Long, long nights bug players at Open

Long, long nights bug players at Open

 It's not the late hour, it's the insects.
As Serena Williams got a taste of the Australian Open's notorious long nights, she didn't mind finishing at 1:00 am -- but she did draw the line at the clouds of crickets swirling around Rod Laver Arena.

"Bugs fell on my back twice," the five-time champion complained, after her post-midnight clash with Austria's Tamira Paszek.

"I hate bugs more than you can imagine. I hate bugs. Like, they kept jumping on me. I just, Yuck!" she said.

"So I'm going to request not to play at night any more because I hate bugs, except for the final. I heard it's at night, though. I'll try to get used to them."

It's a new take on a long-standing problem at the year's first grand slam, where TV scheduling has seen fit to arrange two consecutive matches each evening -- with the result of some long, long nights.

In the most infamous incident in 2008, Australia's Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis took to the court just before midnight and finally wrapped up at 4:34 am, the latest finish in grand slam history.

The bitter memory still burns fresh in the mind of Hewitt, who is content to let women's players shoulder some of the final matches, until now reserved for the men.
"I don't really want to have too many of the Baghdatis matches again. Go home and McDonald's is already open on the way home for breakfast," Hewitt said.
"Yeah, it's nice (to start at 7:00 pm). The girls can do that (late start) for a change!"

Four-time champion Roger Federer agreed it was "fair" that women should play some of the late matches, to minimise the number of post-midnight finishes.
"I think it's nice that the guys get to play first once in a while or 50 percent of the time."

"The women's match is not usually going to last potentially six hours, whereas a men's match could.

"I think it's fair. I don't think it's good that they always had the women's match first. I think it's good to mix it up."

The insects, however, are another matter. When they descend in the evening, attracted by the stadium lights, players are constantly flicking them off the court or batting them away with their racquets.

In one memorable image, TV stations repeatedly showed a ball girl's look of disgust as she was forced to cup a cricket in her hands and take it off-court.

According to Federer, the bugs are not a problem early in the evening, and they do not only swarm at the Open.

"We had a couple in Qatar, I believe. The ball boy destroyed one. I just wanted to get it moved. He didn't want to take it in his hand like the girl did yesterday," he said.