By Toby Davis
LONDON (Reuters) – Andy Murray’s Wimbledon title defense evaporated on Centre Court in a painful five-set demise to Sam Querrey on Wednesday as the hip injury that has dogged the world number one throughout the tournament finally got the better of him.
Murray’s hopes of becoming the first Briton to retain a grand slam title since Fred Perry in 1936 were shredded as he hobbled helplessly to a 3-6 6-4 6-7(4) 6-1 6-1 quarter-final defeat.
The encounter ended in almost brutal fashion, as Murray struggled to move freely around the court in the final two sets and the big-serving Querrey ruthlessly put him to the sword, wrapping up victory with his 27th booming ace.
Despite the best efforts of the Centre Court crowd to cajole a miracle recovery from the limping Briton, Murray’s troublesome hip proved beyond help and he was swiftly dispatched, with the final two sets taking just under 47 minutes.
Querrey can now lay claim to the title of Wimbledon’s chief giant-killer, after slaying then champion Novak Djokovic last year. He becomes the first American man to reach a grand slam semi-final since Andy Roddick at Wimbledon in 2009.
“I’m still in shock myself,” he said after setting up a semi-final encounter with Marin Cilic.
“I didn’t start my best but kept with it and kept swinging and I hit my groove in the fourth and fifth sets.
“It feels great and it’s a dream come true … to get to a semi-final and have it happen at Wimbledon makes it a bit more special.”
Having toured the game’s most awkward and unconventional opponents in the opening four rounds, Murray finally got to face a more routine tennis archetype.
There are few surprises with Querrey’s game. He stands at 6 foot 6 inches (1.98 meters) and uses his giant frame to launch bullets from the sky and backs up his huge serve with an occasional haymaker forehand.
His gameplan seemed to involve turning Centre Court into a firing range which brought him little success in the opening set, but as Murray’s movement became increasingly pained, the match turned emphatically in the American’s favor.
Querrey would have been hard pushed to imagine such a glorious ending as Murray punished him almost at will in the opening set, when it was Murray’s serve that did the greater damage and the 29-year-old seemed wracked with nerves.
Murray claimed that in 28 minutes and there was barely a hint of his vulnerability when he broke for a 4-3 lead in the second.
There were stunned murmurs of discontent from the home crowd, however, as Querrey broke twice to level the match, wrapping up the second set with a beautiful backhand winner.
That still seemed only a momentary blip for the champion, who broke immediately at the start of the third set to move back into a short-lived ascendancy.
Querrey struck back in the 10th game forcing the set into a tiebreak and while Murray held his nerve to move back into the lead, from that point the writing was on the wall.
The home fans willed their man to scramble freely around the court, but his grimaces told their own story as he looked up to his box and seemed to mouth “it’s gone, it’s gone” in the fourth set.
Querrey won nine games in a row to take the fourth and open up a 3-0 lead in the fifth, before breaking again to move one game from victory.
Two Querrey aces helped bring up three match points and one more finished the job off, leaving Murray to salute the home fans with an almost apologetic wave goodbye.
“The whole tournament I’ve been a little bit sore,” Murray told reporters.
“But I tried my best right to the end, gave everything I had. I’m proud about that.”
(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)