Minutes after a dramatic five-set victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis at 4am on Friday morning, Andy Murray reflected on his toughness and had to celebrate the most extraordinary victory of his career. Instead, he was reminded of the time, he was simply depressed. “Instead of it being: ‘Epic Murray-Kokkinakis match’, it ends up being a bit of a farce,” he said, noting the negative impact on players, officials, ball-kids and fans alike.
His frustration reflects one of the many issues that have frustrated players at the Australian Open this year, even as athletes continue to deliver on court.
The tournament director, Craig Tilley, said there would be no changes to the schedule to discourage overnight matches, describing Murray’s late finish as an “anomaly” and claiming that hot conditions were to blame for the long run, among other things. fits
“It varies from year to year, mostly driven by circumstances,” Tilley said. “Especially in Australia, very hot days, and games take longer on hot days. It’s a combination of things, more equality between players, the shot-clock gives players more time because it’s gone 20 to 25 seconds between points, all of these things contribute. .”
Several players have expressed displeasure at the late finish. “I know it doesn’t happen often,” said Jessica Pegula, the No. 3 seed in the women’s draw. “But when it’s happening at a Grand Slam, on the biggest stage, those guys, it could be another round or tournament for them. It’s not healthy to do that. Like, the recovery I can’t even imagine mentally and physically.
“Even people don’t understand, then you can’t sleep. You are so wired. I don’t even know if he could possibly sleep after that.
Jamie Murray agreed: “I’m sure Andy probably felt he had a hangover today, because he didn’t sleep. I’m sure his body is a complete mess.”
Murray couldn’t sleep for long. Five hours after departing Margaret Court Arena, he returned to Melbourne Park at 9.30am to continue his recovery. He is now at a heavy loss ahead of his match against Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday.
Tilley said the prospect of a curfew or an earlier start had drawn negative reactions from players. Meanwhile, no games will be removed from the day’s session. “We looked at that, we have some challenges, it means putting more high-class players on the outside court,” he said.
Jamie Murray believes night sessions at tournaments around the world should be shortened by one match to ensure each day ends at a reasonable time. “If you go into the locker room and you ask all the players, men and women, if they always want two games on the night schedule, I’m sure most of them will say just one game because nobody wants to. 11 o’clock, 12 o’clock, morning Play at one o’clock, two o’clock in the morning,” he said.
While some agreed with Murray’s disappointment, others were unmoved by the prospect of competing until 4am. “You have to deal with it,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, who faces a fourth-round tie with Janik Sinner on Sunday. “What can you do? It started at a reasonable time, I say. There’s a rule. They didn’t break any rules. The game started at 10 p.m. Kokkinakis made it long. Murray made it long too.
Tsitsipas argued that slow finishes make for memorable stories while Siner, whose US Open quarterfinal against Carlos Alcaraz last year ended in 2:50, simply shrugged. “Honestly, I don’t really care, do I? Happy to be on the court. It doesn’t matter what time. Of course I’d rather play at 11 than at night. It’s part of our sport now.”
Murray’s fate was predicted by Novak Djokovic, who pointed to the long games played by Alexei Popyrin and Casper Rudd as a trend that would continue throughout the event. Djokovic identified the tournament’s other teething problem – the controversial Dunlop balls – as the root of the problem.
“I think we’re going to see a lot more long-term games this year than last year,” he said. “One of the biggest reasons is probably the ball because especially on the big courts, I don’t think the speed of the surface has changed much. The outdoor courts are a lot faster. The stadium courts are a little slower. But the ball is slower. That affects the play.”
Some players have expressed disappointment over the quality of the ball. Rafael Nadal described the balls as “worse quality” compared to previous years, and others noted that they fall easily, become fluffy, slow down conditions and make it difficult to generate heavy topspin. In many matches this year, players have complained to the umpire due to the condition of the ball.
In response Tilley argued that the weather conditions, this time the humidity, had changed the players’ perception of the ball rather than the quality of the product.
“Look, I can only say that we will take the feedback and debrief of the players, I will leave it to the technicians, who look at all the variables and the technical aspects of the ball, there are many measurements. On the court,” he said.