Andy Murray’s hip came the closest any tennis injury ever could to provoking a national crisis: The top British sportsman (and defending Wimbledon champion) was still hurt on the cusp of the country’s most storied sporting event. Murray, like most elite athletes, is in a perpetual state of semi-brokenness, and in 2017 has simmered in a diverse stew of injuries—shingles, an elbow “tear,” coughing fits—but this hip was something scary and concrete enough to wrap your worries around. A tabloid put the damn hip on its cover and encouraged its readers to rub it in a circular motion. Murray’s joints held up through an early onslaught of eccentrics, but could not survive No. 24 seed Sam Querrey in the Wimbledon quarterfinal, which the American won 3-6, 6-4, 6-7 (4), 6-1, 6-1.
That pair of breadsticks are evidence enough of what was going through the world No. 1's body by the end of the match. For all his performative on-court griping and clutching and moaning, he has never been one to give up on competition before the point of complete physical breakdown. He drew very close to that juncture today. By percentage of points won, his return games tell a clean story of collapse across five sets: 32, 35, 29, 20, 6. (That’s one of 17 points on return in that deciding set.) Murray’s first serves averaged an anemic 108 mph for the match. His trademark ravenous court coverage was always a hobbled step short, a lethal margin of error in tennis at this level. But he lugged around his dead body until the very end, as you can see in this feat of willpower that almost hurts to watch:
Querrey, who upended Novak Djokovic in the third round last year, has now eaten up the top seed in the last two Wimbledons, a tournament that historically rewards those with his narrow skillset. But today he defied all previous understanding of what that set contained. Comfortably pigeonholed—fairly—as a big-serving golem with good reach at net and forgettable groundstrokes, the 6-foot-6 American looked somehow sprightly moving around the grass; on set point in the second he knifed this crisp backhand at a Nadalish angle he’s managed maybe a dozen times in his professional career. This is nowhere near normal for a stroke he tends to stiffly swat:
With this loss on home turf, Murray is now susceptible to being dethroned for the top rank, if Djokovic goes on to win the tournament. Regardless of the Serb’s run, he’ll continue to face steady threats from Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.