Andy Murray will ask how much more he can take after Wimbledon defeat
Andy Murray
Andy Murray

It was almost as if Andy Murray suddenly realised his time was up.

On the hallowed patch of London turf that has provided the stage for his greatest triumphs and more than a few of his most epic sporting tragedies, the realisation that the glory days may be over for good came mid-way through the fourth set of his latest epic late-night match at Wimbledon.

After finding a way back into a contest that was slipping away from him as he dropped the first two sets against old foe John Isner, Murray’s hopes of another five-set epic triumph were dashed in the game that gave his towering American opponent the door he needed to step through to seal victory.

Murray appeared to have the momentum in the match until he was broken mid-way through the fourth set and the reaction he served up as his forehand drooped into the net for the fateful break of serve said it all.

Pulling his cap down over his face, Murray’s slow and agonised walk back to his chair was that of a sportsman who wondered how it had come to this.

Murray has always respected veteran American Isner and on a grass court, the threat he offers with his power-packed serve has never been underestimated, yet the Scot will also know that he would never have lost this match in his prime.

And that’s why this defeat may be more significant than any other in his long and agonising attempt to revive his former glories.

After starting his grass court campaign early at the LTA’s Surbiton Trophy, his run to the final of the Stuttgart Open fuelled hope that the former world No.1 could produce a miracle with his metal hip in the tournament that has always meant so much to him.

Had his Wimbledon 2022 story ended against one of the game’s modern giants or a rising star then maybe he could have accepted this outcome with a little more perspective, but losing to a rival he has known for so long and beaten on all eight previous encounters would give

Murray every reason to feel his dreams of a second and third coming in this sport may be forlorn.

With the draw to the second week of Wimbledon seemingly opening up to the unseeded former two-time champion, he knew all the pain he has been through in his injury battles could be about to be rewarded at the tournament that has given him so much.

Then Isner, of all players, finally found a way to beat Murray and he did so in a manner that was far too comfortable for any doubt about who was the worthy winner.

Time may ease the pain of this match and Murray’s earliest ever Wimbledon exit and he may well come back and try and defy the odds once again next year at the All England Club.

Yet when the final epitaph of Murray’s remarkable career is written, the scene of him bowing his head and being overwhelmed with an unwanted reality could be entered as his final chapter.

Murray’s legacy as one of the giants in the ultimate era of our great sport can never be erased, but even this superhuman athlete must now be reflecting how much more of this he can take.