As the golden clocks ticked from Tuesday through to Thursday during Wimbledon’s wet wait this week, Alex de Minaur was increasingly on edge.
One of three Australian winners to finally win their opening round match on the fourth day of the championships, de Minaur is the type of busy individual who despairs at wasting a second.
This is evident in the way the speedster, who plays former Wimbledon finalist Matteo
Berrettini in a fascinating second round clash, zips around the court.
Rain delays pose a unique challenge for athletes, who must find a balance between preserving energy and being prepared to compete at short notice.
It is rare for delays to drag as long as they did this Wimbledon, but this is a London summer after all.
De Minaur’s mates including fellow winner Jason Kubler sat around “Aussie Corner”, a back pocket of a locker room claimed long ago by Australian legends to build camaraderie on occasions like this, with card games and banter to pass the time.
But due to his seeded status, the Davis Cup leader is now in a loftier locker room and watched with disbelief at times at the strangeness of the situation as his frustration mounted.
de Minaur, who survived a significant challenge from the unheralded former French Open boys champion Kimmer Coppejans 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3, 7-6(2), looked to the sky with apprehension at the All England Club as the rain arrived just after midday on Tuesday.
He balanced the demands of making sure he was ready to go late on Wednesday while watching as protesters interrupted his girlfriend Katie Boulter’s clash with Australian Daria Saville on Court 18.
The Queen’s finalist eventually got onto the court near 7pm, mindful there was little chance he would finish. That became certain when the No.14 seed fell behind early.
“It was pretty, pretty crazy. (I was) probably a little bit on edge,” he said.
“It hasn’t been easy. (I’m) not gonna lie. But at the end of the day, you have got to play the cards you're dealt.”
Rain delays are part and parcel of life for tennis players, especially at Wimbledon.
A veteran of the press pack recalled a year in the 1990s when popular American player Mary-Jo Fernandez wandered into the media room bearing chocolates to boost increasingly soggy spirits during one particularly wintry Wimbledon.
Keith Richards would often burst into the stands to entertain his fellow Centre Court travellers as the players settled into a familiar routine of waiting.
Eat. Warm-up. Stretch. Get some sleep. Eat again. And try to relax and preserve energy, as Jason Kubler said after a five set triumph over Frenchman Ugo Humbert 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
“We have a lot of Australians here in the locker room (in) a little back area. I think there's seven or eight of us,” he said.
“It is always the same spot. So the cards come out (and we’re playing) Uno, Monopoly Deal, stuff like that.”
Handling the waiting game is a skill every star player learns from their days as a talented junior.
Before smart phones and video games became as regular an occurrence as Novak Djokovic winning grand slam titles, games as simple as trying to guide a 20 cent coin from one edge of a table to the other were all the rage.
Asked about his memories after a 7-5, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 triumph over Hamad Medjedovic on Thursday, Sydney’s Chris O’Connell raised his eyebrows with his eyes gleaming at the memories.
Now he prefers to relax with his girlfriend while sitting through a delay.
“It’s been weird. Warm up. Play a set. Warm up. Play a set. Warm up. Play a couple of sets,” he said.
“I don't really like going back to the house because you don't know what's happening.
“I was in a position where if it stopped raining, they were going to lift the covers and I was on.
“So (I have) just been chilling on lounge chairs, reading books, just hanging out with my girlfriend and just trying to relax.”
Given the extended delay, the time for relaxing ahead of their second round clashes is minimal.
The three remaining Australians will return to the court again on Friday as the tournament races to make up for lost time.
O’Connell faces wily Czech Jiri Vesely, a left-hander with the distinction of winning both his matches against Djokovic, the most recent just last year.
Kubler, whose right hamstring was covered by a bandage after his first round win, tackles 25th seed Nicolas Jarry.
But the highlight is clearly the encounter between de Minaur and Berrettini, who shrugged off injury concerns with a fine opening round victory.
“He’s obviously a very dangerous player who has played some great tennis here,” he said.
“He's got a massive serve (and a) massive forehand, a great slice. So (he is a) very tricky opponent. He is one of those … unseeded guys that you probably didn't want in your section.
“But hey, I knew that coming in. I knew I had a tough section. So I'm looking forward to the battle. (It) should be fun.”