Murray wins after 4 a.m. at Australian Open

Aging British tennis star Andy Murray played deep into the night to advance to the next round of the Australian Open. (Photo by Christopher Johnson, cc-by-sa-2.0, https://bit.ly/3QO78i9)

Aging British tennis star Andy Murray played deep into the night to advance to the next round of the Australian Open. (Photo by Christopher Johnson, cc-by-sa-2.0, https://bit.ly/3QO78i9)

MELBOURNE, Australia - The times on the clock shifted from p.m. to a.m., the day from Thursday to Friday, and Andy Murray never wavered, never relented, no matter that he faced a two-set hole at the Australian Open, no matter that he is 35 and possesses an artificial hip, no matter that this was the longest and latest-finishing match of his long, illustrious career.

His explanation was simple: “I have a big heart.”

The three-time major champion and 26-year-old Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis stared down exhaustion and each other for 5 hours, 45 minutes of compelling theater in a second-round contest at Melbourne Park until Murray emerged with a 4-6, 6-7 (4), 7-6 (5), 6-3, 7-5 victory that ended a little after 4 a.m.

“The match was obviously very up and down. There was frustration in there. There was tension. There was excitement and all of that stuff,” Murray told reporters gathered in a stadium hallway after his 11th career comeback to win after dropping two sets, the most among active players.

“I mean, look, it is obviously amazing to win the match,” he continued with a chuckle, “but I also want to go to bed now. It’s great. But I want to sleep.”

How tight was this?

Murray won 196 points, Kokkinakis 192. And the quality of play? They combined for 171 winners to only 107 unforced errors, delighting the hundreds of enthusiastic and loud spectators who remained in the blue seats.

Somehow, it was not the latest finish in Australian Open history. A 2008 match between Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis concluded at 4:34 a.m.

This was Murray's second consecutive five-setter: He eliminated No. 13 seed Matteo Berrettini on Tuesday. Kokkinakis is ranked 159th and has never been past the third round at a Grand Slam tournament.

He could have closed out the proceedings far earlier, having taken the opening two sets and been up a break in the third. But serving at 2-0, 40-all, he was cited by the chair umpire for taking too much time before a serve and let it get to him.

First Kokkinakis lost the argument, then he lost his focus, getting broken there and destroying his racket by spiking it on the court.

Still, he served for the match at 5-3 in that set, and came within two points of victory, before Murray pulled it out when Kokkinakis flubbed a volley to cede the eventual tiebreaker.

In the fourth, Murray was the aggressor and never seemed sapped of energy, at one point waving his arms and even doing jumping jacks to fire up his supporters. His mother, Judy, repeatedly rose to her feet to clap and yell; his coach, Ivan Lendl, did not, sticking in his seat.

When Murray delivered a second-serve ace at 2:59 a.m., more than 4 1/2 hours into the proceedings, he owned the fourth set and forced a fifth. He was angry that the chair umpire would net let him take a bathroom break in the late going, saying afterward: “It's 3 in the morning, and I've been drinking all day.”

That last set was, appropriately, even as can be for 10 games. There were zero breaks of serve until Murray finally converted his eighth chance of that set with a forehand winner to lead 6-5. He strutted to the sideline, shaking his neon-colored racket.

All that was left to do was serve it out, and Murray managed to do just that, wrapping up the long day's night with a backhand winner. After meeting Kokkinakis at the net for an embrace, Murray screamed.

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