Andy Murray reached his second successive Wimbledon final but only after a furious on-court row with an All England Club official as his semi-final against Jerzy Janowicz was suspended because of bad light.
Although Murray went on to complete a 6-7, 6-4 6-4, 6-3 victory, the world No 2 was clearly angered by the decision to close the Centre Court roof just after he had won the third set.
It was just before 8.40pm when Andrew Jarrett, the tournament referee, came on to Centre Court to tell Murray that the roof would be closed so the match could be completed under lights. Janowicz had been complaining bitterly to the umpire about the light at changeovers during the third set, but it was by no means dark.
None of the three sets had taken more than 49 minutes and Murray, sitting in his chair after Janowicz had left the court for a toilet break, protested loudly to Jarrett that there was still plenty of time to complete another set. Considering that the final set eventually took just 35 minutes – after the players had been off court for 28 minutes – it was an extraordinary decision.
Murray told the referee that it was “not even dark” and added: “I don’t understand the rules. You can’t close the roof now. It’s as light as you like. There’s at least 45 minutes of light left. Look at the score. Not one of the sets has taken that long. It’s not fair. He’s been complaining about [the light] for 40 minutes. It’s completely mad.”
John McEnroe, commenting on BBC television, said he was amazed. “They should at least go for another half an hour, until at least 9pm at the absolute minimum,” he said. “I think they could have completed another set.”
The Centre Court roof has been a great success, enabling matches which would have been impossible in the past to be played, but this was not the first controversy.
Some critics have complained that tournament officials have been too ready to use the roof, although the All England Club has always insisted that the tournament remains an outdoor event. Under Wimbledon’s own protocol for use of the roof, the decision is left to the judgement of the referee. The protocol states: “In good weather, the roof will only be used if it is too dark to play on without it.”
Although the referee always tries to find a moment fair to both players to halt a match – such as the start of a set – it seemed a bizarre decision given that there was clearly still a good deal of light left. The roof itself takes only about 10 minutes to close, but more time is needed to adjust the atmospheric conditions inside the stadium. Murray said afterwards: “It’s a tough situation, there was about 45 minutes of daylight left. It’s an outdoor event and we should play as much outdoors as we can. And I’d won five games in a row. I took a shower, spoke to the guys and got back to work.
“He [Janowicz] was on his phone at the break, he seemed very relaxed. That’s the sort of player he is, that’s why he is very loose on the court. The first set was tight, I had a few chances but he came out with some big shots and he got on a roll, but I managed to turn it round.”
Murray had remained focused after the resumption to close out a memorable victory, particularly after Janowicz had won the first set. The world No 22 served with awesome power, though Murray’s serves were more effective thanks to his superb placement and variations.
Janowicz is much more than a big hitter. The Pole, as usual, played plenty of drop shots – he even played one on a return of serve – and his unpredictability caused Murray regular problems. But the Scot fought back to claim victory after two hours and 52 minutes.
The players had had a lengthy wait after the marathon first semi-final and by the time they started at 6.20pm the evening shadows covered half the court, but it was a beautiful evening.
Murray came closest to breaking in the first set. While the Scot dropped only five points in his six service games, Janowicz saved three breaks points with bold serves. The set points Janowicz saved at 4-5 proved crucial. Going for broke, Janowicz went 4-0 up in the tie-break, which he won 7-2 when Murray served his first double fault.
It was a set that Murray let slip, but he responded by breaking for the first time in the opening game of the second set. Murray served out for the set. By the time the third set started just before 8pm the light was starting to fade. Janowicz complained at length about the conditions to the umpire at the changeovers, but it was the Pole who drew first blood, breaking to lead 3-1 after chasing down a poor Murray drop shot.
From 1-4 down, however, Murray showed what a ferocious competitor he is. Janowicz did not crumble and held his next two serves, but when he served at 3-5 the Pole double-faulted twice to give Murray match point. The Scot converted it with a forehand winner.
A Murray 6-7(2) 6-4 6-4 6-3 J Janowicz
20 Aces 9
1 Double-faults 11
70% First serves in 55%
76% First serve points won 75%
131mph Fastest serve 143mph
22/36 Net points won 32/51
5/13 Break points won 1/7
49 Winners 43
15 Unforced errors 43
133 Total points won 110