Wimbledon | Isner dashes Murray’s hopes

Andy Murray was hailed “one of our greatest players ever” and “an inspiration” by John Isner after the American ensured the two-time champion failed to reach the third round of the tournament he has won on two occasions for the first time.

It is no secret I am definitely not a better player than Murray, I may have just been a little better than him today. It was an incredible honour to play him on this court in front of this crowd. John Isner

Former world No.1 Murray was felled by the superb Isner 6-4 7-6(4) 6-7(3) 6-4 in a drama-packed Centre Court thriller late into the night at Wimbledon.

But Britain’s comeback king who has suffered five years on the sidelines through injury showed why he holds so much respect on the tour with a fighting and sometimes vintage performance which rolled back the years.

And it had former British No.1 Andrew Castle predicting Murray would return to the arena which made his name as the first British winner of the most coveted men’s title in tennis in 77 years.

Isner said: “It is no secret I am definitely not a better player than Murray, I may have just been a little better than him today. It was an incredible honour to play him on this court in front of this crowd.

“I need to relish these moments; this was one of the biggest wins of my career given the atmosphere. To play as well as I did against one of our greatest players ever is a huge accomplishment for me.

“He is a massive inspiration to each one of us in the locker room and we are lucky to still have him around.”

How did Isner do it?

He said: “I served. That’s really all it came down to. I didn’t give him any opportunities to spin his web and get me tangled up in it. If I got involved in too many rallies with him it wasn’t going to go well for me. I had an incredible serving day, and I needed every bit of it to beat him.

“This is at the very top for me. This court is super special to everyone of us on tour.”

Murray had battled back from career-threatening hip problems – including the insertion of a metal one – to be centre stage of the tennis world.

And this year a light began to shine at the end of the tunnel as the former world No.1 clawed his way up the rankings with a series of impressive results.

And shortly before the Championships he moved back into the world’s top 50 and made the Stuttgart final.

Overcoming an abdominal strain sustained in Germany, he showed flashes of the vintage Murray of old in overcoming Australian James Duckworth in the first round on Centre Court.

And expectations naturally grew among his supporters that he might just go deep into the tournament, even if those thoughts might have been premature.

But with Murray moving around the court well against Duckworth and his serve and touch in reasonable working order, mixed in with his trademark will to win on display, it was understandable.

Murray might have had a 8-0 head-to-head record in his favour against 6’10” American Isner, but he knew he had a tall order on his hands before stepping on court.

And so it proved in the opening sets.

Isner has been described as an ace machine, in fact he is second on the all-time list behind Ivo Karlovic, scoring around 13,700 of them. This time he struck 36.

But Murray has been rated one of the greatest returners, probably second only to six-time Wimbledon champion Novak Djokovic.


His ability to see the serve of a player known for his biggest weapon had served him well in the past.

But the pair had never met on grass. And Isner, a semi-finalist in 2018, was proving he was no one trick pony.

The 37-year-old showed delicacy and accuracy around the court to frustrate the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Isner broke the Murray serve in the third game of the opening set and gave little away on his own.

Murray hung in, but it was difficult. He held his serve but the 20th seed was not for breaking as he clinched the set.

The home favourite was roared on by a packed court in a tea-into-dinner-into- evening-time drama.

He struggled with his first serves but his backspin backhands and determination enabled him to keep on Isner’s coat tails.

And he was getting closer to breaking his opponent’s seemingly inpenetrable serve in the second set.

His biggest chance came in the eighth game of it when he missed a backhand which would have given him two break points.

And the set went into a tie-break. Murray dropped his serve in the opening point to increase the level of difficulty he faced. Even when he went 5-2 he brought himself back to within one point.

Unfortunately for the Scot, nearly all the 15,000 courtside and millions of Brits glued to the box, Isner blasted two 130mph-plus serves to seal a two-set advantage.

And the American was able to serve first in the third.

But Murray was going nowhere and his game improved. Yet Isner maintained his superb form as the set headed towards a second successive tie-break.

And this time it was Murray who dominated it.

He secured a mini-break on the very first point and held his serve for a 3-0 lead.

Isner pulled it back to 3-2 but Murray shut the door by extending his advantage to 5-2.

And the Brit secured a double break before serving out and jumping up and down and around the court as relief surged through his body while the crowd might have caused the noise abatement society a problem.

Murray, though, was broken in the fifth game of the fourth. Isner earned just his second break point of the match, which the Scot saved

But after the Brit had hit a sublime backhand pass winner he gifted the game with back-to-back errors, the first a glaring backhand volley miss at the net with the court at his mercy.

With darkness descending, the players resumed their encounter under the roof with Isner 4-2 ahead.

Murray had two more chances to break Isner and level the match.

The 35-year-old kept himself in contention, making Isner play the extra shot and a running backhand cross court was described by former British No.1 Tim Henman as “classic Murray”.

The crowd chanted “let’s go Andy, let’s go” and their hero was 0-30 on the Isner serve in the eighth game. But that was the closest he got to breaking the American, although he forced Isner to serve out for victory to seal a date with Jannik Sinner.


Andy Murray shows his frustration during a change over

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

His ability to see the serve of a player known for his biggest weapon had served him well in the past.

But the pair had never met on grass. And Isner, a semi-finalist in 2018, was proving he was no one trick pony.

The 37-year-old showed delicacy and accuracy around the court to frustrate the three-time Grand Slam champion.

Isner broke the Murray serve in the third game of the opening set and gave little away on his own.

Murray hung in, but it was difficult. He held his serve but the 20th seed was not for breaking as he clinched the set.

The home favourite was roared on by a packed court in a tea-into-dinner-into- evening-time drama.

He struggled with his first serves but his backspin backhands and determination enabled him to keep on Isner’s coat tails.


John Isner towers over Andy Murray at the net following his victory

Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

And he was getting closer to breaking his opponent’s seemingly inpenetrable serve in the second set.

His biggest chance came in the eighth game of it when he missed a backhand which would have given him two break points.

And the set went into a tie-break. Murray dropped his serve in the opening point to increase the level of difficulty he faced. Even when he went 5-2 he brought himself back to within one point.

Unfortunately for the Scot, nearly all the 15,000 courtside and millions of Brits glued to the box, Isner blasted two 130mph-plus serves to seal a two-set advantage.

And the American was able to serve first in the third.

But Murray was going nowhere and his game improved. Yet Isner maintained his superb form as the set headed towards a second successive tie-break.

And this time it was Murray who dominated it.

He secured a mini-break on the very first point and held his serve for a 3-0 lead.

Isner pulled it back to 3-2 but Murray shut the door by extending his advantage to 5-2.

And the Brit secured a double break before serving out and jumping up and down and around the court as relief surged through his body while the crowd might have caused the noise abatement society a problem.

Murray, though, was broken in the fifth game of the fourth. Isner earned just his second break point of the match, which the Scot saved

But after the Brit had hit a sublime backhand pass winner he gifted the game with back-to-back errors, the first a glaring backhand volley miss at the net with the court at his mercy.

With darkness descending, the players resumed their encounter under the roof with Isner 4-2 ahead.

Murray had two more chances to break Isner and level the match.

The 35-year-old kept himself in contention, making Isner play the extra shot and a running backhand cross court was described by former British No.1 Tim Henman as “classic Murray”.

The crowd chanted “let’s go Andy, let’s go” and their hero was 0-30 on the Isner serve in the eighth game. But that was the closest he got to breaking the American, although he forced Isner to serve out for victory to seal a date with Jannik Sinner.


Andy Murray waves goodbye to his fans who wonder if he will be back in a year's time

Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

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