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Isner defeats Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 4-6
Murray fails to break his opponent's serve for only third time in slams since 2005
Isner sends down 36 aces
Andy Murray was non-committal about a return to Wimbledon after suffering his earliest defeat at the All England Club of his career.
Murray ended an eight-match winning streak against big-serving American John Isner, crashing out after a frustrating night on Centre Court.
"I feel disappointed right now," a visibly deflated Murray said. "Obviously I wanted to do well here. I love playing at Wimbledon, a surface that I feel like I can still compete with the best guys on. It definitely, definitely hurts.
"If physically I'm in a good place, yeah, I will continue to play. But it's not easy to keep my body in optimal condition to compete at the highest level."
Any match against Isner has one guarantee: there will be few opportunities to break his enormous serve and when they do come, they will be crucial. It is a test Murray knows well and usually passes with flying colours. But when given a refresher course on Wednesday night, he faltered.
It was always going to be about fleeting moments against 6ft 10in Isner. There were just five break points between them throughout the entire match. Isner converted two of his three. Murray failed to convert either of his.
That was the difference in this 6-4 7-6(4) 6-7(3) 6-4 loss for the two-time champion.
Before this match, Murray had only ever failed to break his opponents' serve twice at a Slam event: once against Roger Federer and once to Rafael Nadal. But Isner joined that esteemed company.
Murray's good run on grass this year, ahead of an abdominal injury setback two weeks ago, was part of why he had such high hopes. He was also arguably the favourite against 20th-seed Isner, who he had a 100 per cent record against going into the match.
Murray had never lost more than one set to him, and all but one of the sets he had ever lost were tie-breaks. He has always been supremely disciplined when facing big-serving players. So when he dropped his second service game, the first set - and even the match - already felt somewhat out of his hands.
He duly lost the opener, and then was dragged into a tiebreak in the second, where Isner outplayed him. Two sets down, Murray was on the brink. Never had he lost prior to the third round at Wimbledon, as even last year he had scuttled through while still far from fully fit. But on Wednesday night he was rarely given a look in.
Much is made of Murray's longevity, but Isner is also getting on. At 37 he is two years Murray's senior. The type of game he plays though has not left the same scars on his body as the Brit's. Isner stuck to his only available game-plan here and continued his routine of rattling through serves, hitting 36 aces in total and winning 84 per cent of points on his first serve. His average serve speed for the match - 128mph - surpassed Murray's fastest.
It was a masterclass. But the other dimensions to his game were eye-catching too. He made 82 winners to 32 unforced errors. When Murray managed to get a return in, Isner moved to the net and his touch was superb throughout. He also took the return very early to keep pressure on Murray's serve. It was impressive, but the formulaic efficiency got old for some. Barely an hour into the match, a despondent crowd member shouted: "John Isner, I'm so bored of you."
Luckily for them, Murray was not going out without a fight. He hung on for a third-set tiebreak, and made 100 per cent of his returns during it to finally give himself a chance. Isner spewed a couple of errors, and Murray took control with a couple of drop shots to set up three set points.
Then Murray hit one of his best serves of the match, and Isner barely got a racket to it. With the ball flying through the air, on its way wide, Murray began leaping up and down with childlike abandon. His wild celebrations perhaps distracted the umpire, who missed the fact that a ball boy had controversially caught the ball before it even landed out of play. Strictly speaking, the point should have been replayed. But perhaps it was lucky that it went unspotted, as the raucous Centre Court crowd may have rioted.
On we went to a fourth set, momentum fully in Murray's grasp, before the wheels came off serving at 2-2. With Isner at the net, Murray tried a backhand pass and it went wide, handing his opponent a second break point of the match. Murray hit a sublime backhand pass that had Isner on the grass to save it, but then hit two shots into the net. His serve broken again, Murray returned to his seat with his head in his hands.
He knew what was coming. Isner played a flawless rest of the set and served it out first time. The American's muted celebrations hid how much breaking Murray's winning streak actually meant to him. “It’s no secret that I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray," Isner said afterwards. "This was one of the biggest wins of my career.”
Asked how he held off Murray, he summed it up with a wry smile: “I served.”
Andy Murray vs John Isner, as it happened:
John Isner speaks
I am most definitely not a better tennis player than Andy Murray, I was just a little bit better than him today.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 4-6 Isner
Murray shanks a return off the second serve. , 15-love.
Ace makes it 30-love. His 35th ace. Thirty-five!
No sign of any wobble from Isner, nailing serve after serve.
