Andy Murray succumbed to American Sam Querrey in the quarter-final at SW19, losing 3-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1, 6-1. Murray started strongly but injury cost him dear in the end, writes Joel Sked.
Andy Murray showed he meant business from the off with aggressive and confident play. He wrapped up the first three games in the matter of minutes. Sam Querrey was struggling to return the Scotsman’s forthright shots, doing just enough to get them over the net but then out of the game when Murray sent another shot his way.
There was fairy dust emanating from Murray’s racket, such was the quality of tennis he was producing early on.
Most impressively was the array of shots he came up with. More than once Querrey was lulled into a false sense of security, only for Murray to conjure up a moment of magic, a moment which was unexpected by his opponent.
Unfortunately, the sparkling tennis would not last as physical and mental problems arose as the match developed.
Any fitness issues appeared to be put to bed in the opening set as Murray moved around the court like a lithe gazelle. He was stretching, jumping, stooping, running, sprinting. All of it looked completely natural. Yet, come the latter stages of the third-set Murray was less gazelle, more wounded rabbit. But such is his quality, his drive, his attitude he garnered a strong lead in the tie break and hung on to take the set.
It only worsened in the fourth set. Any shot down the channels by Querrey was met by indifference from Murray, he knew it was pointless straining the body to reach it. Querrey took the fourth-set 6-1.
Murray produced spectacular shots but if he moved to one side of the court and it was returned by the American the point was less.
The atmosphere around centre court was akin to a sleepy Wednesday afternoon in the winter when the stars are far away from SW19. Murray was backed noisily in the opening set as he provoked some stirring tennis. It looked like it could be a stroll in the park for the Scotsman.
However, as the 30-year-old lost his way in the second set, the crowd lost their voice. Sometimes a player needs the noise of the crowd to rouse himself, at other times it is the opposite way around. It appeared that it was a bit of both.
Even when Murray sneaked a tense third set on tie break, the backing was tempered as the crowed seemed to sense an unease with the player. His discomfort seeped into the crowd. Normally, such cases would be a raucous response from a partisan support. None was forthcoming when Murray needed it most.
Querrey takes advantage
The 29-year-old had never reached the semi-final of a grand slam. Until now. The retiring American appeared spooked by the occasion in the first-set, nervously moving around the court and tentatively returning shots.
At 14.04, Querrey looked to be down and out. Murray had broken him in the second-set to take a 4-3 lead. It was to be the defining moment. But not as many thought it would be. Querrey broke Murray, then won the following set, then broke Murray once again to win the second-set.
He was now rising to the occasion, a confidence was enveloping his shots. Winners were becoming more frequent and more accurate.
Querrey pushed Murray all the way in the third set. And in the fourth he sensed a wounded animal, showing little mercy, triumphing 6-1 in barely 20 minutes. He turned the screw once again in the fifth and final set, putting Murray out of his misery.
Murray needs a break
Murray should forego the short-term to plan for the long-term. It would have been easy for Murray to throw in the towel somewhere between the fourth and fifth-set but he drove on. That’s what makes him the success he is, a fierce competitor.
However, he was in clear discomfort for at least three sets against Querrey. Coming into the tournament Murray’s preparation was shrouded in questions about his fitness. As it turns out there was reason behind it. In a way it sums up a rocky 2017 so far. Murray gave so much to reach the number one spot and it is clear he is in no mood to give it up.
But perhaps the time now is to take stock, weigh up options and rest until he is fully fit, or certainly fit enough to string matches and tournaments together. The ultra-professional he is, there is still plenty left in the tank.
If it doesn’t happen today, it can always happen tomorrow.