Australian Open: Murray back at 9:30 to deal with ‘hangover’ of a 4:00 finish

The British star was back at Melbourne Park less than six hours after the 4am finish, beating Thanasi Kokkinakis in an epic comeback, writes STUART FRASER.

Those feeling radiant and breezy in the dressing room at Melbourne Park yesterday (Friday) morning could hardly believe their eyes. At 9.30 Andy Murray walked in, less than six hours after completing the second to last finish in Grand Slam history at 4.05.

“I saw him before my game today,” said Stefanos Tsitsipas, No. 3 from Greece. “I was like, ‘What is he doing here? He should be in bed.’ ”

It would have been entirely understandable if Murray had not turned up at the scene at all yesterday (Friday). After the most amazing of all his big comebacks, as he recovered from two sets down after five hours and 45 minutes to beat Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis, it was almost 5.30am when he got back to his Melbourne hotel. A combination of adrenaline and the after-effects of the various supplements and fluids he was consuming to get through his match made it difficult for him to nod off.

“He said it’s very hard for him to sleep at all because you take all these types of supplements, energy drinks and gels to keep you going and a lot of them have caffeine in them,” says Laura Robson, the former British No. 1 and a Europort expert said.

“He took her to the end of the game not knowing how long it would take. He lay in bed and thought, ‘This really isn’t what I need.’ ”

While some might have been tempted to set an alarm for the afternoon and hit the snooze button a few times, Murray’s decision to wake up early will likely stand him in good stead. The danger of lying down after such a long match is that the body will stiffen even more, making recovery extremely challenging – as if it wasn’t tough enough already.

A tour physiotherapist said Murray at age 35 with a metal hip was better off getting as much exercise as possible despite the obvious discomfort he must have had. After a morning physio appointment, he was spotted on an exercise bike at the players gym before returning to Margaret Court Arena at 6:30pm for an easy hit lasting around 20 minutes.

“I was surprised to see him,” said his brother Jamie, who plays mixed doubles and men’s doubles here, after speaking to him in the players’ restaurant at 7.30pm. “He just wanted to move. It’s probably a good thing to keep his body moving and that he came in to score. If he really felt absolutely awful, he wouldn’t have done it, would he?

“I’m sure Andy probably feels like he’s hungover today because he hasn’t slept. I’m sure his body is a complete mess, but if he’s played during the day and slept properly at night and recovered properly, there might be a chance for him to be in better physical condition tomorrow to compete. Who knows? He may be fine, but the odds are not in his favor.”

Jamie has been particularly vocal this week about the scheduling issues that led to it being finished in the middle of the night on four of the first five days. The order of play at the two main venues is split, with a three-game day session starting at 11am (tickets start at £55 for Rod Laver Arena) and a two-game night session starting at 7pm (starting at £85). .

“I think if they only had one night game, that’s enough,” Jamie said. “I think before a game they have their issues with value for money for the ticket holders, but what’s more important, the players that are out there competing or the amount of money they charge for a ticket?

“And it’s a disaster for everyone else involved in the event, right? I’m sure you had to stay up super late. Ball children, referees, transport staff. How can this be the best way for these events? It just can’t.”

Late finishes are increasingly occurring on the Tour. Slower courts and balls, coupled with more physicality, are contributing to an upward trend in long matches – last year there were 55 matches over three hours on the women’s tour, compared to none in 2000. The introduction of a 25-second shot clock in-between points may have helped take down series time wasters like Rafael Nadal, but it actually encouraged those who normally play fast to take a little extra time to prepare for the next point.

A possible solution here is to reduce the daily session to two games to avoid session overflow. An earlier start time of 6pm for the night session would also help reduce the prospect of an end in the early hours, although an Australian broadcast insider yesterday (Friday) insisted domestic television rights holder Channel 9 would not approve it would because his 6 p.m. news bulletin is considered so sacred.

As is the case with so many people in positions of power in tennis, Australian Open Tournament Director Craig Tiley seemed to have his head in the sand when he first said yesterday (Friday) morning there was “no need to change that Schedule.” Later in the day, he struck a more conciliatory tone.

“The whole point is to care about player wellbeing, and we’re constantly getting feedback from players,” Tiley said. “We ask, ‘What can we do to help you shorten matches?’ Have we looked at no runs, no warm ups, shorter time between transitions?

“There’s all the elements of debate, like looking at the score, five sets at Grand Slams. That’s the uniqueness of Grand Slams. We support best of five sets. It’s up to the players. I’m just throwing out ideas.”

Scheduling debate aside, yesterday (Friday) there was widespread praise from across the tennis spectrum for Murray’s herculean effort. His mum Judy has watched countless of his games from the pitch but was left in disbelief at what her son accomplished here in Melbourne this week as he played for 10 hours and 34 minutes in the first two rounds.

“What he went through to get back to that level is quite remarkable,” she told Channel 9. “He’s just an incredible fighter and his resilience is second to none.”

Ironically, today (Saturday) Murray takes on the player he faced in what was his last professional match at the time due to a debilitating right hip problem at the 2019 Australian Open. World No. 25 Spain-based Roberto Bautista Agut was able to beat him in a deciding set that day and is still considered one of the most metronomic players from the baseline.

“It’s weird that when he played on one leg against Bautista, he basically could barely walk, but he still played five sets and had a chance to win the match,” Jamie said.

“All this time later he’s playing it again here now, with two legs but almost 11 hours of tennis under his belt. I don’t know what will happen. I don’t think anyone really knows.”

-The times

Originally released as Australian Open: Murray back at 9:30 to deal with ‘hangover’ of a 4:00 finish Australian Open: Murray back at 9:30 to deal with ‘hangover’ of a 4:00 finish

Ryan Sederquist

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