As Andy Murray geared up for Wimbledon, there was a sense of optimism in the air. The Scot had enjoyed a run to the final of the Surbiton Trophy, before reaching the showpiece match in the ATP 500 Stuttgart Open as well, beating the likes of Nick Kyrgios and Stefanos Tsitsipas before losing out to Matteo Berrettini in a close final.
It felt as though Murray was producing his best grass-court form in many years, and it wasn’t long before fans were examining the Wimbledon tennis odds and pondering whether Murray could make a deep run in the event.
Unfortunately, those dreams have been dashed in fairly short order, after Murray’s second round defeat to John Isner in four sets. The Scot just couldn’t handle the power of the big-serving American, who produced one of the best performances of his career to record a maiden victory over Murray at the eighth time of asking.
Murray cut a frustrated figure throughout the match against Isner, as he struggled to make any meaningful impact against his opponent’s serve. It was only in a third-set tiebreak where Murray managed to gain any kind of advantage, but overall, he just didn’t produce the standard necessary to compete against the 20th seed.
“I was coming into Wimbledon feeling like I could have a deep run,”Murrayreflected. “If you play against top guys right at the beginning of the event, obviously it makes it more challenging.It’s one of those matches that, had I got through, who knows what would have happened.”
“I feel disappointed right now. Obviously I wanted to do well here. I love playing at Wimbledon, a surface that I feel like I can still compete with the best guys on. It definitely hurts.”
On the face of it, the world number 52 losing to the 20th seed at a Grand Slam isn’t something that should cause much surprise. But given Murray’s stature in tennis, and the fact that he was a hot pick in the tennis tips and predictions due to his form in the weeks leading up to the tournament, it feels like a disappointment that he couldn’t go further.
Indeed, Murray’s second-round exit is the earliest he has ever lost at Wimbledon, which perhaps encapsulates the fact that his career is now on the wind-down. As Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic — two players who Murray once competed against at the top of the sport — continue winning Grand Slam titles into their late 30s, it highlights Murray’s bad luck with injuries. He has taken his body to breaking point, and it now looks unlikely that he will ever challenge at the business end of a Grand Slam again.
The match against Isner proved just how far off the pace Murray is in terms of five-set tennis. He simply ran out of ideas against Isner’s fast-serving style of play, and the frustration he exhibited on court was perhaps due to a realisation that his time at the top is no more.
There are no thoughts of retirement in Murray’s head as of yet, and he’ll view August’s US Open — where he won his maiden Grand Slam title in 2012 — as another chance to prove himself at the highest level. But if his loss to Isner is anything to go by, Murray is clinging vainly to a place in time that has long passed by.