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Friday, February 3, 2023

Australian Open: The late show and the toll on the athletes

FeaturedSports NewsAustralian Open: The late show and the toll on the athletes

Between Andy Murray finishing his second round match at the Australian Open and returning to Melbourne Park for a training session, there was less than eight hours.

The issue here is not how soon he checked back in, but how late he checked out.

It was past 4am on Friday when Murray completed his epic five-set turnaround against Australian Thanasi Kokinakis, a five-hour and 45-minute clash that started at 10.20pm on Thursday.

The issue here is not how long the match lasted but how late it started.

In modern tennis, where the length of matches has been directly proportional to the frequency of baseline exchanges, late-night eliminations are increasingly becoming a trend. Moreover, in the Grand Slams, three of the four have separate night sessions.

At the 2022 US Open, the five-set quarter-final between Carlos Alcaraz and Janek Sner ended at 2.50am. A few months earlier at Roland Garros, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal met at the net at 1.15am after their quarter-final, by which time they both agreed it was too late. At an ATP tournament in Acapulco last year, Alexander Zverev and Jensen Brooksby played the final point at 4:54 a.m.

Late night/early morning finishes continue to keep players awake in the season-opening Slam Down Under. Taking place on Friday in Melbourne on Saturday, Zhou Lin defeated Maria Sakari at around 2am. When Marketa Vandrossova beat second seed Jabivar at 1am, all she needed was “a little sleep”.

Murray still had time for some humor after his match clocked off at 4.05am — the second-most recent Slam final behind Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdadis at the 2008 Australian Open (4.34am) — but he Also said “a little”. A travesty” The great Martina Navratilova also tweeted on “Crazy”, “No other sport does this”.

It’s also crazy that tennis pros drag their bodies back onto the court for matches hours later. After his 4 a.m. shift, Murray returned on Friday around 1 p.m. to hit some shots in preparation for his third-round match on Saturday at 7 p.m. Don’t over prepare, but be fine.

“It’s extraordinarily demanding physically and mentally,” Ramji Srinivasan, former strength and conditioning coach of the Indian cricket team, said of the challenges faced by tennis players tackling these late-night finals. In terms of strength and conditioning, there’s not much you can do here. Recovery becomes the most integral part of it. And you have to adjust your body rhythm accordingly. That’s a huge demand for any player.”

More than the player himself, the role of Murray’s support staff gained importance in the immediate aftermath. Which, Ramji said, would include a good massage, contrast bath, warm-down exercises to calm the adrenaline and a post-match meal at the same time. “Eating patterns also change (due to finishing at 4 a.m.). It’s your fuel, and if you don’t have enough fuel, you’re not going to sleep well. And good sleep is all about recovery.” is one of the most important and underrated protocols in the world. Everything is connected.”

Ramji added, “His team will have to do a phenomenal job to recover what he needs in the next match”.

This is where the after-effects of an all-nighter can spill over into the next round and beyond, affecting the quality of both the player and the competition. For the 35-year-old Murray, who has already spent more than 10 hours on court for his two matches, that is a realistic threat against Roberto Bautista Agut on Saturday.

“It can affect players going into the next round and at this stage, at such a high level, these things are really important, especially for someone like Andy who needs time to recover. And feel physically right for the next round,” said Jessica Pegula, the women’s third seed who is part of the WTA Players Council. “I definitely think he needs to change and trust me, that’s definitely something we want to discuss. But (it) has to come from the men as well.”

Murray agreed, saying it was neither good for the players nor the fans. “If my kid was a ball kid for a tournament, he’s coming home at five in the morning, as a parent, I’m saying something. It’s not beneficial for them. It’s for the umpires, the officials. Not beneficial.” “

And yet, this late fulfillment keeps coming. The main reason for this is that broadcasters love prime time, and organize night sessions of their two matches on Grand Slam show courts. “If you only play one match a night and there’s an injury, you’ve got nothing for the fans or the broadcasters,” Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley said.

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