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“I could have had a good run here” – Murray falls to Isner on brutal day for British tennis
John Isner served his way past two-time champion Andy Murray on Centre Court, closing the door on a tough day for British favourites.
A day that started with spitting rain showers at Wimbledon eventually gave way to sun, but that change in the weather couldn’t help Great Britain’s most recognisable stars steer clear of a dreary double whammy. Hours after British No 1 Emma Raducanu was knocked out of the draw by Caroline Garcia on Centre Court, two-time champion Andy Murray suffered the same fate, falling to thunder-serving American John Isner in four sets, 6-4, 7-6(4), 6-7(3), 6-4.
It was supposed to be a summer of revival for Murray, who had shown glimpses of his best form early in June when he powered into the Stuttgart final, his longtime muse Ivan Lendl firmly by his side as the pair set their sights on a return to form at Wimbledon.
But an abdominal injury dented Murray’s progress, forcing him to come into these championships cold, having not played at Queen’s Club two weeks ago. And it was Isner, the 20th seed and the man who has played the two longest contests in Wimbledon’s grand history, who took the rest of the air out of Murray’s balloon on Wednesday with a stunning performance that featured 36 aces and 82 winners.
Isner – one of the biggest wins of my career
Isner has had his share of important wins at Wimbledon, including his eleven hour and five-minute record-obliterating epic over Nicolas Mahut in 2010, but the American says that defeating a legend like Murray on Centre Court could be his best ever at SW19.
“At the age I’m at now, I need to relish these moments,” he told the crowd after his three hour and 23-minute triumph. “This was one of the biggest wins of my career just given the atmosphere, it was fantastic – you guys were awesome and super respectful, so I appreciate that.
“To play as well as I did against one of our greatest players ever was a huge accomplishment for me. He’s a massive inspiration to each one of us in the locker room, and we’re so lucky to still have him around.”
Ending the drought – 1-8 now
Isner ends a long stretch of futility against Murray that dates back to 2016. The Scot had won all eight of their previous meetings, but they had never met on grass before today.
Murray drops to 115-25 lifetime on the grass, and 60-12 at Wimbledon. Isner improves to 51-25 on grass and 18-12 at Wimbledon.
“It’s no secret that I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray,” Isner said after the match. “I might have just been a little bit better than him today. It was an incredible honor to play him on this court in front of this crowd.”
Murray – I could have served better
If there was one regret for Murray on this day, it was the accuracy of his first serve. The Scot only made 59 percent of his first serves on the day, and he hit on only 44 percent in the opening set.
It allowed Isner to take the upper hand, which he never let go.
“I think first few sets I didn’t serve well,” Murray said. “That certainly didn’t help me the first two sets. He was serving extremely well, as you would expect.
“Then in the fourth set probably lost a game on my serve I shouldn’t have, up 30-Love. Missed one or two shots in that game, especially the one on the deuce point, I had a backhand that should never really have missed.
With margins so thin against the flawless serving of Isner, Murray did himself in with those mistakes.
“I could have had a good run”
Murray leaves with his head held high, and he believes he is still in a place to make a deep run at a Slam, even at the age of 35. One of his big missions will be to get his ranking in the top-30 so he can avoid playing seeds so early at the majors.
“I could have had a good run here,” he said. “One of the reasons why improving your ranking and trying to get seeded is important, avoid playing top players and dangerous guys like that early in tournaments.
“Yeah, it’s one of those matches that, had I got through, who knows what would have happened. Yeah, it’s frustrating for different reasons.”
What was the key? The serve…
Murray rallied from the brink of defeat to take the third set in a tiebreak, and it felt like he may be turning the screws on Isner at that juncture, but after a brief delay in which the roof was closed due to intervening darkness, Isner took command of the contest.
How did he manage the task, with 15,000 screaming fans rooting full-throated for Murray in the fourth set?
“I served,” he said.
That he did.
Isner saved both break points he faced over the course of the match, and he fired ten of his 36 aces in the final set. Every time Murray had a window open on Isner’s serve it was immediately slammed shut.
“I didn’t give him many opportunities to spin his web and get me tangled up in it because if I got embroiled in too many rallies with him, it just wasn’t gonna go well for me. I had an incredible serving day and I needed every single bit of it to beat him,” Isner said.
Isner moves on to face Jannik Sinner of Italy next. The American hopes that he’ll be scheduled on Centre Court once again for that third-round tilt.
“I actually haven’t played many matches on Centre Court, I just haven’t been good enough to get out here but I was lucky enough to play Andy in the second round and get to play in this incredible atmosphere – hopefully I can get back on this court and see what I can do.”