And he wraps up victory at the net with a lovey, subtle drop volley.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 4-5 Isner*
For the second time Murray misses a crosscourt backhand volley, provoking a gasp when he flips it into the net.
But fighting back to 30-15 with pinpoint first serves gets the crowd going again and even more so when he plays a delightful drop with a velvety touch that stops when it lands over the net and leaves Isner stranded.
There's rarely a good time for a double fault and now is not one of them but no matter, he forces Isner deep with his serve and he hooks his return out.
Isner serves for the match.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 3-5 Isner
Isner comes into the net off his second serve and chips a backhand into the net. Love-15.
A sensational backhand crosscourt pass opens the door to love-30 after chasing down a volley into the left corner.
Isner smokes an ace, his 33rd followed by the 34th to squash Murray's fingers in the door frame.
Murray is annoyed at himself for not anticipating another monster down the centre, this one at 136mph which was impossible to return.
And then he completes the comeback from love-30 with a forehand crosscourt winner. Murray serves to stay in the match.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 3-4 Isner*
On come the lights and off we go. No warm up for the players at their own request.
Murray curses himself when making a forehand winner but then hammers down a serve that Isner can barely reach. He follows that with an ace to make it 30-15.
Another biting serve down the centre seals the hold to 15.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 2-4 Isner
Another ace from Isner earns him a 30-love lead but the crowd go bananas when he nets a backhand to give Murray a sniff at 30-15. Snif snuffed out with ace number, I think, 32.
Murray's defensive brilliance, hanging into the rally until the mistake, gets him to 40-30. But Isner closes out the hold with a volley.
Time for the roof to come on and they'll take a breather.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 2-3 Isner*
One error from Murray when he chips a drop shot too long and allows Isner reach it to force a winner down the line begets another when he hooks a backhand wide albeit off a majestic return.
And then a third trying to pass Isner with his enormous wingspan at the net. Isner defends two volleys and Murray then tries to beat him down the line but spears it out. 30-40
Murray saves the break point off his second serve, this time with a perfectly executed backhand pass.
When given a backhand winning opportunity at the net, Murray fluffs it, though. He never does that.
And then he hooks his forehand into the net. Isner has the break. Murray's head goes into his hands.
— Wimbledon (@Wimbledon) June 29, 2022
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 2-2 Isner
Murray shrugs his shoulders and starts chelping at his box after netting a backhand return but after letting off steam he fights back to 40-30 by pushing him deep into his deuce court and following in for the overhead winner.
But then Isner unreels a 117mph second serve that slants so wide Murray cannot keep his return in.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 2-1 Isner*
It may only be fleeting but Murray is holding his serve far more comfortably than during any previous spell of the match.
They are going o have to take an eight-minute break soon to close the roof but I doubt anyone wants to risk breaking Murray's momentum.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 1-1 Isner
Isner has his baseball cap on back to front now, Murray's peak is still pointing forwards. Isner defends a mildly precarious position at 15-30 with an ace up the middle then another, very wide, which was originally called out but was overturned on review. And then he ties up the hold with more controlled aggression. Murray can win points against the serve but winning enough to win a normal game hasn't been possible so far because of Isner's tactics to back up his natural asset.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6(3), 1-0 Isner*
Winning that set meant quite a bit to Murray.
And now he holds to 15. He's got that mojo working. Tons of grit.
Point of order
A ball boy almost cost Murray that point or at least may have caused it to be replayed as he caught Isner's wild return rather than letting it bounce. Technically it was still in until it hit the ground and Isner could have been awarded a let but the line judge also called it out. Common sense prevails. Good catch, though. Nicely snaffled.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 7-6 (3) Isner
Murray has the mini-break. Fantastic return but Isner misses the chance to put the forehand away, 1-0.
Deft drop doubles Murray's lead, 2-0.
Isner frames the return off the second serve, 3-0.
Monster serve kept in by Stretch Armstrong Murray but Isner follows in with a sizzling volley, 3-1.
Isner holds again, 3-2.
Excellent Murray forehand makes Isner's forehand crack, 4-2.
Murray holds on his second serve, 5-2.
Isner serves and volleys to win the point, 5-3.
Murray has the double break when Isner nets a backhand volley, 6-3.
