All Andy Murray could offer to Sam Querrey’s serve at match point was a faint side-step to the right and a more prominent grimace. That expression remained on his face in the last two sets of the Wimbledon quarterfinal, along with a limp, as he struggled with a niggling hip problem during his battle against the American. Eventually, Querrey would make it to his first ever Grand Slam semifinal after a 3-6, 6-4, 6-7, 6-1, 6-1 win.
Murray suffered the injury a week before he began his title defence at Wimbledon. At his post-match press conference, he admitted that it had been bothering him throughout the tournament, and that he had “been dealing with it for a very long time during (his) career.” Given his play, and the manner in which he reached the quarterfinals though, there was no suspecting that the Scot had been under physical pressure.
In the first four rounds of the tournament, the 30-year-old breezed through the competition, dropping just one set in his third round match against Fabio Fognini. It might have been the same against Querrey as well, only for the hip to flare up during the fourth set.
Hurting, quite obviously, in a tournament that has so far seen 10 men’s singles players retire in a match – seven in the first round – Murray chose to stay on court and see it out till the end. He was up against a player ranked 28 in the world, but with the experience of getting the better of other top ten players. Just last year, at Wimbledon itself, Querrey beat the then World No 1 Novak Djokovic in four sets in the third round. On Wednesday, for the second year in a row, Querrey pushed the defending champion out.
Murray was barely able to walk straight, with the pain in the right hip growing, but the Scot still tried to do as much as he could. In the penultimate game of the match, with Murray serving, the 30-year-old displayed the undying spirit that had got him to World No 1. After exchanging a few shots of the baseline, Murray attempted a drop shot, Querrey answered with another drop. Murray ran in and retrieved the drop, then sprinted towards the baseline to meet the lob as he flicked a backhand almost on the blind but it sneaked over the net. Querrey finished off the point with a drop shot, one which Murray just couldn’t get to. Murray dropped serve and then it was up to Querrey to serve out the match.
Meanwhile, on another court, a few hours later, Novak Djokovic became the 10th player to retire from the tournament when he handed Tomas Berdych a semifinal berth.
Murray mentioned that he may decide to skip the next few tournaments to allow him enough rest and time to recover from the hip ailment. At the same time, it’ll give him a chance to reflect and analyse his drop in form since the bright summer last year, during when he achieved the Wimbledon and Rio Olympics gold double.
The hip injury has merely provided a distraction to Murray’s indifferent run of form that has hounded him ever since he became top-ranked player back in November last year. Since reaching the summit, the two-time Wimbledon champion has managed to win just two ATP tournaments — the ATP World Tour Finals last year, and the Dubai Open earlier this season.
But when it comes to the Big four of tennis, only success in the Grand Slams count. And since Wimbledon last year, he lost in the quarterfinal at the US Open, crashed in the fourth round of the Australian Open this year, and was later knocked out in the French Open. Now, he bowed out of Wimbledon too.
Despite the disappointments, he’s still the highest-ranked player in men’s singles. Yet more so because of the slump Djokovic has been experiencing, and the large gap in points that had developed when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer skipped the end of last season. But the trio is steadily picking up, especially with Federer winning in Australia and Nadal claiming ‘La Decima’ at Roland Garros. The Swiss, who skipped the French Open to remain fresh for Wimbledon, is the only one of the Big Four to make it to the semifinals.
Surgery may not be the best option for Murray at this point, and given the long term and short term effects, he’d take at least a few months to recover. It’s a decision that will also be influenced by the US Open being scheduled in under seven weeks. And Murray will do all he can to prepare for it.
At Wimbledon, it was hoped that Brit favourite would rediscover his form. His strained body did not allow that, but the three-time Grand Slam champion showed the spirit to fight. He didn’t bother calling a medical time-out.
“There’s not much you can do in that situation,” he later said.
A loss might have been on the cards for him, especially since he was running on one foot. But Murray lived up to his ranking, staying big enough to accept his fate, and strong enough to try and make his way through, to make Querrey earn the win.
Updated Date: Jul 13, 2017 12:12 PM