The dream match is off. It would have been the perfect stepping stone on Andy Murray’s comeback trail: a showdown against his brother in the semi-finals of the Fever-Tree Championships. But now it will not happen.
Sure enough, Andy was keeping his part of the bargain as, together with Feliciano Lopez, he was in the lead against Dan Evans and Ken Skupski (brother of Neal) when bad light stopped play at 8:50pm but Jamie and Neal Skupski (brother of Ken) could not get past Henri Kontinen and John Peers, the defending champions. They lost 7-5, 7-6.
It was a bit like a “bring your brother to work” day yesterday at Queen’s Club – the Murrays and the Skupskis were taking centre stage in the top half of the draw while in the bottom half, the Bryan brothers were winning again.
But all eyes were on Andy as they had been on the previous evening. Now fully assured that their hero was physically able to walk and run without pain or problem as he recovers from his hip resurfacing surgery, the crowd could now just sit back and enjoy the tennis.
The former world No 1 did not disappoint them, either. There were a few thumping aces, some flashing returns and his trademark lob winner. When he unveiled that particular gem, leaving Evans to just watch the flight of the ball as it sailed over him, he had the crowd cheering. But it was to be the last shot of the match.
It gave the Scot the break back after he had dropped his serve to go 3-1 down in the second set. The first set had been more than comfortable as he and Lopez kept Evans and Skupski at arm’s length. But the British pair were a much sterner test in the second set and it took that moment of Murray magic to get the crowd’s favourites back into it. When play was called for the night, Murray and Lopez stood at 6-4, 4-5 with Lopez’s serve to come.
By then, Jamie’s challenge was long over. This is only the second tournament for him and Neal Skupski and, while the partnership looks to have plenty of promise, they could do nothing about the power and chutzpah of Kontinen. The Finn is a big unit and when he welts the ball, it stays welted.
Jamie was broken twice in the first set and, though he and Skupski did manage to break the Peers serve as the Australian was trying to serve for the set, it was still not enough. Jamie was broken for the second time as he served to stay in the set. The second set was tighter but they were just edged out in the tiebreak.
In the singles, Felix Auger-Aliassime, at the tender age of 18, became the youngest man to reach the semi-finals since Lleyton Hewitt in 1999. And judging by his efforts on the grass courts these past couple of weeks, he will reach many more semi-finals in years to come.
He beat the world No 6, Stefanos Tsitsipas 7-5, 6-2. Then again, he always does.
The Greek is two years older than Auger-Aliassime and yet, even in the juniors, he could never get the better of his Canadian rival. Three times they played as kids and Tsitsipas could only win one set. Now on the professional tour, they have met twice this year and Auger-Aliassime has been by far the better player on both occasions. Tsitsipas knows it, too.
“I have to accept that he’s better than me,” Tsitsipas said. “I’m sure if he ever gets the difficult chance to play Nadal, Djokovic or Federer, he’s going to beat them, for sure. I will not be surprised if he gets wins over those guys.
“We will definitely see him in the top five. Maybe not this year but next year or the year after. He’s the most difficult opponent I’ve ever faced.”
Auger-Aliassime will now face Lopez, who took his courage in both hands and went for broke in the final moments of his quarter-final with Milos Raonic to win 4-6, 6-4, 7-6. On the other side of the draw, Gilles Simon took three hours and 21 minutes to beat Nicolas Mahut 7-6, 5-7, 7-6 and must now dig in again to find a way past the metronomic Daniil Medvedev, who beat Diego Schwartzman 6-2, 6-2.