Murray has three set points but needs only one as Isner shanks his return off the frame, 7-3.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-6 Isner (*denotes next server)
Outrageous drop shot winner from Murray from behind the baseline takes him to 40-love and, when Isner nets a forehand attempted pass, we go into the tiebreak.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 5-6 Isner (*denotes next server)
Only twice in all the grand slams he has played over the past 17 years, Murray has only twice failed to break serve. It may be a third tonight. Isner has been relentless in power and his willingness to attack the return with drops and volleys.
Murray serves to take us into the tiebreak.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 5-5 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Murray goes hell for leather, inviting Isner into the net before passing him to take a 30-love lead. Isner cannot get the wide first serve back and Murray finishes the hold to love with a whippy forehand.
You have to love the self-belief. Getting blown off court, barely laid a glove on Isner and yet he still believes. #wimbledon
— Jack Blackburn 🇺🇦 (@HackBlackburn) June 29, 2022
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 4-5 Isner (*denotes next server)
Isner is 40-love up when he double faults for the second time. He misses his first serve at 40-15 but just unreels a second quicker than Murray's first.
Now Murray will have to serve to stay in the championships.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 4-4 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Although Murray holds, the crowd seems to be losing a bit of heart, particularly when some gunslinging from low on the centre mark (Murray firing a forehand and backhand from around his ankles) but cannot beat Isner at the net.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 3-4 Isner (*denotes next server)
Successive aces see out a hold to love though there was one fantastic point in that when Isner manipulates Murray from corner to corner and he keeps getting it back over until he can only get it back by setting up an overhead. Isner crashes down the winner. Smites it.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 3-3 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Murray gets out of jail with a forehand crosscourt flick he had no right to make to recover from love-15 to 30-15.. Isner then frames a forehand to give Murray two game points. He needs only one. When he can draw Isner into a rally he still has the shots and the side to side speed and stamina to dictate terms. It's luring him into a rally that is going to be difficult.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 2-3 Isner (*denotes next server)
The competitive honesty and integrity of Murray, straining every sinew to get racket on to Isner's serves, is hugely commendable. It brings him no rewards in Isner's hold to 15 but it is an inspiration.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 2-2 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Now Murray's first serve has achieved a reliability lacking hitherto and he feels confident enough to give it the kitchen sink treatment at full power. He holds to love. Can he make any inroads into Isner's sling shot, though. That is the question.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 1-2 Isner (*denotes next server)
Murray digs deep to pull it back to 40-30 after some Biff, Bang Pow from Isner. But whenever he has needed the ace tonight, he has managed to nail it nine times out of 10 and does so again.
Murray 4-6, 6-7(4), 1-1 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Two errors from Murray at 40-love let Isner back in but Murray recovers his poise and smacks a serve down the centre that Isner hooks long. They're trying to get that awful American chant going: 'Let's go, Andy, let's go.' It isn't catching.
Murray* 4-6, 6-7(4), 0-1 Isner (*denotes next server)
The serve isn't everything for Isner but it is most of what makes him so formidable. Having the skill to execute his strokes off the service, drops, volleys, forehand drives, has been phenomenal so far. He holds to 30 with another ace wrapping it up but the two drop shot winners that precede it are part of the strategy that is hurting Murray more than a mere Howitzer serve. .
Murray 4-6, 6-7 (4) Isner (*denotes next server)
Isner has the mini-break straightaway off Murray's second serve. Ferocious return 0-1.
Murray challenges the ace in vain 0-2.
Murray breaks back when Isner forces his backhand long after a great Murray return 1-2.
Isner grabs it straight back with a blistering return, 1-3.
Murray holds by pushing Isner wide and he carts his return into the net, 2-3.
Isner serves and volleys to hold 2-4.
Murray nets the attempt to pass with a backhand drop, 2-5.
Murray holds with a forehand cross - overhead combo 3-5.
And doubles up when Isner frames his return. Still a break down, though 4-5.
A bullet serve that Murray can only chip back into the net on his backhand 4-6.
And he closes out the set with another withering serve that Murray cannot keep in bounds. 4-7.
Murray 4-6, 6-6 Isner (*denotes next server)
Isner seals the hold to 15 with an ace. Tie-break time.
Murray 4-6, 6-5 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Isner starts with another drop shot winner. Murray's face is like thunder but from love-15 down, he rallies back to 40-15 with a good second serve (only 46 per cent of his first serves have been in) and two forehand winners. When Isner slices his baseline backhand into the net, Murray holds to 15. Another chance to nick it before the breaker.
