Australian Open chief Craig Tiley has responded to criticism from Andy Murray after his marathon contest against Thanasi Kokkinakis finished at 4am, insisting there is “no need” to alter the tournament schedule despite the third latest match in tennis history.
Murray fought from two sets down to defeat Kokkinakis in an epic battle on Thursday, in what was the longest match of the 35-year-old’s career at five hours and 45 minutes. However, the fact that the match did not start until after 10pm in Melbourne and then continued into the early hours was criticised by Murray, who called the situation a “farce” despite his victory.
The late-night finish was also criticised by Martina Navratilova, who tweeted: “No other sport does this. It is essential we create better rules in tennis regarding the weather and starting times or cut-off times for matches.”
But Australian Open tournament director Tiley said organisers “don’t have many options” as they look to complete the schedule within 14 days. The opening days of the grand slam had been disrupted by heat and rain.
"You would expect from 7pm to 12pm (the evening session) in that five-hour window, you would get two matches," Tiley said. "We also have to protect the matches. If you just put one match at night and there’s an injury, you don’t have anything for fans or broadcasters.
"At this point there is no need to alter the schedule," he added."We always look at it when we do the debrief like we do every year, we’ve had long matches before, at this point we’ve got to fit the matches into the 14 days so you don’t have many options."
Murray plays Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday and was back training on the Margaret Court Arena on Friday, 14 hours after finishing his match with Kokkinakis. During the match, Murray vented his frustration to the umpire and said late-night finishes are “disrespectful” to the fans and tournament staff, as well as the player.
"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."