Andy Murray has accused the grand-slam events – including Wimbledon – of chasing cash through their obsession with night sessions and late starts.
Speaking ahead of his 16th US Open – the event where he broke his grand-slam duck in 2012 – Murray suggested that the majors need to reconsider their scheduling, for the benefit of both fans and players.
This is Murray’s third major of the year – after he skipped the French Open – and in both the previous two he ran into issues with late matches.
At January’s Australian Open, he left the court at just after 4am after his epic five-set victory over Thanasi Kokkinakis. This left him too burned out to make much of a showing against Roberto Bautista Agut in the third round.
Then, at Wimbledon, Murray was leading his second-round meeting with Stefanos Tsitsipas by two sets to one when play was suspended overnight because the 11pm curfew was approaching. On the resumption the following day, he lost both remaining sets and with them the match.
“Generally it’s just not good for anyone,” said Murray of late-night matches. “Often when the players complain about that stuff, you sort of hear ‘Oh, shut up and get on with it. Try working in a warehouse from nine to five.’
“I do get that. I know I’m fortunate to be playing tennis. It’s just that tennis is also partly entertainment. I don’t think it helps the sport much when you’re playing at 4am. Everyone’s leaving because they have to go and get public transport home and you finish a match like that in front of 10 per cent of the crowd. You don’t see it in other sports so it’s clearly wrong.
“And the reason for it is purely financial. It’s not because the people that are running the events believe that it’s good for the sport. They could solve it. If they want to start at 7.30pm, playing two women’s matches is fine. Or if they want to play a men’s match, then you can only play one match unless you’re going to start sooner.
“At Wimbledon, they obviously need to change the start times of the matches [from this year’s 1.30pm] and move it sooner. Stop having the 20-minute breaks between the matches. It might still happen [that matches run late] from time to time but you’re doing the best that you can to avoid it. And I think that then becomes fair on the players because you can’t really expect someone to recover if you finish your match at 4.30am.”
Murray is due to start his US Open campaign on Tuesday against Corentin Moutet, a Frenchman ranked No72 in the world. He has not had the best of preparation, having withdrawn from his third-round match in Toronto a fortnight ago because of a damaged abdominal muscle, but insists that he is now fit.
“The first five or six days [after the withdrawal] were a bit complicated,” Murray explained. “There were lots of different opinions. And then I came to New York pretty early and went to one of the hospitals here and spoke to the radiologist from back home. I had a small tear which is healing. And the last five or six days of practice have been really good, I have not had any issues serving. It is just that you don’t take a week off from serving then go full into it. You need to build up a little bit. It has not been perfect in that sense but my ab has been okay.”
Meanwhile, Lily Miyazaki became the first Briton since Emma Raducanu to come through US Open qualifying when she overcame Viktoria Hruncakova by a 6-3, 4-6, 6-4 scoreline on Sunday. It seems unlikely, however, that Miyazaki – a 27-year-old who stands at No199 on the rankings chart – will go on to win the title.