And so it’s over. Biting his hand to quell the pain – both physical and emotional – Andy Murray’s troublesome year continued on Centre Court as the hip problem that plagued his Wimbledon preparation finally got the better of him.
His conqueror, America’s Sam Querrey, who shrugged off his big-serving tag to display a variety of shots that swept an ailing Murray off the court in five sets, is through to a first semi-final after 41 attempts at Grand Slams – the longest wait for a last-four place ever – while Murray is left to rest and rehabilitate.
The Scot’s defence of his crown ended just as it did three years ago – at the quarter-final stage– as Querrey twice came back from a set down to defeat the three-time Grand Slam champion.
The American eventually won it 3-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 as Murray’s movement deteriorated from hampered to hobbling in the final two sets.
“The whole tournament I’ve been a little bit sore. But I tried my best right to the end. I gave everything I had,” said the two-time Olympic champion.
“I’m proud about that. But it’s obviously disappointing to lose at Wimbledon. There’s obviously an opportunity there so I’m sad that it’s over.
“I knew I wasn’t going to do any major damage to my hip by playing. So obviously I wanted to try, if possible, to find a way at the end.
“Obviously, it wasn’t the case. Sam served great. The end of the fourth set and in the fifth set, I felt like he hardly missed any first serves.
“He was acing me pretty much every time. I wasn’t getting enough power on my serve to put him in any bother there. So he was dictating all of the points.”
Murray’s remarkable ascent to the top of the world rankings last year has come at a price in 2017.
A bout of shingles, an elbow injury, illness and now this hip problem have left the 30-year-old unable to string a run of matches together, his best performance in 2017 arguably coming with his progress to the French Open semi-finals last month.
Against Querrey, who becomes the first American male to reach a Grand Slam semi-final since Andy Roddick in 2009, Murray won the first seven points on his way to an early 3-0 lead before going on to comfortably close out the set.
And he looked to be cruising when breaking Querrey’s serve again at 3-3 in the second, only to lose four games in a row as the American restored parity.
The Scot broke again at the start of the fourth but, when serving for the set, Querrey hit back only to play a poor tiebreaker and hand Murray the advantage once again.
From that point on, it was one-way traffic as the world No.1’s backhand was routinely dumped into the net as his hip injury finally told.
Break followed break and Querrey ran away with it to leave Murray pondering what he can do to get back to full fitness.
“Before the tournament, it was very short-term thinking because you want to play Wimbledon,” he added.
“You want to play all of the slams and give yourself your best chance there. I managed to get through a bunch of matches and did okay.
“Now I’ll sit down with my team and look at the next step, look a little bit longer term.
“I was pretty close today. It wasn’t like I was a million miles away from winning the match.
“I did think I could play seven matches to win the tournament.
“I had chances in the first three sets. The second set, I was up 4-3, then got broken twice there.
“That turned out to be quite an important part of the match. I did manage to win the third.
“Maybe I could have got the match done in three sets there had I closed out the second after getting the break.”
With the US Open less than two months away, Murray will hope the long-term fix for his injury does not include an enforced lay-off.
But, with Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer both enjoying renaissances in their respective careers following lengthy spells on the sidelines, he does not have to look far for inspiration.
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