By the time Johanna Konta and Garbiñe Muguruza finished up their second-round match, it was 3:12 a.m., Melbourne time. Play only began after midnight. It would have started earlier, if not for all the obstacles: the rain delays earlier in the day, the pileup of five-setters beforehand, the seagull poop, and the rain delays within this match. It was a shame, because Muguruza’s 6-4, 6-7, 7-5 victory was possibly the best match of the Australian Open thus far ... and there was no one there to see it.
This was the backdrop to all the taut, eye-popping tennis unfolding on Margaret Court Arena. Credit to the photographers who stayed up that late to file.
Seats can become a bed:
A friend can become a backrest:
Might as well spread out:
At least Konta’s countryman (singular) was out there representing:
Meanwhile both women played aggressive yet surprisingly tidy tennis. Muguruza hit 41 winners with just 19 unforced errors, while Konta managed 46 and 37. The third set teetered back and forth, as each player served with precision and crushed rally balls with no regard for the time of day.
Konta broke the patterns with a cold-blooded drop shot:
Muguruza later one-upped her with a perfectly weighted lob:
But best of all was when they just slugged it out:
It’s often said that athletes performing at an implausibly high level are “unconscious.” Muguruza’s brain might have been deep in a REM cycle when she blasted a serve at an unwitting Konta while a linesperson was fixing something on court:
But the Spaniard kept it together long enough to capitalize on the first break point in the whole third set and claim the win. Her post-victory interview was all sincere, but there was some heart-breaking irony to this line: “We play for you guys, otherwise why would we be here, for what?”