This time, the heroic comeback would be cut short. Andy Murray contorted through all the roars and grimaces, the angry monologues and chest-beating he’s made so torturously iconic, but there would be no glory to make good of the pain. The 33-year-old’s spirit was as indomitable as ever, rallying from two sets down against John Isner as the light faded and the roof closed over Centre Court, but the American harnessed the hostile atmosphere and weathered a momentous fightback to close out a 6-4 7-6 6-7 6-4 victory that lasted almost three and a half hours.
This was a different and perhaps a more depressing kind of defeat than what Murray endured last year. Then, it was the fearless youth and aggression of Denis Shapovalov that put into sharp relief the years and strength lost to injury. But Isner is an old foe, one who Murray had found a way to subdue and defeat in all of their eight previous meetings, a record stretching as far back as 2010. It felt almost assured that Murray’s variety, invention and iron will would eventually outlast a player who can throw a ball up to the gods and return Thor’s Hammer like no other.
Isner’s impenetrable serve will always be best remembered for his 11-hour marathon match here against Nicolas Mahut, but it was hard to recall a time when it has been quite so relentlessly precise as this. He gave up just two break points throughout the entire match and summoned a remarkable 36 aces, puncturing the atmosphere whenever pressure swelled, but it would be unfair to reduce his efforts to just one dimension. The 37-year-old’s volleying was exquisite, 81 winners were testament to his aggression and whether it was that inspired masterclass or the fine margins Murray has lost to age, another miracle was not forthcoming.
Full report to follow…