The disappointment was plain to see but Andy Murray had other priorities. As he addressed the world’s media at 11:15pm, he had a car booked for 11:30pm to take him to Tullamarine International – he was finally going home on the 1am flight, just as he promised he would.
His 22nd loss to Novak Djokovic, a straight-sets affair that still took two hours and 53 minutes as he fought with all his might to stop the Serb from beating him again in the Melbourne final, was bearable. There were no tears about that as he collected his runner’s-up trophy.
But when he spoke of his wife, Kim, watching back at home, his voice cracked. In a few days, she is due to deliver their first child and he has been on tenterhooks for the past two weeks. Looking directly into the camera, he sent her a simple message.
“To my wife Kim, who’s going to be watching back home,” he said, his voice shaking and his eyes reddening. “You’ve been a legend the past two weeks. Thanks for your support and I’ll be on the next flight home.”
True to his word, he raced through his media commitments and headed for the exit. It had been an emotional fortnight what with the concern for Kim and then the added shock of hearing that her father, Nigel Sears, had been rushed to hospital midway through the tournament. In those circumstances, a 6-1, 7-5, 7-6 loss in a grand slam final was the least of his worries.
“I’m proud that I got into this position, to the final,” he said. “I’m just quite looking forward to getting home now. Regardless of today’s result, it’s been hard.
“Kim’s been amazing. Handled everything unbelievably well. I have to thank her for allowing me to play and sort of stay here with everything that was going on. But, yeah, it was tough.”
On the verge of going home after Sears fell ill and constantly on alert in case Kim called to say the baby was on its way, Murray has been planning his route home from the moment he arrived in Melbourne. The more matches he won and the longer he stayed, the closer he got to his wife’s due date.
“I’ve been held on flights for it feels like five days,” he said. “I’ve been held on almost every single flight, so the first one out of here, I’m leaving. It’s at 1:00, I think.”
Djokovic knew how Murray felt – he went through the same emotions at the end of 2014 when his son was born. He sent Murray on his way to the airport with every best wish.
“I would like to wish you and Kim a very happy delivery of your baby,” he said as Murray waited as patiently as he could to get away, “and I hope you will experience a feeling like no other, because that’s what happened to me and my wife.”
Given all that had been happening off the court, it was a huge achievement for Murray to get to the final at all. But then asking him to beat Djokovic, the man who had never lost an Australian Open final and who has swept all before him for the past 18 months, was just asking too much.
“A lot’s been going on,” he said. “I started the last couple of matches quite slowly, I think, understandable in some respects. Obviously, it’s not good to begin matches like that against someone like Novak.
“But I’m proud of the way I fought and managed to get myself back into the match and create chances for myself.”
And with that, he was off. The Australian Open was over for another year and he still had not won but he was going home to start a whole new chapter of his life.