of the four Grand Slam events: it’s the slowest surface in a city where it’s cold at night, even in May, where public transportation doesn’t run that late, and in a tournament that has struggled for years with filling up its centre court. Nights at Roland-Garros were always going to be problematic. And let’s not forget a neighborhood that just hates the disruption of tennis at night. Really, except for the tournament and the FFT finances, nobody needed night sessions at Roland-Garros.

Use the mornings better

Anyway, now that these are here to stay: how to fix the nights that lead to the early morning? The Times wonders if now is maybe the moment for tennis to use its morning more, noting that golfers start at 7 am, for example. The Chatrier in Paris started at noon, even on the day when three delayed matches were remaining to be played. Amélie Mauresmo, tournament director, announced a 10 am start for the day before that, but it never saw the light of day in the end for reasons we still don’t know. Is it a TV issue, is it a staffing issue, or is it too hard to ask players to be ready for a 10 am start? Wouldn’t players prefer to be up at 5 or 6 am after a good night's sleep than starting their night at 5 or 6 am after finishing playing at 3 am?

When exceptional circumstances happen, it seems a Grand Slam event should show flexibility in order to adjust. Roland-Garros changing its start time would have compensated a lot of the consequences of that weather-from-tennis-hell. Overall, Grand Slam events should probably also take the path opened by the ATP and the WTA in trying to reign in, in their rules, these super late matches that aren’t helping the sport at all.

QUESTION OF THE DAY 
Are you night owls?

You were 100% to let me know last week that, yes, Naomi Osaka could get back into the Top 5.

Do you think Grand Slam events should revise their night sessions?

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MENS SANA IN CORPORE SANO 
Murray’s back is acting up, but there’s a plan to save grass season

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Andy Murray has always struggled with his back during clay seasons, and unfortunately, 2024 was no exception. It’s always been a tough balance for the former World No.1 because playing the clay season helps him build for the grass—and also because a few years ago, he was a contender for Roland-Garros—but it’s tough on his body.

So, in the end, Murray paid the price of playing in Paris this year as he had to delay the start of his arrival on the grass. The British player won’t be seen on the courts of Surbiton to defend his title this week as he needed to get a procedure done to his back instead. It's been a tough decision but one my team and I felt we needed to make,” Murray said, as reported by the BBC.

I always used to have a procedure on my back the week before the French Open.

Andy Murray

The procedure involved is, as reported by the Times, an injection that Murray usually does before Roland-Garros in order to get through the next three months. He couldn’t do it this year because of the rehab he was doing to repair that ankle. I really didn’t feel good,” Murray said. “My back has been a problem in the last few weeks for practice and stuff. It has not been great. To be honest, I always used to have a procedure on my back the week before the French Open. In my prime, clay always caused issues with my back, so I would always have a procedure. I didn’t this year, and it has not been that comfortable. I was moving OK but really not feeling that comfortable on the court. I am hoping when I get home that I will have a procedure on my back, have a few days’ rest, and then I should be fine.”

It is thought that Murray will retire from tennis this summer, so he’s logically even more looking forward to playing on his beloved grass. “It’s probably the surface that is easiest on my body nowadays,” Murray told the Times. “But probably it is also the surface that I would still fancy my chances on and play my best tennis. I always look forward to this time of the year.” Andy Murray is now scheduled to play in Stuttgart from June 10 and then at the Queen’s from June 17. Then it will be Wimbledon time again, probably for the last time for Murray, who could also play doubles with his brother Jamie.

Keys joins the “Love, Your Mind” campaign

Madison Keys, a long-time mental health advocate, has joined a new initiative in the US via the USTA. A statement explained that eleven professional sports leagues and organizations teamed up with the national “Love, Your Mind” campaign to announce a comprehensive mental health partnership with the premiere of a series of public service advertisements (PSAs). The series, titled “The Rituals We Share” features features star athletes sharing their “rituals,” or steps they take, to care for their minds on and off the field. The campaign is led by the Huntsman Mental Health Institute and the Ad Council.

BUSINESS / MEDIA 
A new campaign for the WTA Foundation

It was announced on Monday that the WTA Foundation was launching a “Women Change The Game campaign during Roland-Garros. The WTA also announced that former Wimbledon champion Marion Bartoli would be the first WTA Foundation Game Changer.

