Wimbledon: Andy Murray out as ruthless Shapovalov ends third title dream
The doughty two-time former champion insists retirement is not at the forefront of his mind, but a 6-4 6-2 6-2 loss to 10th seed Shapovalov was a fresh reminder of his current place in the tennis pecking order.
After hip resurfacing surgery gave Murray another shot at the career that at one stage looked all but over, it was a Wimbledon return which was high on his list of priorities.
This was Murray’s first appearance in the singles since 2017, the year he was last defending champion.
Earlier this year the former world number one spoke of a belief that he could win the tournament for a third time, but he will be 35 by the time next year’s championships come around and many have doubts about whether he will still be playing. He came into this fortnight at 118th in the rankings.
Not even the closure of the Centre Court roof could save Murray this time. That had been the spur, coincidentally or not, for his two previous late-night matches to swing around in the Scot’s favour, as he saw off Nikoloz Basilashvili and then the unheralded German Oscar Otte to reach this last-32 stage.
Murray and Shapovalov went off after the second set of this contest, as evening turned to night in south-west London and the lights came on, but Murray did not return with super-human strengths this time, and his opponent raced to victory.
Shapovalov told Murray at the net that the Scot was his hero, and spoke eloquently about his appreciation of his comeback, and perhaps Murray would have quietly admired the Canadian’s skill in moving in for the kill.
This match had been all one way for much of the first set too, but then Murray found a spark and pulled back from 5-1 adrift to 5-4, the crowd beginning to believe it could be his day again.
Murray believed too, of course, but this match proved a step too far for the champion of 2013 and 2016. There were flickers of Murray at his best, and he will represent Great Britain at the upcoming Olympics, where he is a two-time defending champion, but Murray’s days of being a grand slam contender are, on the balance of probabilities, pretty much over.
His career has been a spectacular affair, and there was a familiar ovation as he departed Centre Court.
Shapovalov had rammed down an ace on match point, clinical in his despatching of the crowd’s favourite.
Speaking at the end of the match, Shapovalov said in an on-court interview: “This is a dream come true for me.
“I’ve put countless years of hard work into every practice so that one day maybe I could play on Centre Court – to play against a legend like Andy today, to play a match like this. First of all, huge shout-outs to him. What he is doing nobody has ever done. He’s truly an inspiration to many people, including me.
“I just told him at the net that he’s my hero. Achievements aside, what he’s been able to do in the sport with an injury like this and to play the tennis he’s playing and moving the way he’s moving.
“In his second match it was like vintage Andy and it was just so much fun to see as a fan. I was really excited and the first set today was super, super intense.
“It’s incredible what he’s done to make it to the third round like this and he’s just starting back up so it’s going to be amazing to see what he can do.”
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