Andy Murray mania has returned to Wimbledon – but John Isner proved a giant centre court killjoy to end the British hero’s improbable comeback dream.
After Novak Djokovic had eased like a Rolls Royce past Australian Thanasi Kokkinakis on Wednesday, the latest late-night drama enveloping two-time champion Murray proved the big story – but one with an unhappy ending for the great Scot’s adoring disciples.
Murray finally succumbed to the boom-boom serving of the American under the centre court roof, going down 6-4 7-6 (7-4) 6-7 (3-7) 6-4 on Wednesday night, buried beneath an avalanche of 36 aces.
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It was just like the old days as Wimbledon’s beloved Murray was serenaded with resounding renditions of the time-honoured “Let’s go, Andy…”.
But Isner reckoned he had produced his greatest performance at SW19 to spoil the ‘home favourite with metal hip wins Wimbledon’ storyline after nearly three-and-a-half hours.
“It is no secret I am not a better player than Andy Murray – I may have just been a little better than him today. It was an incredible honour to play him,” said Isner, who finally beat him at the ninth attempt.
“I need to relish these moments, this was one of the biggest wins of my career. To play as well as I did against one of the greatest players ever is a huge accomplishment for me.
“He is a massive inspiration for us in the locker room and we are lucky to still have him around. I had an incredible serving day – and I needed every bit of it to beat him.”
Isner even put the achievement ahead of his epic 11-hour, five-set win against Nicolas Mahut in 2010, enshrined for ever more as the longest match in tennis.
“This could be at the very top for me,” smiled the 37-year-old.
Murray’s defeat marked a miserable day for the British heroes after US Open champion Emma Raducanu had earlier been knocked out by Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia on the same court.
Elsewhere in the men’s draw, French Open finalist Casper Ruud found the vagaries of grass-court tennis too much to cope with as the No.3 seed was knocked out by a distracted opponent who forgot to bring his racquets.
Frenchman Ugo Humbert’s brain fade left him ill-prepared for his date on court 2 after a rain-interrupted morning had prompted a 90-minute delay to proceedings.
But though he started in absent-minded fashion after rushing to be reacquainted with his weapons of choice, the flamboyant left-hander soon regrouped to demonstrate his comfort on grass and defeat the Norwegian 3-6 6-2 7-5 6-4.
Ruud became the seventh of the top 11-ranked male players to miss out at Wimbledon through an early loss, injury, illness or a ban, leaving opportunities aplenty for some big names.
Spanish wonder boy Carlos Alcaraz is amongst them, powering into the third round with a 6-4 7-6 (7-0) 6-3 victory over Dutchman Tallon Griekspoor, which leaves him still on course for a quarter-final showdown with Djokovic.
On centre court earlier, Kokkinakis had been ruthlessly dispatched by the six-times champion 6-1 6-4 6-2.
Isner’s next target will be to down 10th seed Jannik Sinner after the brilliant young Italian beat Sweden’s Mikael Ymer 6-4 6-3 5-7 6-2.