Andy Murray had one eye on his opponent and one on the clock as his Wimbledon third-round clash against Marcos Baghdatis turned into a tension-soaked race against time under Centre Court’s roof on Saturday.
The scoreboard at the end showed the No. 4 seed had won 7-5, 3-6, 7-5, 6-1, but it was the time in the top left corner that had most people transfixed.
Murray had to get the encounter wrapped up before the 11pm cut-off time for play under the roof lights, a deadline imposed by local authorities, or he would have been forced to come back today to finish off the Cypriot.
A mid-match wobble in which he lost the second set followed by an extended delay as the giant mechanical roof was heaved into place ensured the seconds were ticking away as he eventually stamped his authority on the match in the fourth set when Baghdatis seemed to lose heart.
With a double break in the bank, the result was hardly in doubt, but all eyes were on the umpire to see if he was going to allow the final game to play as the clock ticked past the deadline.
Murray did not even sit down when the players changed ends at 4-1, hurrying to the other end while glancing anxiously at the time. As it turned out, Murray wasted precious few seconds, racing through the final two games and firing down an ace to bring up match point.
When Baghdatis sent a forehand return long to bring an end to the spectacle the, clock had ticked round to 11:02pm, making it the latest finish in Wimbledon history.
“I think if the set had been tighter, it would have been distracting,” Murray, who had seemed in trouble when going a break down in the third set, told a small group of reporters while having his post-match aches eased by a massage in the locker room. “Because then momentum was with me, I just wanted to keep it going and play fairly quickly whereas for him, it would have been better to slow it down a little bit.”
“I was under the impression that at 11 o’clock we would stop regardless of what the score was and I broke serve to go 5-1 and then walked to the net because I thought we were to have to come back on Monday,” Murray said. “Even at 5-1, that match still could have gone on. It was just lucky I finished it in a couple of minutes.”
The match itself will not earn a place in the Murray scrapbook for the quality of the tennis on show, especially in the first three sets when the Cypriot was frequently able to dictate from the back of the court.
Murray, troubled by the windy conditions before the roof closed, had claimed the first set without setting Centre Court on fire, breaking in the 11th game as Baghdatis sent a risky dropshot attempt wide.
He looked to be cruising when he swiftly went a break up at the start of the second, but the flow turned and the Cypriot started to take the chances that Murray offered him.
The Briton was tumbling around the court, unable to stay on his feet and was even penalized for allowing balls to fall out of his pocket in mid rally.
The world No. 4 seemed able to craft break-point chances at will, but nine went begging in the second set, while Baghdatis clinically dispatched his own to draw level.
After a nip and tuck third that Murray, with tape on his knee and a grimace on his face, closed out with a sizzling backhand pass after recovering from 4-2 behind, came an all-out onslaught in which the Scot blitzed past Baghdatis to finish the match on fast forward.