Kuznetsova questions late nights

MELBOURNE, Australia -- Russia's Svetlana Kuznetsova has joined the growing chorus of players questioning the wisdom of scheduling late-night matches at the Australian Open.

The top men have been complaining about the programming for years after being forced to play into the early hours of the next day, and now the women have added their voice.

The issue reached farcical proportions two years ago when a match between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis did not finish until 4:34 a.m., prompting complaints from the men that they were being unfairly treated.

Organizers had traditionally scheduled two singles matches for the night-session at Rod Laver Arena with the women playing first followed by the men.

To appease the men, tournament organizers agreed to alternate the schedule this year, giving them the chance to play the first night match and leaving the women to play last.

Kuznetsova got her first taste of what it was like to play into the wee hours when her third-round match against German qualifier Angelique Kerber began just before midnight Friday.

The French Open champion eventually won 3-6, 7-5, 6-4 just before 2 a.m. but said it was an experience she would not want to repeat.

"I was running and going crazy in the locker room so I can stay awake," the world No. 3 said. "I had to remind myself I'm playing the Australian Open, it's not just a regular tournament.

"You kind of lose the importance of these big events. For Russia it's great, they can watch my match on television, but for me it's 2 o'clock in the morning," she said.

Kuznetsova's comments followed a similar complaint from Australian teen Bernard Tomic earlier in the week.

Tomic was hauled before the tournament organizers to explain his outburst but Kuznetsova said officials needed to understand the players' view.

"I grew up in a sports family and my parents always taught me to wake up at 8 and to go to bed at 10," she said.

"I don't understand why we have to play after the men anyway," she added. "I think it's never happened before. We need equality, the men have complained, it sounds weird. But I don't even think men should play at 2 o'clock in the morning."

Justine Henin, who beat Elena Dementieva in the first night match on Wednesday, said even her finish, which was much earlier than Kuznetsova's, had effected her for days.

"I faced a few issues and my body suffered a lot," said the Belgian, who is in the early stages of a comeback. "I did not have enough sleep. I slept terribly. I was in bed at 2 when I beat Dementieva. I slept five hours."

To help her stay awake before her match, Kuznetsova decided to join the spectators in the stands and watch the men's contest between Rafael Nadal and Philipp Kohlschreiber, a four-set match which went 3½ hours.

"It was frustrating. They told us if it was going to a fifth set we were going to be moved to another court," she said. "I agreed to move court if it went to a fifth set but I was praying to Rafa to win in four sets because I wanted to play on Rod Laver.

"It's better to play on Rod Laver than Margaret Court [Arena] where nobody is watching. At least people keep you up because you're falling asleep there," she said.