MELBOURNE: Two-time Grand Slam winner Garbine Muguruza emerged triumphant in the latest women’s match ever held at the Australian Open after defeating Briton Johanna Konta in the early hours of Friday morning.
Muguruza and Konta’s match on Margaret Court Arena did not start until 12.30am Friday morning – a record at the season-opening Grand Slam – and finished with a 6-4, 6-7 (3/7), 7-5 victory for the Spaniard two hours and 42 minutes later at 3:12 am.
The start was delayed when the men’s match between Alexander Zverev and Jeremy Chardy turned into three hour 46 minute epic, ending 7-6 (7/5), 6-4, 5-7, 6-7 (6/8), 6-1 for Germany’s Zverev.
“I’ll go get some breakfast now,” Muguruza joked after wrapping up the win to set up a third-round clash with Timea Bacsinszky of Switzerland.
The previous record for the latest start was set last year when a second-round match between Daria Gavrilova and Elise Mertens began at 11.59pm.
The latest end to a match at any Grand Slam was also at Melbourne Park in 2008, when Lleyton Hewitt and Marcos Baghdatis finished a five-setter at 4.34am.
Karolina Pliskova complained about the scheduling last year when her fourth-round match started at 11pm and finished almost three hours later, giving her barely 10 hours before she had to back up against world number one Simona Halep.
The schedule is largely determined by local television demands to play high-profile matches in the evening prime time.
Despite the hour, both Muguruza and Konta made a contest of their late-night encounter, which was watched live by only a few die-hard spectators.
Muguruza, seeded 18, took the first set as she seeks to recapture the form that propelled her to the world number one ranking and delivered a French Open title in 2016 and Wimbledon a year later.
Former world number four Konta, a semi-finalist Down Under in 2016, won the second in a tie-break after Muguruza squandered two break points.
The Spaniard made no mistake in the third, breaking the Briton late in the set to avoid another tie-break.