A cold and unpleasant day at the Aegon Championships ended in appropriately cold and angry exchanges between Andy Murray and match officials here last night. Murray left the court furious with the decision to call off his third-round encounter with Mardy Fish at 8.30pm because of bad light with the score at 3-3 in the final set.
Fish, who had let slip a 3-0 lead in the decider, had protested about the light to Cedric Mourier, the umpire, who then consulted the ATP supervisor, Tom Barnes. The decision to come off – in what was undoubtedly poor light – was taken as Murray, who wanted to play on, waited at the back of the court. Fish walked off immediately, leaving Murray to berate Mourier and Barnes for not consulting him.
"It's absolutely ridiculous," Murray said. "The only reason Mardy didn't want to play was because it's 3-3. Ten minutes ago, when it was 3-1, he was happy to play. How can you stop playing without consulting somebody? You didn't even bother to ask me."
After a day when Andy Roddick and Novak Djokovic both lost and Rafael Nadal suffered a leg injury during a difficult three-set victory over Denis Istomin, tournament organisers will no doubt be grateful that their biggest draw is still in the competition. Murray and Fish are due to resume at 12.30pm today, the winner to play Michael Llodra in the quarter-finals later in the afternoon, though the weather forecast is not good.
Murray and Fish did not start until 7.15pm, in dark and dank conditions. When the American won the first set 6-4, having broken serve in the opening game, the match started to bear similarities to Murray's straight-sets defeat to Tomas Berdych at the French Open 11 days earlier.
Fish was playing superbly, backing up his big serves with some classy volleys, but Murray's second-set response was excellent, the Scot winning it 6-1 to level the match. Fish, however, went on the attack from the start of the decider and raced into a 3-0 lead, only for Murray to respond in kind before the weather and officials intervened.
The match had started late as a result of Nadal's troubles against Istomin, a 23-year-old from Uzbekistan. Nadal won 7-6, 4-6, 6-4, but only after a 90-minute interruption for rain and a spell of treatment for the world No 1 at the end of the second set. Nadal felt pain in the back of his right leg and said he would have the injury examined this morning, though he expected to be able to play his quarter-final against his fellow Spanish left-hander, Feliciano Lopez.
When Nadal took his injury time-out he might have asked whether the trainer had any anti-Istomin pills on him. The world No 72 served well and regularly had Nadal in trouble with his big flat ground strokes. At 3-3 in the decider Nadal had to save two break points. Two games later the Spaniard failed to serve out for the match, though he broke Istomin in the following game to secure victory, finishing with a lovely forehand winner down the line.
Djokovic, who lost to Nadal in the final here two years ago, was beaten 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 by the veteran Belgian Xavier Malisse, while Roddick, four times the king of Queen's, went down 6-4, 7-6 to Dudi Sela. At 5ft 9in and 10st 7lb the Israeli was giving away 5in and three and a half stone to his American opponent, but it was the world No 63 who landed the more effective punches.
Sela has no major weapons at his disposal, but he served consistently, returned well and quickly found a good rhythm on his ground strokes.
The Aegon Classic at Edgbaston has also suffered in the rain this week, but the bad weather held off long enough for the two remaining Britons to lose. Laura Robson lost 7-5, 6-4 to Belgium's Yanina Wickmayer, while Anne Keothavong lost 6-2, 6-4 to China's Li Na.