Andy Murray braced for another late finish in Australian Open

Andy Murray’s back on the night train with British star braced for another late finish when he takes on Roberto Bautista Agut after Australian Open boss Craig Tiley defended the tournament’s scheduling

  • Andy Murray is set for another late finish when he faces Roberto Bautista Agut 
  • In the previous round Murray finished at 4.05am, which he called a farce 
  • Australian Open boss Craig Tiley has defended the tournament’s scheduling  

As exhausted Andy Murray tried to mix sleep with treatment, Australian Open boss Craig Tiley defended the scheduling that might have wrecked his tournament chances.

Murray was due to go again on Saturday at 8am UK time, 7pm Australian time, in the third round, tackling the notoriously solid Spanish baseliner Roberto Bautista Agut. It comes after a 4.05am finish in the previous round that he described as a farce.

Tiley said he would be prepared to introduce a cut-off time for matches, but that the idea met with resistance when players were consulted.

Andy Murray is set for another late finish when he takes on Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut

‘If the players want a curfew, we can play with a curfew, we would like that,’ said the tournament director. ‘But the feedback we get from the players is that “we don’t want to stop the match we’re playing”, nearly 100 per cent say they want to finish any match they’re playing.

‘They understand stopping the match when it rains, but I picture a situation where a player comes back from two sets down, it’s 3-3 in the fifth.

‘I’d like to see you walk out on the court and tell the players they have to come off.’

Wimbledon is now the only Grand Slam that does not run an official night session. In the case of the Australian Open, two matches are scheduled in the first week from 7pm.

Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley defended the tournament’s scheduling

Tiley is one of the sport’s most innovative thinkers and would like to reduce the danger of early morning finishes by, for example, abolishing net-cord lets and reducing the warm-up.

Yet players are notoriously resistant to change and tennis is still a long way from changing the scoring system to make match times more predictable.

‘It’s not ideal to play that late, if it’s something we can avoid we would, but we can’t predict the length of the match,’ said Tiley. ‘Remember they automatically get the next day off in a situation like that and regroup.

‘We shouldn’t forget that it was a great match, one of the more memorable played at the Australian Open and that’s why we love Andy.’

Murray only slept fitfully in the hours after his thrilling victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis

Murray felt good enough on Friday to have a 20-minute early-evening hit amid his naps and massages.

He only slept fitfully in the hours after his thrilling victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis through adrenaline and having consumed energy products.

Bautista Agut is an expert grinder and one of the last people anyone would wish to face after going for 10 hours and 34 minutes in the first two rounds.

It was the now world No 25 who was Murray’s opponent in 2019 when the Scot announced he felt the end was nigh for his career in Melbourne.

On a hugely emotional evening Murray made what seemed to be a last stand, staying out there for four hours and nine minutes before the Spaniard prevailed in five sets.

Once again Murray will be the sentimental crowd favourite on Saturday. ‘It was like a Davis Cup atmosphere,’ recalled Bautista Agut. ‘It was very loud, very crowded, a lot of people supporting him, I think all the stadium.’

What followed was Murray electing to have a metal cap inserted in his hip at the end of January 2019.

Bautista Agut praised Murray, stating that his opponent is in good shape and is winning games

‘I’m happy for him that he’s in good shape, he is winning good matches and he is enjoying the court again,’ added Bautista Agut. ‘He looks fit. He is a good fighter. He loves the game and he is a great tennis player.’

By backing up his win against Matteo Berrettini with the epic win over Kokkinakis, Murray yet again defied the odds.

‘What he has gone through to get back to this level is quite remarkable. He is just an incredible fighter and his resilience is second to none,’ his mother Judy, watching in the stands until 4am on Thursday, told Channel Nine Australia. ‘He’s certainly getting his money’s worth isn’t he?’

Murray was involved in an epic encounter with Kokkinakis which went on until 4.05am

If Murray did manage to squeeze through then his quarter of the draw is remarkably open due to a scattering of the seeds. Bautista Agut is the highest ranked player left in that section, although he is a notoriously tough nut to crack.

In the previous round he needed five sets to beat American qualifier Brandon Holt.

For that he was on court for less than three hours though, which you would expect to be a telling factor when he meets the great survivor.

Andy Murray v Roberto Bautista Agut, LIVE on Eurosport, approx 8am.

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