When Murray hit his last ace of the night to confirm his victory in four sets, the digital courtside clock was showing 11.02pm. All evening a series of messages had been flashed up to inform spectators that play would have to finish at 11pm, even if the match had not yet reached its conclusion.
At 5-1 in front in the fourth set, Muray had looked to have been beaten by the clock. However, umpire Steve Ullrich, in consultation with tournament referee Andrew Jarrett, allowed play to continue past the appointed hour, as Murray booked his place in today’s fourth round, where he plays the No.16 seed Marin Cilic. He is now guaranteed to earn £75,000, although the only thing which concerns him is becoming Britain’s first men’s Wimbledon singles champion since 1936.
“I was going to say at 5-1 that I would have been happy to spot any fine the club may get as long as we could finish the match,” said Murray yesterday. “The officials seemed pretty relaxed about it all at 11pm. I was just glad they let us finish.”
Had the 11pm curfew been strictly observed, Murray would have had to come back today to complete the match, in slightly farcical circumstances. His fourth round tie would then have been held over until tomorrow.
Wimbledon chief executive Richard Lewis yesterday said the decision was based on “common sense” and that the agreement with Merton Council, which controls the local borough, is based on the understanding that once the 11 o’clock deadline is reached, then it is a “tennis decision to get them [the players] off in as fair a way as possible”.
Councillor Stephen Alambritis, leader of Merton Council, added: “We take the common sense approach and pre-agreed with the All England Lawn Tennis Club that they can use their discretion depending on how the match is progressing.
“We appreciate we need to be reasonably flexible with timing, but at the same time, respect the fact that the tennis is in a residential area.”
Murray was grateful for the common sense approach adopted by the All England Club. “Mentally it’s just nice to be through to the next round,” he said. “If we had stopped at 4-1, yes I am in a great position but you never know what conditions will be like if I would have had to come back on Monday. It could have been very windy, the sun may be in your eyes or whatever, which just puts more pressure on. It’s good to know I am through.”