Friday 13 December 2019

Tennis: Andy Murray calls for schedule rethink as Novak Djokovic profits from an extra day off

ANDY MURRAY was not looking for sympathy after his third defeat in the final of an Australian Open, but he did admit that recovery time can be important in this ultra-physical era.

Murray was asked whether he had faced a disadvantage because of the tournament schedule – in which Novak Djokovic thrashed David Ferrer in a two-hour semi-final on Thursday night, before he himself was taken to five sets by Roger Federer on Friday.

“Sometimes I have had luck with that, sometimes it has gone the other way,” Murray replied, before adding: “Anyone who watches the game, or any sport, will know that the longer you have to recover from matches the better.”

The Australian Open is the only one of the four grand slams to schedule the men’s semi-finals on different days, although bad weather can complicate matters in Paris or New York. So should the organisers consider a change of policy?

“That’s something for the tournament to look at,” Murray said. “The US Open have made some adjustments with their scheduling, to try to make it easier for the players to recover.

"But I’m sure Craig [Tiley, the tournament director] knows exactly what he’s doing, and they’ll make the right decisions in that respect.”

Murray also played down the significance of the blister on his right foot, which seemed to affect his movement in the final stages of the match.

“I had no taping on my foot during the match against Roger, and then I had to have it done today. I very rarely get blisters. But 90 per cent of the players will have played this tournament with some sort of blister or problem. It had no bearing on the result. It just hurts a little bit when you run.”

According to Murray’s coach, Ivan Lendl, the key to the final came early in the second set, when Djokovic saved three break points to avoid going 2-0 down.

“Andy had 0-40 and obviously that was a big chance,” Lendl said. “Then he had a couple of little ones here and there. But Novak produced a lot of good shots when he really had to, just like Roger [Federer] did the other night. He played stronger as the match went on. He played like the No?1 should play.

“When you have opportunities against top players, it’s advisable to take advantage of it because they’re not going to give you more over and over again.

"That’s why they’re better than the other guys, not only because of the strokes but because they don’t give you that many opportunities.”

But neither Lendl nor Murray sounded overly disheartened, by the performance or the result. Indeed Murray even said that he had felt more comfortable yesterday than he had in the US Open final, because his nerves were more under control.

“I know no one’s ever won the immediate next slam after winning their first one,” Murray said. “I got extremely close. So I have to try to look at the positives of the last few months, and I think I’m going in the right direction. This is the first time I’ve beaten Roger in a slam over five sets, and I think I dealt with the ebbs and flows of that match well.”

“As I said in New York, there’s so little in it,” Lendl said. “I was just looking at the statistics and Novak won 13 points more than Andy — 13 points is nothing. 6-3, 6-2 in the last two sets looks comfortable but it was only 13 points in the match.

“I’m obviously not happy that he didn’t win, but I thought he had a very good tournament altogether. He played a tough match with Roger, played a very tough match with Novak, and he did very well the first five matches as well.

“Dani [Vallverdu, Murray’s hitting partner] made a good point – that other than when he played Novak here two years ago, he has always played the No1 player in the world in the finals, and those are difficult to win.

"Andre Agassi beat Rainer Schüttler, I beat Miloslav Mecir. I’m not trying to say they were bad players, however they were not No1.

“In this era, the top four are clearly better than everyone else. You don’t get to play the No7 in the finals. This is a tough era.

“I just hope Andy will keep putting himself in position and something will come his way again.”

Simon Briggs,

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