Andy Murray is still in the Australian Open and his father-in-law, Nigel Sears, is on his way home. After a chaotic 24 hours in Melbourne, it was the first hint that order had been restored.
Sears, the coach of Ana Ivanovic, collapsed on Saturday night while he watched the Serb play on the main show court. He was rushed to hospital and, at first, the situation looked grim. But within 20 minutes, he was reported to be conscious, breathing and alert and a couple of hours later, he was asking the doctors at the local hospital how Ivanovic had got on in her third round match. Everyone heaved a sigh of relief.
He was released yesterday and will be on his way home in a couple of days and, through the tournament, he released a statement to that effect.
It read: “My medical advice is that I will be allowed to leave the hospital shortly and I have been cleared to fly back to the UK in the next day or so.
“I just wanted to express my sincerest thanks to the incredible people who came to my aid, as well as the brilliant staff both at the Australian Open and the Epworth Hospital. I feel truly grateful to everyone involved for the manner in which this has been handled.”
Murray had gone straight from the match court to the hospital on Saturday night to spend a couple of hours with Sears and was back there on Sunday to check that all was well. He hit the practice courts yesterday afternoon but he did not want to see anyone, speak to anyone or even allow anyone to watch him work.
The world No 2 has made it clear that he will leave the moment he gets the call from Kim, his wife, that she needs him back at home. She is due to give birth next month and Murray, understandably on tenterhooks. But 18 hours after he left Melbourne Park on Saturday, the Scot was back at work. That was a positive sign that he was planning on staying in Australia.
To prolong his stay he will need to get past Bernard Tomic this morning. The Australian has made an impressive start to the season, beating Kei Nishikori on his way to the semi-finals in Brisbane and keeping concentration in lockdown to reach the fourth round for the third time and he fancies the chance to take on Murray and test himself against one of the best in the business. It will be their fourth meeting and, so far, Murray has yet to drop a set.
“He’s a cool guy,” Tomic said of the world No 2. “I haven’t spent too much time with him. But when we see each other on tour, he’s super nice to me. I have so much respect for his game, what he’s achieved in his career. It’s going to be an amazing match. Playing Andy now is an amazing opportunity. I have to go out there with nothing to lose and play the tennis I’ve been playing in the last month.”
Murray’s off-court concerns have caused major headaches for both the tournament and the host broadcasters. He is seeded to reach the final and, if he does, the fear is that he will get the call from Kim to return home after he wins his semi-final. That would leave the Open with no men’s final and Channel Seven with a lot of dead air time.
No one would argue with Murray’s decision to leave and there is absolutely no indication that he would be penalised for defaulting. The tournament director, Craig Tiley, is known as a players’ man and his first concern is for the Scot: if Murray wants to leave, Tiley will do everything he can to make sure he gets to the airport on time.
If that were to happen, it would be only the third time in 139 years of grand slam tennis that a champion had been crowned due to a walk over (the others were Margaret Court here in 1966 and Sidney Wood in 1931 at Wimbledon).
Just in case, the tournament is drawing up contingency plans. One option would be to have the new champion play an exhibition match with one of the losing semi-finalists, although if the semi-finalist were to win, it would be a little embarrassing for all concerned.
The alternative is to ask both losing semi-finalists to stay in town and play an exhibition match on the final Sunday. But persuading someone who has just missed the chance to contest a major final to hang around for a bit of hit-and-giggle tennis will be difficult, particularly if the semi-finalist has just lost to Murray and then watched the Scot withdraw immediately after. All they can hope is that Sears continues to recover well, Kim is calm and happy at home and that Murray is free to focus on winning the title.