The Scot won the longest match of his career on Thursday, beating the Australian in five hours and 45 minutes in an epic encounter that finally ended at 4.05am. Murray was able to ensure a fairly swift return to his hotel afterwards and was in bed by 5.30am but incredibly was back at Melbourne Park at 9.30am for treatment and recovery. He went back to his hotel for more rest before again returning to the venue for practice and sleep expert James Wilson, who works with a number of Premier League and English Football League clubs and is known as the ‘Sleep Geek’, says the 35-year-old will be heavily impacted when he plays Roberto Bautista Agut in Friday’s evening session.
“Andy’s body is now massively out of sync for the lack of sleep that night, he is playing again tomorrow and now his body clock is just very, very confused,” Wilson said. “He will have protocols for acclimatisation because he plays all over the world but this is not that. This is a form of jet lag within an event and it is just totally unnecessary. His body clock is out of sync, he doesn’t know if he should be sleeping or shouldn’t. When he went to bed it would be warm, light and more likely than not the quality would not be good because factors are telling him he should be awake.
“His opponent is going to be at an advantage, if I was working with him I would not dwell on that at all because sleep is as much about the emotional side as it is biological. Sleep is so important for recovery, alongside your nutrition it is your recovery and if you don’t get it it affects you. It is going to make the next match harder than it would have been. This is an extraordinary event.
“We are all different, Andy Murray is a competitor, he will not let it affect his mentality. But I was doing some research this week about decision-making and poor sleep. It will affect his decision-making, we see it in all sports that split-second, ‘What do I do now’, in tennis you are making a new decision every few seconds so it will affect him.”
Murray’s marathon was the third latest finish to a match ever and Wilson says the scheduling is indicative of high-level sports and society in general not taking sleep seriously enough. “It’s a form of torture. For organisers not to have a cut off point, not just for Andy Murray, but for coaches, journalists, spectators, ball boys and girls, is a machismo attitude to sleep,” he added. “It is unnecessary for it to go on until that time, other tennis tournaments don’t do it, other sports events don’t do it and it is a reflection of how much work we have got to do to get sleep taken seriously in a high-performance environment.
“We have to consider these decisions better, I don’t want to be sensationalist about it and criticising them but I do think that sleep has to be considered and that is society in general. The idea that poor sleep leads to success is outdated, wrong and leads to people becoming ill.”