Murray* 4-6, 5-5 Isner (*denotes next server)
Out comes the Murray fist pump when Isner fores a backhand long but he can't pass Isner at the net when he is drawn in and the American plinks a winner back while Murray's momentum takes him into Isner's half. Isner misses a backhand to the right but then ties it up at 30-all with a serve-drop shot strategy. 30-all.
Again Murray gets the return back but Isner hits another half-volley winner and the server holds with a monster down the middle. Murray gets his racket on it but can't hoop it over.
Murray 4-6, 5-4 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Brilliant from Murray to hold his serve to 15 and give himself a chance of the set with a break. Isner's aggression on serve and return is paying dividends but Murray's serve is holding up well.
Murray* 4-6, 4-4 Isner (*denotes next server)
At 15-all Murray plays a remarkable crosscourt return winner off Isner's viciously kicking body serve. But then he misses a backhand winner opportunity and the glimmer starts to recede. Another second serve jumps above Murray's chest. He keeps it in but Isner nails the forehand winner and seals the hold with a missile towards Murray's feet that he cannot flick back over the net.
Murray 4-6, 4-3 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Isner invites Murray into the net at 15-all and he scrambles to reach the ball but pops his attempted forehand pass into the net. A gorgeous double-backhand winner completes his comeback from 15-30, winning the third point in succession, when he sends it from the centre to kiss the outside line of Isner's ad court. When you've still got that touch, there is always hope. And my, is he cussed.
Murray* 4-6, 3-3 Isner (*denotes next server)
This is farcical from the BBC. The channel hierarchy is pathetic. So far this match: build-up on BBC One, start on iPlayer, 50 minutes on Two and now we have to change channel/device for the third time as it moves back to BBC One.
More on this annual farce here:
Isner holds to 15.
Murray 4-6, 3-2 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Good hold by Murray to 15. It might be the best policy - hang in there for now then see if you can mug him in the tie-break. He will tire ... eventually.
This is neat: Murray and Isner are the 46th pair of male players to face each other at all four Grand Slams (2010 AO, 2011 USO, 2016 RG).
Murray leads the H2H 8-0 and had won 22 of the 26 sets they have played coming into this match. But just dropped the first, 4-6.
— The Tennis Podcast (@TennisPodcast) June 29, 2022
Murray* 4-6, 2-2 Isner (*denotes next server)
Isner holds to love in 88 seconds. This is what a truly great player has to do just to return an Isner serve:
Murray 4-6, 2-1 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Murray fights back from love-30 down to seal the hold with successive aces, one down the centre, one wide. As Andrew Castle reports, he is very fidgety today. He is replacing his grip for the second time now and has been fiddling with his laces.
Murray* 4-6, 1-1 Isner (*denotes next server)
Murray is getting returns in when he can (despite the two aces in the game) but Isner is playing well off his serve because the serve dictates where Murray returns and given the American's power, it's usually high and floaty. But he does miss an elementary forehand at 40-love yet follows that with his seventh ace of the match.
Murray 4-6, 1-0 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Andy Murray lost the first set on Monday, too, we should remember and then rallied. He races to 40-love in the first game of the second set but is put off when some Herbert shouts 'Out' from the crowd and doesn't commit to the groundstroke with the same determination as before. He resorts to a challenge but the ball was in. No bother, though, he holds to 30 and treats us to the roar and his box to a clenched fist.
Murray* 4-6 Isner (*denotes next server)
Murray gives himself a chance at 15-all with a wonderful lob after an athletic backhand return but Isner nails the smash and then sends down his fifth ace. He has two set points and converts the first of them when Murray drags a backhand into the net.
Murray 4-5 Isner* (*denotes next server)
At 40-love down, Isner plays a lovely backhand winner up the line after a rally he dominated by feasting on Murray's second serve yet Murray then seals the hold on his second serve, sending a kicker down the centre that Isner pans into the net.
Murray* 3-5 Isner (*denotes next server)
Isner starts with a serve-volley winner followed by a serve-forehand drop winner and then a withering serve-crosscourt forehand winner. Three-stroke points. The last point takes two strokes: big serve and Murray's attempted crosscourt jaywalked between the tramlines. Hold to love, as Bryan Ferry almost sang.
Murray 3-4 Isner* (*denotes next server)
A moment of danger for Murray at 15-30 is averted when Isner messes up with an overhead which he flaps too long but he quickly comes to the net to get to deuce. Two points later. He has dominated at the net but now it's Murray's turn to bring him in and then chip a winner down the line. And Murray sews up the hold when his top-spin induces an error on Isner's backhand and he puts his groundstroke into the net.
