IMAGE: Andy Murray said he respected the rules but criticised having to play until 3 or 4am. Photograph: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
An exhausted Andy Murray still had enough left in the tank to blast tennis officials after an epic five-set comeback second round win at the Australian Open finished after 4am local time on Friday, well beyond the usual Grand Slam midnight madness.
As fans trudged home for a few hours sleep or headed directly to work after watching Murray stage an epic fightback, rallying from two sets and 2-5 down to beat home hope Thanasi Kokkinakis 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(5), 6-3 ,7-5, the fired up Scot tore into tennis officials, labelling them “disrespectful.”
Murray said he respected the rules but criticised having to play until 3 or 4am “and you’re not allowed to go and take a piss.”
“It’s a joke, it’s a joke. You know it as well.”
“It’s disrespectful to you, disrespectful to the ball children, disrespectful to the players and we are not allowed to go to the toilet.
The Australian Open routinely has matches run into the early morning but former Grand Slam champion turned commentator John McEnroe said the Melbourne midnight madness on this occasion crossed over into insanity and called on officials to implement rules so it never happens again.
“I am stunned in disbelief that they were still playing at that hour,” McEnroe told Eurosport. “For starters, it was insane that matches at that level are played 4 to 4.30am in the morning.”
However, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said there was no need to change the schedule at this point.
“We will always look at it, when we do the (tournament) debrief — like we do every year,” Tiley told the ‘Today Show’ on Channel Nine.
“But at this point, at what it is, we’ve got to fit those matches in the 14 days, so you don’t have many options.
“It was an epic match and when you schedule a match like that just before 10pm in the evening before, you’re not expecting it to go close to six hours.”
Tiley pointed out that several hours had been lost due to delays caused by extreme heat and stop-start rain this week.
“There are so many variables… you don’t often get those conditions in such a short period of time so we’ve had three late nights with scheduling trying to catch up with matches,” Tiley added.
Most elite sports do not hold their biggest events into the wee hours of the morning after most fans have gone to bed.
McEnroe noted that the World Cup, Super Bowl or NBA Finals are not played at such odd hours, although the NHL Stanley Cup playoffs, which do not have shootouts, have had games decided in the early morning.
McEnroe also said the late finish and energy used by Murray during the five hour, 45 minute struggle will put the 35-year-old at a competitive disadvantage as he tries to recover for his third round clash with Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut, who also needed five sets to see off American Brandon Holt.