Men's final earns 'historic' switch to evening start

Click to follow

The men's singles final at the Australian Open will be played at night from next year after a new television deal was agreed with the local broadcasters.

Both men's semi-finals are already played at night and have proved ratings winners in Australia. Starting at the 2005 centenary Australian Open, the men's singles will begin at 7.30pm (8.30am GMT) in what the tournament organiser, Paul McNamee, described as an "historic first for a Grand Slam".

The timing will also make the matches more accessible to a European audience.

The United States Open women's final is the only other major final played in the evening.

"We have done a few breaks with tradition over the years, haven't we, including the roof which was criticised originally," said McNamee. "Now of course it's being used by other Grand Slams, or intended to be, such as Wimbledon."

McNamee said the decision had been made jointly between the organisers and Channel Seven, the broadcasters of the tournament since 1973 who have signed on for a further five years.

"The question for tennis was whether it was going to be strong enough to carry prime time and I think what we have demonstrated over the last five years, with the possible exception of two years ago when we struggled, is that the tennis product has been able to hold itself in prime time ... No other Grand Slam has done it so far on the men's side. It's a big step forward for us."

McNamee said the women's final would remain in its current slot on Saturday afternoon.