Andy Murray is one of the most remarkable athletes the sport of tennis has ever seen. If that wasn't already evident before his astonishing come-from-behind win against Thanasi Kokkinakis that started on Thursday night and ended on Friday morning in Melbourne, it certainly was afterwards.
The five-set epic - in which Murray overcame a two-sets-to-love deficit - stretched over an absorbing five-hours and 45 minutes and ended at 4:05am. It was the second-longest in Australian Open history and the longest in the distinguished career of Britain's three-time major winner.
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Not only that, it was the second successive marathon for Murray after the 35-year-old's first round victory over 13th seed Matteo Berrettini also lasted nearly five hours. Considering he's playing with a metal hip and many thought Murray's sad exit from the 2019 Australian Open marked the end of his career, the Briton's second round victory over Kokkinakis was nothing short of extraordinary.
"I don't know who it's [the late finish] beneficial for," Murray said on Rod Laver Arena after the match as the tennis world questioned how or why players would be forced to stay on court until 4am. "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."
While Murray must have been physically and mentally exhausted from the gruelling five-set triumph, his unwavering work ethic was on display just eight hours after the epic second round battle had come to a conclusion. Others would surely have enjoyed some rest or even a bit of a sleep-in after such a taxing match, Murray was seen back at Melbourne Park around midday.
"Look who's in the house," a gobsmacked Tony Jones said on Channel Nine's coverage as cameras showed the Brit walking through the players' corridors at Melbourne Park with his tennis gear. "There he is the man of the moment Andy Murray, just walking a little gingerly at the moment as you'd expect.
The amazing footage left many tennis fans in disbelief that Murray had returned so soon after one of the gruelling matches in Australian Open history. It's a testament to the warrior that the 35-year-old is and the mental strength that separates him from so many other players on tour.
I can barely sit in front of my computer at work and I only watched it until 2:30am 😂 jeeez this guy 🔥
— Martin (@mlw_es) January 20, 2023
Privileged to witness a truly remarkable @andy_murray performance, coming back from 2-0 down to win in best part of 6 hours @AustralianOpen. And this after nearly 5 hours 48 hours ago. A remarkable competitor. Fitting match point backhand winner. Go recover, Andy pic.twitter.com/GOmIBoHZW3
— Jon Terry (@jon_p_terry) January 19, 2023
The fact that Andy Murray is 35 years old with a metal hip and defending like this is not short of remarkablepic.twitter.com/B69KMh1y6b
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) January 19, 2023
— Wide World of Sports (@wwos) January 20, 2023
Andy Murray clams crazy 4am finish
While Murray seemed in better spirits later on Friday, he was less than impressed by the scheduling situation that saw his match finish at 4am. In particular, the Brit went in to bat for the Australian Open ball-kids, who are not even paid as volunteer workers for the grand slam.
“If my child was a ball kid for a tournament, they’re coming home at 5am 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. It’s been spoken about for years. When you start the night matches late and have conditions like that, these things are going to happen.”
Australian Open boss Craig Tiley hit back over growing calls to do something about the schedule after ruling out any adjustments mid-tournament - either via a curfew or by shuffling matches around. "At this point, there's no need to alter the schedule," he told the Nine Network.
"We will always look at it when we do the (post-tournament) debrief, like we do every year. But at this point ... we've got to fit those matches in the 14 days so you don't have many options. Over the last three days, we've had extreme heat, over five breaks of rain, we've had cold ... we've had three late nights with scheduling to try and catch up with matches."
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