Andy Murray called for tennis to end the “farce” of all-night matches after battling past 4am at the Australian Open to defeat Thanasi Kokkinakis in one of the most extraordinary performances of his career.
The 35-year-old, who had battled for nearly five hours to upset Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday in his best result since 2017, forced a deciding set and finally prevailed 4-6 6-7 (4) 7-6 (5) 6-3 7-5 over Kokkinakis at 4.05am Melbourne time, having not started on Margaret Court Arena until after 10pm the previous day.
At five hours and 45 minutes, it was the longest match of Murray’s whole career, the second longest in the tournament’s history and the third latest finish to a tennis match, and the British great questioned how such situations are allowed to occur.
“I don’t know who it’s beneficial for,” Murray said. “We come here after the match and that’s what the discussion is, rather than it being like, ‘epic Murray-Kokkinakis match’ – it ends in a bit of a farce.
“Amazingly people stayed until the end, and I really appreciate people doing that and creating an atmosphere for us. Some people obviously need to work the following day and everything.
“But if my child was a ball kid for a tournament and they’re coming home at five in the morning, as a parent, I’m snapping at that. It’s not beneficial for them; It’s not beneficial for the umpires, the officials; I don’t think it’s amazing for the fans; It’s not good for the players.
“We talk about it all the time, and it’s been spoken about for years. But when you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”
Andy Murray and late finishes
5hr 45min: The Murray-Kokkinakis epic was the second-longest match in Australian Open history.
6min: The amount of time it fell short of the previous longest match in tournament history: the 2012 men’s singles final between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.
5hr 7min: The previous longest match of Murray’s career, a defeat to Juan Martin Del Potro in the Davis Cup in 2016.
4.05am: The time Murray hit his winning shot to secure his comeback win over Kokkinakis – the second-latest finish in Australian Open history.
4.34am: The latest finish in Australian Open history, which came in 2008 when Lleyton Hewitt beat Marcos Baghdatis.
11hr 5min: The longest match in tennis history, which came between John Isner and Nicolas Mahut at Wimbledon in 2010.
The last comment referred to the balls being used for the tournament this year, which have drawn numerous complaints from the players for being too slow, while Murray was also unhappy at not being allowed an additional toilet break.
The fact there is protocol in place to allow for alternative arrangements to be made with regards to late matches drew criticism from current and former players on social media, with Murray’s older brother Jamie among those voicing their concerns.
“Time for tennis to move to only one 1 match at the night sessions at grand slams,” the 36-year-old former Australia Open doubles champion posted on Twitter. “This is the best outcome for ALL singles players.
“We can’t continue to have players compete into the wee hours of the morning. Rubbish for everyone involved – players/fans/event staff Etc.”
Martina Navratilova, a three-time winner of the Australian Open during her stellar career, called on both the tournament organisers and the International Tennis Federation to come up with alternative arrangements for matches as well.
“It is essential we create better rules in tennis regarding the weather (light and wind) and starting times or cutoff times for matches,” Navratilova wrote.
“Murray and Kokkinakis will finish around 4am. Crazy- no other sport does this @AustralianOpen @ITFTennis.”
In total, Murray has spent nearly 11 hours on court in his two matches at the Australian Open so far and will have little time to prepare to face Roberto Bautista Agut for a place in the fourth round on Saturday.
Indeed, his former Great Britain Davis Cup team-mate Dom Inglot expects Murray to prioritise recovery sessions over hitting balls on the practice court ahead of the showdown with the Spaniard.
“It’s extremely tough,” Inglot told Sky Sports News. “Even though you’re doing it in the match, the next morning when you wake up, you feel like someone has taken a crowbar to your back, your knees, your hips, and you’ve got to react and recover.
“You’re going to be using ice baths, you’re going to be using compression sleeves on your legs – I honestly think he may not even hit much the next day because it’s all about staying fresh.”
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