Andy Murray admits his emotional Wimbledon exit may well be his last after blowing an overnight lead and suffering a devastating defeat in a two-day thriller against Stefanos Tsitsipas.
The two-time king of SW19, 36, succumbed to a second round five-set loss as the world No.5 overhauled a 2-1 deficit exactly a decade to the day since Murray’s maiden Wimbledon title.
The Scot had battled from behind under the Centre Court roof on Thursday evening before the gruelling late-night slugfest was forced to another day owing to Wimbledon’s strict 11pm curfew.
And after both players were forced to resume their clash in scorching south-west London sunshine on Friday afternoon, two-time Grand Slam finalist Tsitsipas, 24, rediscovered his fluency to level in a heart-thumping fourth set tie-break before edging over the line in the decider.
Murray, the current world No.40, grabbed grass court titles at both Nottingham and Surbiton last month and reckoned he was arriving at his home Grand Slam in the best shape since his second crowning glory in 2016.
But he was unable to translate that into tangible tournament progress as Tsitsipas, ranked 35 places higher but with a questionable grass court record, silenced the home crowd and left Murray trudging off the storied Centre Court turf with more questions than answers.
Asked how confident he was he will be back at the All England Club next year, Murray – who suffered second and third round exits the previous two years – said: “I don’t know.
“Motivation is obviously a big thing – continuing to have early losses in tournaments like this don’t necessarily help with that.
“It’s similar to last year – I had a long think about things, spoke to my family and decided to keep on going.
“I don’t plan to stop right now – but this one will take a little while to get over.
“Hopefully I find the motivation again to keep training, keep pushing, try and keep getting better.
“I’m obviously very disappointed just now – you never know how many opportunities you’re going to get to play here.
“The defeats maybe feel a bit tougher – but, to be honest, every year that Wimbledon’s not gone how I would like, it’s been hard.”
Murray famously thrives under the Centre Court roof and turned the tables from a set behind in front of an electric Thursday night atmosphere.
But with the clock ticking towards the 11pm cut-off time – in place owing to the 2009 planning application approved by Merton Council for the benefit of local residents – the indefatigable duo were forced off and asked to resume their compelling contest the following afternoon.
Round two of this boxing match-resembling clash kicked off at 4:30pm on Friday and Tsitsipas, who has never seen eye-to-eye with Murray after a spat over the Greek’s delaying tactics at the 2021 US Open, delivered a much-improved display in front of a partisan Centre Court crowd.
He levelled in a fourth set tie-break before a crucial break of serve at the beginning of the fifth left Murray with too much to do.
The Scot refused to blame organisers for implementing the compulsory curfew but admits the drastic change in overnight conditions may have hampered his hopes of progression.
He added: “It does change.
“It’s different playing indoors and outdoors – it’s not the same conditions and you never know what would have happened [if we’d carried on last night].
“I don’t think it necessarily favours someone more than another – it’s just the way that you’re playing in totally different conditions from one day to the next.
“That’s the biggest change, regardless of who’s up in the score.
“The same result could have happened – we knew that we were only going to be able to play until 11pm, so you’re kind of playing to a time and it seemed like a reasonable time to stop last night.
“We were told we were playing outdoors last night – there was no discussion.
“My opinion is that this is an outdoor tournament – they should be trying their hardest to play as much tennis outdoors as possible.”
Murray came into the SW19 with major momentum after skipping the French Open and firmly capitalising in the early grass court season events.
He kicked off proceedings with a triumph at Surbiton before following it up just one week later with an even more impressive title in Nottingham.
A defeat against Alex de Minaur – boyfriend of British women’s No.1 Katie Boulter – dashed his hopes of securing a seeding for Wimbledon but the Scot still descended on sport’s most famous postcode in bullish spirits.
He swatted aside compatriot Ryan Peniston 6-3 6-0 6-1 in an all-British battle – his most emphatic first round victory in 15 matches at the All England Club – and had a serious chance against old foe Tsitsitas, who edged an eventful five-set epic against him at Flushing Meadows two years ago.
And the long-haired Greek emulated those exploits on Centre Court to set up a last 16 clash with Serbian Laslo Djere and keep his hopes of an unlikely maiden Grand Slam title alive.
A win on Friday for Murray would have marked his greatest Wimbledon scalp – in terms of rankings – since his first All England Club triumph in 2013 and also capped his 200th individual Grand Slam victory.
He took pride in how far he pushed his more youthful opponent but was still left to rue a significant opportunity missed.
“I certainly could have beaten him today or yesterday,” he added.
“I certainly could have – it’s clear based on how the match went and there’s only a few points in it today.
“It’s not just about winning the odd match against [the top players – to have a run at these tournaments you need multiple, multiple wins in a row and I’ve obviously not done that, yeah…
“Ultimately, this was an opportunity for me. I had a good chance of having a proper run for the first time in a long time at a slam. I didn’t take it.
“Regardless of the atmosphere and those things, it’s still very, very disappointing to be sitting here right now.”
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