Andy Murray did everything in his power to conjure up one final legendary late-night Centre Court miracle amid fevered surroundings resembling a revivalist assembly. However, Father Time and John Isner's devastating heavy metal tennis gave a crushing retort.
Murray then promised to return to Wimbledon if his groaning 35-year-old body held up, but he acknowledged that was not a guarantee. It only made this 6-4, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 6-4 loss, which was his first in 14 outings here, hurt more. But some of it was beyond his control. Over the course of three hours, his rival was a gunslinger who would not miss, smashing down an astounding 36 aces and 80 wins to earn a well-earned victory. He graciously said, “I may have been a little bit better today, but it's no secret that I'm not a better tennis player than Andy. This was among my career's biggest victories.
Isner later remarked that his style of play isn't particularly complex. But why recreate the wheel when you have a forehand that rips seven strips of nylon off the ball and a cannon of a serve? The American may be compared to a garage band that knows three chords in terms of tennis. He continued to baffle Murray with his Blitzkrieg Bop, however.
After the match, a dejected Murray said, “I've played many times against those players and found ways to produce enough returns to change the matches, whether that's been against Karlovic, Isner, Raonic, and those sorts of guys. But in crucial circumstances tonight, he was extremely close to the lines.
However much it will hurt the Wimbledon fans who have supported him so fervently over the years, Murray was merely presenting a portrait of the artist in his later years. Yes, she is still incredibly skilled. however, a little more slowly between the lines and in the eyes. It was crucial in a game of millimetres and microseconds.
The majority of players on the tour, in Murray's opinion, would agree that a match of that nature is decided by a few points here and there. “On those points, I didn't play well enough.”
Murray, who had triumphed in each of his previous eight matches against Isner, was a heavy favourite prior to the match. He was aware that those wins had all occurred in the past before his physique had degenerated and his hip had returned.
Given how difficult it would be to break Isner's serve, Murray needed to get off to a quick start. Instead, in the third game, he was broken. The Scotsman had two chances to repay the favour right away, but Isner saved them both with a 128 mph first serve and a superb volley. Amazingly, Murray was given no other chances to enter the game.
After dropping the opening set 6-4, Murray regained composure and had a chance to break at 5-4 in the second set when he was 30-15 up on Isner's serve. But after that, the American held serve and quickly won the tie-break with two flawless drop volleys that demonstrated his remarkably good touch for a huge man.
Murray was currently in a dire situation. Isner was also winning 88% of his first-serve points while only completing 79% of his first serves, which is astounding given that many were travelling at speeds of more than 130 mph.
Murray's best chance at this point was that his fellow veteran, who is 37 and had just finished a Monday five-set match, may begin to experience some lead in his legs. One wag yelled, “Come on Andy, he's older than you,” but Isner's serve remained strong as we entered another tie-break.
This time, Murray got out to a quick start and quickly built a 3-0 lead. He was able to profit from the crowd's encouragement. The crowd had already stood up and started to punch the air. Murray simply couldn't accomplish it.
Isner, however, was not willing to comply. He took control of the match with a break at 2-2 in the fourth set, and he maintained his composure despite a delay while the stadium roof was being closed.
Meanwhile, Murray was left to hold out hope that this would not be his last day playing on this illustrious of courts. I'll keep playing if I'm in good physical shape, he declared. However, given the issues I've experienced with my body in recent years, making long-term projections is incredibly tough.
His speech left me hurt and a little confused. But given the beating he had just received, that was to be anticipated.