Isner now gets new balls to whack.
Murray* 2-4 Isner (*denotes next server)
Murray gives his box a glare when, at 15-love down, he can't keep Isner's serve in. It's the story of the game, as it usually is when Isner's calibration is perfect and he scythes them deep. The serves are either unreturnable or set up volleys for the big yin.
Murray 2-3 Isner* (*denotes next server)
A touch of the old magic from Murray to hold to love, Isner being unable to keep a couple of serves in regulation and Murray also reeling off a serve-volley combo that has the crowd lapping it up.
Murray* 1-3 Isner (*denotes next server)
Grit, guile and great defensive play opens the door slightly as Murray climbs to 15-30 but Isner defends with a monstrous wide serve that Murray gets back in but cannot defend the volley. A wonderfil backhand pass erans Murray break point, again after defending the serve. At 30-40 Isner shows his all-court smarts, following an overhead with a deft drop shot to recover to deuce.
Murray moves to advantage with another crosscourt pass with his backhand but is defended by Isner with his second ace straight own the middle.
A second ace in succession, this one out wide, takes Isner to advantage and he goes wide again with his next serve and Murray's back-hand return balloons out.
Murray 1-2 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Anything you can do ... Murray fires an ace down the centre line at love-15 but then makes an error on his backhand, slicing it into the net. At 15-30 and on Murray's second serve, Isner smokes the return towards Murray's feet then goes to the net to chop a crosscourt drop that Murray can't get back when he tries a two-handed running pass up the line.
Two break points. He needs only one. Isner's return is blistering and deep and Murray can't get back into the point.
Murray* 1-1 Isner (*denotes next server)
Isner, wearing the Fila marque made famous by Bjorn Borg, sends down his first ace at 15-all but Murray defends well at 30-15, getting back a couple of smashes until Isner nails a forehand winner. At 40-15, though, Murray gets a drop shot wrong and Isner closes out the hold. Murray is getting first serves back in.
Murray 1-0 Isner* (*denotes next server)
Murray serves first and the opening point of the match is a pleasingly long rally, Murray whipping forehands with the old panache until he just gets his lengths wrong but immediately makes up for it with a serve-volley winner on the backhand to make it 15-all. Both men are wearing caps, not that there's much sun. More to cover than their eyes from the sun these days.
Isner cannot get a couple of returns in legally and Murray has two game points, winning the first of them on his second serve when Isner chips a backhand into the net.
The players are out and knocking up
Murray was given a tremendous reception as usual. The BBC has shifted coverage of this match to the iPlayer in deference to Cam Norrie on BBC Two and Sophie Raworth on One. Murray on the iPlayer! Apostasy.
Murray v Isner, round nine
Welcome to live coverage of Andy Murray's second round match against the human trebuchet and No20 seed John Isner from Centre Court. The two veterans (35 plays 37) have never met on grass before but played eight matches before Murray's last singles title at Wimbledon, the Scot winning all eight and dropping only four sets. Nine of the 24 sets they completed in those eight meetings did go to tie-breaks, though, so we could be in for another long night and the frequent switching between BBC One and Two that infuriates both those who want to watch and viewers who can't bear sport impinging on the normal schedule.
Isner, who has hit 13,688 aces on the ATP Tour including 54 in his first set win and is only 40 shy of Ivo Karlovic's career record, says he has always found Murray's defences difficult to penetrate. "Andy is a different animal. He's much harder to ace because his anticipation is just amazing," he said Isner.
"He's so comfortable on the grass, more comfortable than I am. He has a lot more wins at this tournament than I do.Grass maybe is his best surface, it's probably not my best surface. But it does a lot of good on my serve."
Murray, however, who came back from dropping the first set to beat James Duckworth 4-6 6-3 6-2 6-4 in Monday's first round, is concerned about losing his rhythm against Isner.
"You're not necessarily always in control of them [the matches]. You can go four or five service return games where you're not getting any opportunities," Murray said.
"But for whatever reason, I've always played well against them [big servers]. The match-ups have been good for me."
Last year Murray endured/enjoyed a topsy-turvy second round victory over Oscar Otte, coming from 2-1 down and finally wrapping up victory at 10.27pm. It took every ounce of grit he had to get through but left him looking thoroughly spent for his third-round match against Denis Shapovalov. The question that remains when watching Murray's glorious raging against the dying of the light is how much of himself he leaves out there each match. Isner is always a stern test but the real one may come if he manages to win: can he recover in time.