Murray match highlights how tennis can be an all-night sport

Murray match highlights how tennis can be an all-night sport

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Andy Murray just wanted to go to the bathroom.

It was 3 a.m., he had already played his Australian Open second round match against Thanasi Kokkinakis for over 4 1/2 hours – they would continue for another set for over an hour – and Murray was hoping to be allowed. to head to the locker room for a short break.

Rules are rules, however, and Murray had already left the court twice, so chair umpire Eva Asderaki-Moore stood still, prompting this rebuke from the three-time Grand Slam champion: “It’s a joke . And you know it, as well.”

Ah, the perils of playing all night, something that happens occasionally in tennis more than in other professional sports. It all left Murray, 35, angry and wondering aloud after 4:05 a.m. Friday – when he finally, thankfully, finished 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3, 7-5 victory over Kokkinakis after 5 hours and 45 minutes of clashing skills and wills at Margaret Court Arena – why this kind of ‘prank’, as he called it, has to happen at all.

“If my kid was a ball kid for a tournament, they come home at 5 a.m. – as a parent, I don’t care. It’s not good for them. It’s not good for the referees, the officials. I don’t think it’s amazing for the fans. It’s not good for the players,” said Murray, a father of four. “So yeah, we talk about it all the time We’ve been talking about this for years, when you start night games late and you have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.

Especially at events like the Australian Open and the US Open, which have daily night sessions that usually include two matches at certain courts. Which can lead to extreme situations such as Murray vs. Kokkinakis, which came 15 years to the day after the last Grand Slam finish in history, a match between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis at the 2008 Australian Open. which ended at 4:34 a.m.

“No sport does that. I don’t think it’s very good. … Who really wants to watch a five or six hour game? That’s long, even for TV,” said tournament third seed Jessica Pegula, whose parents own NFL and NHL teams. “I don’t think any of the players think this should happen at all.”

She and others have pointed out that going to bed after a game like that is difficult because of the adrenaline involved, which impairs mental and physical recovery efforts.

The final women’s match of Thursday’s schedule, in which Marketa Vondrousova defeated No. 2 seed Ons Jabeur 6-1, 5-7, 6-1 at Rod Laver Arena, ended after 1 hour on Friday. in the morning.

“It’s a bit crazy. For the body too: I don’t think it’s healthy to play at 1 a.m.,” Vondrousova said. “I just need to sleep.”

Murray’s brother, Grand Slam doubles champion Jamie, tweeted: “It’s time for tennis to move to single match night sessions. … We can’t keep having players competing until the wee hours of the morning. Rubbish for everyone involved – players/fans/event staff. Etc.”

Still, don’t expect anything to change anytime soon.

“At this stage there is no need to change the schedule,” tournament director and Tennis Australia manager Craig Tiley told local broadcast partner Channel 9 on Friday.

Murray will be back on the court on Saturday, facing number 24 Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the fourth round.

Murray, who also played a five-setter in the first round against Matteo Berrettini and has already spent more than 10.5 hours on the court, was back at Melbourne Park before 1 p.m. Friday.

“It’s not fun for Andy. I saw it today before my match,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, the 2021 French Open runner-up who won his third-round match on Friday afternoon. doing here? He should be in bed! ‘”

Tsitsipas thinks the likes of Tiley aren’t at all disappointed with this kind of round-the-clock competition.

“There is a great story behind this match, and it will be remembered,” said Tsitsipas. “I remember very well, very well, the game Baghdatis played with Hewitt. It’s somewhere in my mind somewhere. … It’s definitely a very magical moment – of course not for the loser because it’s painful.

At last year’s US Open, eventual champion Carlos Alcaraz and Jannik Sinner, two bright young stars, fought a five-set fight for 5 hours and 15 minutes, until 2:50 a.m. setting the mark for the last finish in the history of this tournament. .

Sinner was on the wrong side of that one. On Friday, his result was better and his schedule simpler: his 4-6, 4-6, 6-1, 6-2, 6-0 win over Marton Fucsovics started at 11 a.m.; his day was over at 2:45 p.m.

“I don’t care, do I? I’m happy to be on the court. It doesn’t matter what time it is,” Sinner said. “Of course I’d rather (start) at 11pm than play at night, (but) it’s part of our sport now.”


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