“The  WTA Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation together with the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs (MEAE) bring Women Change The Game —a new campaign uniting the power of women’s tennis and philanthropy to elevate women’s health and nutrition as a global priority—to Roland-Garros. A series of events hosted under the campaign’s banner gathered more than 100 high-level leaders across tennis, government, and philanthropy on May 31, urging action on global health and nutrition with a recently announced fundraising match challenge to the campaign’s Global Women’s Health Fund”, said a statement.

SOME BREAK POINTS 
Shapovalov makes tough choices

sport lol GIF by Tennis TV

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Denis Shapovalov (25) is a man on a mission. But that mission right now demands him to sacrifice events he’d love to play. The Canadian didn’t play between Wimbledon last year and Auckland this year because of a knee injury. He’s been playing better and better this year, with third rounds in Rotterdam, Miami, Madrid, and Roland-Garros. Yet, he’s still not back in the Top 100 (118). Shapovalov’s ambitions are obviously to be back among the top players, not just in the Top 100, but right now, he needs to chase these points. And to protect a knee that still requires to be cautious.

That’s why, after losing in Paris, Shapovalov decided to withdraw from the doubles with Thanasi Kokkinakis. “I have to be smart a little bit, having to pull out of the doubles, feeling the knee a little bit today, trying to give myself a chance to have a good grass court season. In general, it’s much better than it was before I took the break and definitely better than it was last year.”

But Denis Shapovalov actually took a much tougher tennis decision: he will not join Team Canada, even if he’d make the cut, for the Olympics in a few weeks. “I don’t think so, no. It’s gonna be difficult to qualify, but I also need to make some tough decisions to maybe play some tournaments with points to try to get my ranking back up. I’ll try my best to play the next one. But this one, especially being on clay, which is not my best chance to go deep… It’s a tough decision because I wasn’t able to go to Tokyo, so to also miss this one sucks. I’d love to play singles at the Olympics; That’d be the priority. But I have to make tough decisions, which was the same with the Davis Cup this year. Unfortunately, it’s just the stage I’m in, and it’s a little bit tricky.”

Andreescu: “I don’t want to be known as a three-setter”

Bianca Andreescu impressed people a lot by reaching the third round at Roland-Garros despite not having played on Tour since last August. The Canadian lost in three sets against Jasmine Paolini (1-6, 6-3, 6-0) under the rain. Her ability to get back to a Top 30 level right from the start remains uncanny. The 2019 US Open champion, of course, knows she did great in Paris, but still, there’s one thing she wants to fix as soon as possible.

“I feel like I’m playing my best tennis when my back is against the wall, but I want to be able to play that same tennis at any point in the match, right from the start. I don’t want to go a set down, I don’t want to play three sets, and I don’t want to be known as a three-setter. I wanna win matches like Sabalenka does, like 2 and 1: I would love that! (she laughs). I’m super happy with how I fought in all of my matches. I had a few challenges and overcame that. I have a lot of good things to take away from it. I’m just needing matches, that’s all.”

Arthur Fils is no longer working with Sergi Bruguera. The French player (19) announced it at Roland-Garros after losing in the first round against Matteo Arnaldi (6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-2). He’ll keep working with Sébastien Grosjean, though. Bruguera joined the team last October but it seems it overall didn’t click with the player and his entourage.

EDITOR’S PICKS 

READ: Elin Hilderbrand before she cut the Nantucket flow. The infamous author, whose publisher says she has sold 23 million books worldwide, is indeed releasing what should be if she doesn’t change her mind, the last of her “beach books.” The last one, available on June 11, is called Swan Song. I have run out of really good ideas for Nantucket novels, and I don’t ever want to put out a product that is subpar”, she told the WSJ. She will now keep working on a literary fiction book and on a podcast.

WATCH: Benedict Cumberbatch in Eric, on Netflix, who delivers one of the more memorable performances of his career”, says RadioTimes.

LISTEN TO: Anything Rihanna to celebrate the fact that she has just become the woman with the most diamond-certified singles in history.

“TAKE A FEW SELFISHES”: 

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