The length to which fathers go to see their child's birth

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Image caption Andy Murray's wife Kim is due to give birth mid-February

Tennis star Andy Murray, who is preparing for Sunday's Australian Open final, has said he would leave the competition if his wife went into early labour.

What lengths have other expectant fathers gone to so they don't miss the birth of their child?

Andy Murray will have his fingers crossed as he prepares to take on Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open Final on Sunday.

This will be the Scotsman's fifth Melbourne final and Djokovic has beaten him three times.

While he hopes to go the distance this time around, Murray is hoping for staying power of a different kind - that his wife Kim will keep to her due date of mid-February.

When asked at the start of January about what he would do should his first child arrive earlier than expected, he said: "I'm going to fly home.

"I'd be way more disappointed winning the Australian Open and not being at the birth of the child."

Dads tell of dashing to baby's birth

First births can be lengthy affairs - five-set thrillers in tennis terms - so Murray might just make it home in time despite the 23-hour flight he would need to take.

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Image caption Kim is often pictured supporting her husband

If Murray had to down his racket and hop on a plane in a bid to see his child come into the world, he would not be the first sportsman to do so.

England wicketkeeper Matt Prior flew back from the West Indies in 2009 to be with his wife Emily, which meant he missed a Test match.

Writing in Saturday's Daily Telegraph, he said he never regretted his decision.

"Had I stayed I don't think my mind would have been on the job", he said. "I think people can get carried away sometimes by what a big decision it was - but it is only sport. Family always comes first."

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Your stories - Doug Haldane

In 1995, my wife Wendy and I had just left Paris. She was heavily pregnant with our first child, more than seven months, and she returned to Scotland while I travelled to Abu Dhabi to start a new job. The plan was always that I would return for the birth but our son Scott decided to come early.

I was called by my sister-in-law at the hotel I was staying in at about 1am but I had been out for a few drinks and so I just picked up the receiver and put it back down again.

My sister-in-law persevered and she told me Wendy's waters had broken - it was some awakening. In those days, it wasn't a case of being able to get on the next flight - there wasn't one every few hours.

It was such an emotional time - I didn't know if I had already become a father. I remember being in the cockpit, like you used to be able to do, and asking the pilot if he could radio for information.

I just about made my connecting flight from London to Glasgow. I was picked up at the airport and we drove at 200 miles an hour to get to Greenock Hospital.

Scott was born two hours later. My poor wife had been in labour for nearly 24 hours but it did mean I got to see our son being born.

Rugby player Will Greenwood flew back from Australia during the 2003 Rugby World Cup to be with his wife, who had been admitted to hospital after developing complications in her second pregnancy. He returned once she was out of danger and England lifted the trophy.

While he did not miss a match, England cricketer James Anderson flew home between Tests during the 2010 Ashes to attend the birth of his second child.

He was accused of not taking the tournament or his place in the team seriously enough.

But former England and Liverpool footballer turned commentator John Barnes sparked a different outcry the same year when he put his job first.

He chose to stay in the TV studio and watch his former team Liverpool play despite knowing his wife had just given birth to their seventh child.

About 90% of fathers are now present when their child is born, according to the UK's National Childbirth Trust (NCT).

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Image caption England cricketer James Anderson was accused of taking his eye of the ball when he went home during the Ashes 2010 for the birth of his second child

This represents a major change from 40 years ago, when partners were not always welcome in delivery rooms and it was often seen as an "unmanly" thing to do.

Elizabeth Duff, NCT senior policy adviser, told the BBC that before the NHS, more births were at home and the father would either have "been in another room or down the pub".

"The midwife would have been with the labouring woman and probably her mum, a sister or a friend," she said.

"It was seen as women's work and the dad would be brought in, when everything had been cleaned up, and asked to admire the new baby."

'Reading the paper'

The Peel report of 1970 stated that every woman should have access to hospital care when giving birth and the number of home births began to radically decline.

Away from the familiar surroundings of the home, women looked to a birthing partner for more moral support and men started to play an increasing role.

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Image caption Prenatal classes in the late 1960s encouraged men to get more involved

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives, says it is now "quite unusual" for the mother's partner not to be there.

"When I was a young midwife in the 1970s, even when the father was there, he would be sitting in a corner reading the paper," she said.

"They were seen as a secondary person and just there to support the mother but now there is more emphasis on engaging the father.

"It is known to benefit the mother but there is also a benefit for the child in getting the father involved in their coming into being."

Touring sportsmen are not the only ones to face such a dilemma but at least they have a choice and the cash to get home as quickly as possible. Soldiers on tour do not have the same luxury.

Soldiers can book leave for when their child is due but the Army rule book states: "Under normal circumstances the birth of a child is not regarded as a reason for your soldier to return home from operations or they may not be able to return from operations on time."

Ms Warwick says it is uncommon for women not to want their partners in the room, though she recalled an occasion when one father did not want his wife to have any pain relief because it was not part of their plan.

She said Murray and his wife have no doubt been advised to have a Plan B because even though first births tend to be late, false alarms are common and labour is an "unknown quantity".

Djokovic, on the other hand, is not an unknown quantity but here's hoping Murray will be there for the birth of his child and not just as the father but as the first British man to win the Australian Open in more than 80 years.

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